A little girl with a million dollar smile and a dutch boy cut grew up during the dust bowl in the panhandle of Oklahoma, riding a horse with her brother and sister, carrying a pail of milk to school every day to help make the soup for lunch. 70 years later she could remember seeing that milk spilled on the ice , when the horse bucked them off. Food, and the lack of it, loomed large .
Her name was Wilma Louise and she danced the jig with her daddy at the state fair when she was 4 and won a brand new dollar. A church lady walked up to her mama and said " you shouldn't let your daughter dance like that on stage". Her mama replied, "you mind your children, I'll mind mine."
She saved her prized dollar for new shoes. When she went to retrieve it, saved in a little cigar box, she found a corner had been chewed off by a mouse. She cried, but when she got to the shoe store, the lady said " honey, it will spend just as good." .
At 5 foot nothing and 105 pounds, she could walk on her hands and do flips off of the stage at school. She played her heart out on the basketball court. "I was fast All I had to do was get that ball to Leona, and she would put it in . We were in a tournament with some mean farm girls from Alva. Leona looked one of 'em straight in the eye and said 'Sis on you, Pister!' I said, 'Leona, shut your mouth or your gonna get us killed!' Somehow we didn't get killed and beat 'em anyway."
Her dream was to be an airline stewardess. She wanted to see the world. But she met a man named Jack in Sunday school, who proposed to her while watching planes take off at the airfield, ring hidden in a bag of peanuts. She never looked back.
In the 1950's, they bought a pink tri-level. The kitchen was pink. The refrigerator, the stove, the countertops, all pink.
In the front yard, She planted rows of pink peonies around the driveway. One day her daughter ran screaming home from school with a huge Doberman pinscher on her heels, Sweeping her porch, Wilma ran out past the peonies in her dress and heels, and beat that dog with her broom until it broke and the dog limped away.
She was my grandma, but I always called her Wilma. She taught me how to do the Charleston, sing "Mairzy Doats", and hold my head up and smile, " and if they don't smile back, that's okay, honey."
When she was 70 years old, she wanted to show me she could still walk down the stairs on her hands and did it. The day my granddad died, I found her ironing in her laundry room that had a poster of Laurel and Hardy hanging in it. She said it made her feel better to iron..
I have a Pink Peony outside my front door. They make me think of her. The blossoms are lush and burst with springtime.
They don't last long enough, that's the problem, but the little while that they bloom so vibrantly with life makes them worth it.