Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Sturdy Midwestern Stock

Posted by PicasaI wanted a picture of one my ancestors for this blog, but I don't have any. This is actually Paul's great grandmother on her wedding day. I'm sure she was of sturdy Midwestern stock, too!

I love that phrase, "sturdy Midwestern stock." It conjures up pictures of my hale and hearty forebears, women who broke the unforgiving land with their dreamer husbands and carved the way for generations of other Midwestern women to follow. It also makes me think of stew on a winter's day and the flank of a milking cow, but I think I'll stick with my first thoughts for this piece! I imagine these women as almost Paul Bunyan-esque in stature and deeds. I can see one giving birth - to twins, probably -in the the morning, cooking up a dinner for the threshing crew that was helping to bring in the crops, putting up 3000 quarts of tomatoes that afternoon, digging a new fruit cellar by evening, and possibly shooting a stray Indian or two that might have wandered onto her land before nightfall. Her skin would be weathered and eyes permanently crinkled from the unrelenting sun of the summer and harsh winter winds in the winter. She would have laundry flapping on the clothesline, two pies sitting in the window of her simple clapboard house, a flock of chickens pecking in the dirt, an unmarked grave or two out back for her babies that didn't survive, and a made-from-scratch dinner ready for her man and sons when they came in from the fields. She faced the uncertain future without flinching, didn't waste time on tears, and embodied the word "grit."

This is where I am supposed to say that her strong and proud blood still runs through my veins today, that all she possessed has been passed down and is evident in my own character. After all, I'm still a Midwestern girl. I'm raising my family now and am the age that my great grandmothers would have been when experiencing some of the things I mentioned. But...I can't lay claim to such things because ... I'm a weenie!

What a difference a few generations can make! I admit it - there is nothing too sturdy about me. If the temperature gets much above or below 70 degrees, it can ruin my day. I could not live without my dishwasher, food processor, vacuum or washing machine. I had all my babies relatively pain-free, thanks to a wonderful 20th century invention called the epidural. In my opinion, that is what birth was meant to be! I would not be caught dead in calico. I consider "roughing it" to be when my family I go to a campsite (electrical hook-up only, please) and brave the elements from behind the walls of our fiberglass camper, complete with stove, fridge, air conditioner and plumbing. I have no interest in growing a garden, let alone spending hours in a hot kitchen cutting up and preserving the fruit of my labors. I figure that's why grocery stores got invented. I refuse to drive a vehicle that doesn't heat or cool to my specified preferences. I'm not about to go grinding up herbs and making poultices to treat our illnesses. I just pour out a spoonful of medicine or better yet, head to Urgent Care. I'm not too fond of our cats and dog - there's no way you could get me to care for livestock. I suppose I'm just a bit spoiled!

It's one thing to have the luxury of living a life like what is available to us now. There's nothing wrong with appreciating the advances of technology. But one thing I hope that hasn't changed is some intestinal fortitude. I like to think that I have the same determination and strength of character that my great grandmothers evidenced. Not knowing them, I don't know. I can only guess. I don't think of myself as a particularly strong person and when I envision some of the horrible things in life that could happen, like losing a child to death, widowhood, or having my house burn down the mere thought just makes me quake. But maybe it did to them, too. However, when the hard times came, they found the strength to continue on. And I hope that is part of my character as well.

The best part is knowing that it isn't up to me. One thing I have, that I'm not sure if my great grandmothers did, is the knowledge that my strength comes from God. Left on my own, I will fail. I will fall down trembling in the face of some of life's more brutal realities and, but for the Lord's strength, I probably won't get up again. God gives us strength as we need it, during our time of need, when we are most helpless. That I know and that knowledge gives great comfort. Fortunately, I'm probably never going to need that strength to run a farm or to shoot Indians, though!

2 Corinthians 12:9 And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness..."

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