Both of my grandmothers had red hair. One was born with red hair, the other became a red head with the help of Miss Clairol. Both of these feisty women were very influential in my life and taught me many important lessons. I want to focus my attention on the natural red head today.
Her name was Melda and she was not lacking in the personality department! She had such curious mixture of personality traits that when pondering them all she almost seemed surreal. Like a character from a story book who was so outrages and wonderful, you could never imagine such a person truly existed. A person like that only belonged in your dreams or a story book. She was a curious mixture of circus ringmaster, feminist, and superhero.
Melda had eight children, that alone would make someone feel like they were running a circus! Her superhero strength was exhibited by the fact that seven of her children were born in less than a nine year span! While raising her own children and taking care of the home, she also ran the family fruit farm. When did she sleep? With her being the ring master she had to make sure that the show did go on. Making sure her children stayed out of trouble (no small task with four boys) while meeting their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. She told my dad,"When I felt like I was on the verge of losing it. I would put on a show for the children and make popcorn and lemonade." My dad told me they ate a lot of popcorn and drank a lot of lemonade growing up! Her circus eventually expanded to include forty-nine grandchildren and thirty six great grandchildren all of whom received a phone call or card on their birthday.
She was the original feminist with traditional ideals. Some of my earliest memories are of her driving the tractor home from the orchard after spraying the peach trees. With her short red hair sticking out wildly from under her hat, wearing worn denim jeans and cowboy boots. I wonder how much of her personality was genetic and how much was shaped by the early events of her life. She was raised on a fruit farm with one sister. Her sister became ill at a young age and never really recovered. So she became her fathers boy and her mother girl. She drove the cattle down the mountain on Saturday and crocheted blankets on Sunday. That was just the way she was. She was never intimidated by gender roles and knew she could accomplish anything she wanted. Yet, she held a strong belief in the importance of family and God.
Years of hard farm work helped develop her superhero like strength! One example of this strength was when she grabbed the horses reigns with one hand and pulled her teenage son off the horse with the other. He needed a friendly reminder that his behavior was unacceptable. I remember as a child being amazed at how fast she came sprinting towards me after I got injured playing in her backyard. Her other superhero like qualities were exhibited when she nursed sick and dying family members for years on end. She gave of her self like a true hero and never spoke a gossiping word. Her greatest superhero like quality was her ability to be a friend. She befriended the young and the old, the rich and the poor, the wise and the less wise.
The Kryptonite of her life was her stroke. It slowed her down like nothing had before but it never fully stopped her. She was always fighting back, trying to regain freedom from it's firm grasp. While her mind was more than ready to work and serve her body was not. She did her best to stay positive and find joy in other areas of life but not being able to serve others was her greatest frustration.
Last month she was finally able to be reunited with husband, mother, father, and sister. I know she is running through heavenly orchards and serving those around her as we speak. I am so grateful Peanut was able to met her before she passed away. During that visit grandma said, "Her hair is the color of peaches! We need more red heads in the family!"
Now my thoughts turn to peanut who was born with the same color of red hair. Will her hair stay red or will she be a red head with the help of Miss Clairol? Will she have the same strong and feisty personality? Only time will answer such questions. All I know is that Peanut and I are truly blessed to have such a women as part of our heritage.