the boys

the boys

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Queen Mother Tells All

On a cozy December night a few days before Christmas, my little sis and I were treated to a day of cooking family recipes and an evening of family history from Grandma Dorothy...who just happens to be a Queen Mother in her Red Hatter's group (hence the title). I can't say it was a particularly calm night because we had more than our fair share of company. My niece and nephew were spending the night so we had four children ages 7 to 2. Much of their night consisted of "dance party" to fun and funky music in the play room. But upstairs, we were getting a family history lesson.

Here is what I learned:
My great-great grandma's name was Elsie Belle Kelsey. Yup, Elsie Kelsey. And I learned that she was nice. That might not seem like a revelation to most people, but if you knew her daughter you would be surprised. Elsie's daughter, Jeanette, was my great-grandmother. We all knew her as Grandma Net and she, my friends, was a crotchety old woman. God love her and may she rest in peace, but I'm telling ya she was one cranky woman! She couldn't have been more than 5 feet tall and she was NEVER without her headscarf. Honestly, I don't have a single memory of her without her headscarf or outside the house. She couldn't hear worth a darn in the first place and then to put a scarf over her ears....well, to each her own.

I also learned that Grandma Elsie's husband, my Grandpa Brenneman, was a womanizer. GASP! He left his wife, children, and grandchildren (including my Grandma Dorothy), in the late 1930's. But he didn't just leave. He took the mattress with him! Yup, that's right. He took the actual bed that he shared with his wife. And to top it off, the bed frame made a huge scrape down the stairs as he dragged it out of the house. So Grandma Elsie had a constant reminder of his departure every time she went up and down her own stairs! Grandma Elsie ran her farm with her children to survive, but they never did get running water.

Grandpa Brenneman didn't show up again until many years later (1955) on the night before my Grandma Dorothy's wedding. He didn't even know that she was getting married.

So that brings me to the second topic that we learned about that night. Grandma Dorothy's wedding. She and Papa Norm were married in December 1955 in the chapel of the Christian Church. Grandma wore a red skirt/suit and high heels. They only had two people in attendance, Papa Norm's friend and the friends girlfriend. Papa Norm is a bit of an introvert to put it mildly. Not only did he not want anyone to attend, but he wouldn't even let Grandma tell anyone that they were getting married. I am always grateful that he came to my wedding because I know how strongly he dislikes large groups of people. So I'm guessing I don't get my extreme need to be the center of attention from his side!!

The last little tidbit of information that we learned that night was that my Grandma Dorothy was born at the family farmhouse on a cold January day. Her family set her on the oven door to keep her warm and alive. Don't try that at home!

So that was our wonderful day with Grandma Dorothy. Cooking, crafts, family history lesson, and watching the kids have a dance party in the playroom.

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