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  • Writer's pictureBetty Girardeau

What Would She Have To Say Now

This is my Grandmother, my Mother's mother. She was Norma Elizabeth Bell Norris. She was born in 1883 in Bath County, Virginia and died in Greenville, South Carolina in 1969. She was a Staunch Presbyterian (the capital "S" is intentional!). At a time when a lot of young women did not receive a college education, she did, graduating from Converse College. She had six children, one of whom died in infancy. She had a sharp mind and stayed informed about world happenings. But she was very much a Southern lady, as you can tell from the picture, which was taken when she was 16 years old. (I wonder if that hat was her first "grown up" lady's hat?) And she was very much the product of her times and where and how she had been brought up. I included the bell in the picture because it was the one that she would use to call "the help" when something else was needed at a meal or the table could be cleared. I remember once being shocked to be reprimanded by her because I had referred to a colored woman as a "lady." She told me I could not call a female person of color a lady. I may have been eight or nine at the time, but even at that age there seemed something really wrong about that. But I need to remember that when she was born the Civil War had only been over for 18 years and Reconstruction 6 years. When WWI broke out she was 33. She had a young and growing family during the two the years that the Spanish Flu raged and threatened the lives of young and old. She was 44 when Charles Lindberg completed his non-stop flight to Paris, and not many years later she would be a passenger in a plane that flew over the English Channel to Europe. She was 59 when WWII broke out. She saw both of her sons go off to that war and, fortunately, return. She was 80 when John F. Kennedy was assassinated and 85 in 1967 when two years of mounting racial tensions and rioting all over the United States began. In the last several months of shelter in place orders, lack of strong leadership, and now an escalation once again of racial tensions and in some places outright lawlessness, I have often thought of my Grandmother and wonder what she would think and say about these days and times. I have no doubt that she would definitely have something to say! But I am also sure that she would emphasize that faith in God will bring us through such difficult times because it had for her.

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