Tuesday, February 4, 2014

52 Ancestors - #5-Eleanor Thomas

My maternal grandmother was the only child born to Gertrude and Clarence Thomas.  She was born in Henry County, Kentucky in the small town of Eminence in 2 September 1902. Her father died from TB when she was 8 years old. On the 1900 census he listed his occupation as Artist, so needless to say there wasn't much money in their home.  "Mammau" and her mother, my "Nanny," went to live with Nanny's parents and stayed there until my Mammau moved to aunt's in Georgetown to attend Georgetown College.  There she met a young man, that eventually talked her into moving to Georgetown permanently as his wife.  They started married life with 50 cents and a bicycle.  She had three children, but only my mother lived.

She was a true flapper of the 1920's.  After her wedding her new mother-in-law told her she was a married woman now and she should wear her dresses longer.  She never had a bad thing to say about anybody, she loved to have fun and laugh, but she was always the first to laugh at herself.  Her favorite story about herself was the morning she was running late for church and was rushing around fixing her hair and makeup.  After she got to church she noticed that someone sitting near her was wearing lemon perfume, but couldn't figure out who it was.  The scent seemed to follow her after church as we went to eat dinner at a local restaurant.  She didn't discover that it was her until she got home that afternoon and found the lemon Pledge furniture polish sitting on the bathroom sink instead of her hair spray.

Mammau never learned to drive, never balanced a checkbook, but whatever my grandfather wanted to do she supported him 100%. She never argued, but she always got her point across.  When Granddaddy went to see his cousin for the afternoon and called her that night with the news that he was in New Orleans for the Mardi Gras and would be back the next day.  Of course, he forgot that that was the one place she had always wanted to go.  The next morning she walked downtown, bought new living room furniture and carpet.  When he got home the bill was waiting for him.  He paid it and they never spoke about it again.

When Granddaddy died I went to live with her to "watch over her."  I had just gotten my driver's license and we would go out and cruise around town.  When I ran over a curb and crunched the fender on her car, she told my mom my grandfather had done it years before.  She helped me plan a trip to Alaska on a motorcycle - and was probably more disappointed than me that I never went.  Along the way she told me stories.  Stories of her mother, my grandfather - the love of her life, and my mother.   She told me the history of her life - and her things.  Most of her furniture once belong to some great-great....., she had a chest full of quilts that were made by her mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, and other ancestors. She had two huge portraits of a man and his wife hanging in her living room that turned out to be my 5th great-grandparents, who were the first of her family to come to Kentucky in 1790.  She told me who owned what silver, who handed down which china and I loved every word.

Mammau had a massive stroke just weeks before I graduated from college and she died eighteen months later on 17 September, 1984, just fifteen days past her 83rd birthday.  I wish I had written down more of what she told me, but she is the one who got me started on my family tree.  I hope from her I have inherited a positive outlook on life and the ability to inspire my grandchildren to honor their family's place in history.

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