Coping / Family / Parenting / Women

Mama said …

(One of the recent daily prompts was to start a post based on the first line of your favorite book, well here it goes, from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.)

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.

Well, that may have been “acknowledged” at the turn of the 19th century but man (or woman) have times changed. The book’s matriarch, Mrs. Bennet, did only want the best for all of her daughters and marrying well was seen as that back then.

My father’s mother, who primarily raised me, pushed me academically. And I always loved learning new things and contrary to most of my friends in the neighborhood, I looked forward to going to college.

“I can’t wait to go away to school and live in a dorm,” I recall saying to my friend Tanya when I was 10. “What?! You mean you don’t want to get a job and live on your own after high school?” she asked. I had never even considered anything other than college after high school. She made me feel as though I was odd.

This made me curious about my grandmother’s and mother’s backgrounds. I asked my grandmother, Carol Ann (Johnson) Flanagan, if she had gone to college and she told me about how important it was for her to go to work to help support her family. She cleaned houses and helped raise other people’s children, much like in The Help. I don’t know a lot about Grandpa Walker Flanagan because he died a long time before I was born. I vaguely remember stories that he was a “Pullman porter” on the railroad. My grandmother attended beauty school later so that she could have a trade and “her own money” later in life. And Mama was very supportive of my goal of going to college. She said, “you’re bound to find yourself a good husband in college.” Hmm…go to college to find a husband?

When I asked my Mom about why she didn’t go on to college, she told me “the love story” of meeting my Dad at 17, getting married soon after and then having a family to raise. She said that she always loved art and sculpting, but that it wasn’t viewed as anything that could be a “real job” or bring in any money to the household. So my Mom was a talented self-taught artist who always helped make my art projects shine in grade school. My Mom told me with a smile about how my Dad was “quite a catch” in her day: college-educated and one of Rockford, Ill.’s first black police officers.

So I don’t think that either my grandfather or my father were in “possession of a good fortune” besides having my Mama and Mom as their wives who helped support them and their families through hard work.

All of this has definitely made me more curious about my family background. Have any of you looked into your ancestry and what line of work your grandparents or even beyond did?
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