Monday, May 10, 2010

Little Delphia Means


Yesterday's blog about Mother's Day had a couple pictures of my Grandma Ridnour taken on her 80th & 90th birthdays.
This is a picture of Delphia Verda Means as a young woman. She was born 114 years ago today. Her parents were George Robert Means and Matilda Neoma Lippincott. There's no date on this picture, but I think she looks nine or ten. Her expression could be one of sadness or she may be day dreaming. I believe photographic subjects were required to sit very still for a minute or more in order not to blur the picture. I wonder how she got her little dog to pose? Perhaps that is what she was thinking about.
Delphia (pronounced Del-fee not Del-fe-ah nor Del-fa) was the youngest of four children. Her brother, Orphas Alvin was born in 1883; sisters, Delila May in 1890 and Drothel Velma in 1893. Delila died of cholera in 1891 when she was seventeen months old. Orphas named his daughter Delilah Grace when she was born June 9, 1912. (The same day as the Villisca ax murders.)
Grandma Delphia was little - only 4' 10" by the time I was old enough to remember her. She was almost five feet tall in her younger years. It was always a big deal for the grandchildren to be as tall as and then taller than their grandmother.
Other than hearing her tell about moving to Kansas in a covered wagon when she was nine, I don't know much about her childhood. I don't know where she went to school or if she even graduated from the 8th grade. I think she always lived in the Mt. Etna area until she married.
At some point in their lives she and her sister Drothel had a 'falling out' and didn't have anything to do with one another. Grandma never had anything nice to say about her sister. Drothel and her family lived in South Dakota and then moved to California. I do think they patched things up before Drothel died in 1973.
Grandma was an excellent seamstress. She could look at a picture then cut her own pattern out of newspaper and whip up a new dress for herself, her daughters or her granddaughters. When grandpa was ill she made herself a denim skirt out of some old jeans to wear when she did the chores. (Women didn't wear jeans then.) She was just as talented at embroidery, crocheting and tatting as she was at sewing. Every grandchild received a pair of embroidered pillowcases trimmed with crochet when they got married.
Her talent I most identify with and remember best was the one she had for flowers. Grandpa and Grandma had a huge garden and fruit trees over the hill north of the house. The areas around her house were reserved for flowers. Her special love was for iris. Each year she added new colors to her iris beds. When it was time to decorate the graves for Memorial Day, there were no plastic flowers for her - we took buckets of water and went through her flower beds cutting iris and peonies and ferns until the buckets were full. Then armed with quart jars, a digger and paring knife we made the rounds of all the cemeteries, placing a jar of flowers on the graves of all the loved ones.
Grandma once said to me, "I know who'll put flowers on my grave when I'm gone. But who'll put flowers on yours?" It was her way of letting me know she appreciated that I always took her around to the cemeteries in her later years. The flowers I'll place on her grave in three weeks will be plastic - her iris beds are long gone - and they will probably be pansies which was another of her favourite flowers.
Delphia had a neighbor friend as small as she was. That woman's grandchildren called her "Tiny Grandma". We would never have gotten away with something like that. Grandma was more "small, but mighty". She was strict. She was vocally opinionated. I will admit to being afraid of her when I was young. But I never doubted her love for us. I will never forget May 10 is her birthday.

1 comment:

  1. Grandma's famous quote comes to mind-even looking at her picture when she was young: "The road to hell is paved with good intentions." That and her jabbing at me with her cane would strike the fear of God in me. But I know she loved everyone of us the same. Miss her a lot, I do.... preston

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