Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Mater (an outsider's view)

Picture credits (my wife's family): Starting from the left, Mom (Debbie), Dad, (Hugh, he was very tall), Aaron (brother #2), Harlan (brother #1), Mater (step-grandmother), Sean (brother #3), Andrea (the oldest and smallest in her family at present day and love of my life), Pater (Granddad) and Erica (sister).

This is the first time I'm not posting my own art to my blog. My post today is dedicated to a woman called Mater.

My wife, Andrea, and I are back from New Hampshire. We went up there for a memorial service for her step grandmother Audrey Logan. She had recently turned 92. It was a long life, a much longer life than Andrea’s mother or father who’ve been dead for a few years. Andrea called her step grandmother Mater and has always thought of her as her grandmother with no ‘step’ attached to it. Andrea’s maternal grandmother had died before she was old enough to know her. She told me that she saw her Mater as an excitingly exotic woman of great vitality who did things no other grandparent she knew ever did. For one, she went to jail, not just overnight, but for six weeks, for protesting the Viet Nam War. For many years she protected her daughter as she went underground to hide from the FBI. Most of my family would’ve found that scandalous, certainly my own grandparents would have.

I’d met and talked to Mater a few times and I knew a little about her but I really never got to know her well. The main thing I knew was that she treated Andrea and her siblings very well. She went well beyond what you could expect any grandparent to do especially for children that did not come from her own children. Andrea spoke very fondly of her visits to her grandparent’s farm. Anyone who is or was nice to Andrea is my instant friend so I already liked Mater before I met her. Almost all grandparents are nice to their grandkids but Mater was the type of person who changed lives for the better. At Mater’s well-attended memorial it was moving to hear testimonial after testimonial from people she had helped with her generosity of time and money, people of distant places and religions that held her in high regard. Beyond that I could see what she had instilled in the people there. Their memories of her were rich and fulfilling for them and I could sense her presence in them. They had learned from her. This was a Quaker service where people sit in a circle and stand to speak when they feel moved to. I liked this and I told Andrea that this is the service I want when I die, certainly not one with a minister giving a hackneyed sermon.

After the memorial, at a rather large family dinner I heard even more stories about Mater. My wife’s extended family was warm and generous just like their mother, grandmother, great grandmother and friend. The people there laughed and sang songs from their childhoods. It was a contrasting prelude to a cold Sunday burial, a sad time of letting go. And I remembered one of my rare conversations with Mater when I told her how happy I was to be a part of her extraordinary family.

The amazing thing I came away with from this trip was a picture of Andrea younger than 18 (she’s around 13 in the picture I think). Almost all her family photographs were destroyed in a basement flood. In the picture she’s with her entire family including her Mater and Pater. No other complete family picture exists. See above.

By the way, Andrea’s grandfather was no slouch either. He was a Rhodes Scholar, well-known editor at Look Magazine, vice president at General Foods and he was the Republican majority leader in the New Hampshire senate, but not all at once.


Blogger C. Margery Kempe said...

Tom, that was really beautiful. What an amazing woman! You were lucky to know her. I'm sure Andrea knows how lucky she has been. Thanks for departing from the usual lovely art for this.

8:05 AM  
Blogger tlchang said...

Seeing so many people's lives touched by a single person can be so inspiring... I came away from my own grandmother's funeral with a similar reaction - such an impressive woman (although she did nothing as colorful as a 6 week jail stint!). It's good to remind ourselves of what kind of impact-for-good one can have by seeing such great examples in the retrospective of another's life...

Thanks for sharing.

10:37 PM  
Blogger Tom Kidd said...

I do wonder sometimes if people are set in stone and all efforts on their behalf are an exercise in futility. It's nice to hear when it works. Perhaps there's a special talent to doing it right.

Thanks Kathryn and Tara.

11:44 PM  

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