Sunday, May 11, 2014

A Grandmother's Legacy

My junior college graduation, 5/20/05
By Laurie Epps

Did you know that today marks the one hundredth anniversary of Mother's Day? So for all the mom's out there, I'd like to wish you a very Happy Mothers Day.

Back in my junior college days, my Cultural Geography teacher assigned a genealogy project. I didn't know it then, but it was a hobby that would stay with me for the rest of my life. Very early in the project, I realized that history books are full of men, and men's narratives. What I wanted to know was very different. I wanted to know the stories of the women that went before me. It also led me to think about what legacy I'd like to leave my daughters.
My Grandmother Everitt, 1977

Excerpt from that project:

My grandmother, Vervia Ellen Mehaffey, was born on September 7, 1897. She was of a very large family. She was the eldest daughter, and as such, was expected to care for her younger brothers and sisters. The ratio of boy and girls was eight boys and 3 girls. That would make her one of eleven children. They had really big reunions with this side of the family every June at Lake Brownwood, Texas. She really loved her brothers and kept track of good relationships with them until the day she died. As her youngest grandchild, I've got many stories of all of them.

My grandparents when they were courting.
Shortly after my grandmother met my grandfather, Columbus Doom Everitt, and they were married on August 12, 1922. There aren't many pictures of the two of them together. After having five children together, they split up in about 1942. My Aunt Jo was under a year old when that happened. My grandfather became something that wasn't talked about in open conversation. My grandmother worked lots of odd jobs, and did whatever it took to support her children. Before she was married, she did some teaching without a degree. I suspect she was an aide.

My grandmother returned to school once my Aunt Jo was enrolled in the local elementary school. She went on to receive her degree from North Texas State College in Denton, TX. She went on to earn her master's degree from Harding Simmons University in Abilene, TX. From there she worked as a school teacher and as the local junior high librarian. (It's largely due to her that I've got my love of books.) My grandmother was well-respected within her community.

Grandmother in the local paper with her book about her mentor.

All along the way, she had a professional mentor, Mrs. Irene Trapp whom she later wrote a book about, I believe. She also wrote a book about the history of the Methodist Church. Also in her pursuits she had the Mehaffey and Jackson strains of the family traced way back. 

Grandmother E with her book on Methodism

For fun, my grandmother enjoyed visiting family, quilting, studying history, writing, a good book, and crocheting. Every night after dinner, she took a walk around her little neighborhood. People would come out of their houses to greet her. I don't know if she did that when I wasn't there, or if it was just a ploy to show off her granddaughter.... but I didn't really care either. Grandmother and I would walk and talk about everything you can imagine on those walks.

Grandmother with my brother and I in 1975
Grandmother Everitt, as she was known by her grandchildren, was sort of the glue that held everyone together. After her death in 1979, the family reunions didn't continue. She had a huge birthday bash for her 80th birthday. Her health seemed to deteriorate after that. She died of ovarian cancer two years later. I remember the day she died, I knew she was gone before the phone even rang, although she lived half-way around the country from me. I cried for at least a week. It got my camp counselors worried about me too. She died on August 1, 1979.

Vervia Everitt will be remembered as an author, historian, teacher, librarian, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, and the beautiful yet proud woman she was. She was very active in church, and everyone seemed to know her and like her around Brownwood, TX. I'm very proud to be her granddaughter.

Graduation Day, 5/03/14

Laurie Epps is a recent graduate of Anderson University majoring in Creative Writing. Already Laurie is most published as a feature article writer, essayist, and poet.  A seeker of beauty, her is dream is to travel the world one day and tell the many stories of those she meets. Columns include: Monday Morning Book Club, and Thoughtful Thursdays, a column dedicated to the fine art of poetry.

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