My Grandmother’s Story Inspired by an Interview Today with One of My Students

Today one of my students who I have had since he was in 2nd grade, David Bina, came to interview me for his class “Women and History.”  David is now a senior at the University of California, Santa Barbara.  He asked me to tell him stories about my family history and I told him many about both sides of my family.  I mentioned to him my maternal grandmother, Winnie Waugh, and told him details about her life.  It made me think of this piece I had written about my grandmother a while back.  I think this will fill in a few more details for David and, besides, it makes me happy to revisit my grandmother’s life. Here is the piece:

Winnie Waugh

My grandmother Waugh was 4’10” tall and weighed around 210 pounds. She had a cane that she wielded like a weapon and a temper that made you keenly aware of that cane. Winnie Waugh was her name, Mary Winifred Blackmon Waugh, and her father had fled from Mississippi after a bar room brawl. Her father, the son of a plantation owner, hastily took his family to Texas just in case whatever happened in that bar didn’t send him off to jail.

My grandmother said they came in a covered wagon to Texas. She said they moved to West Texas where her father raised horses and she had a surrey with fringe on top.

My grandmother married Robert McLucky Waugh – a Scotsman – when she was 19 or 20. She was trained as a teacher and taught for several years.

My grandmother was the social service agency in her town long before there was such a thing. She gave food and clothes to the poor and helped transport women prisoners to the state prison. She was the PTA president the entire time my mother was in school and the head of the DAR for the state of Texas, even addressing the State Legislature.

My mother says that my grandmother called her husband, Mr. Waugh, and he referred to her as Mrs. Waugh. Mother said that when her father insisted that my grandmother not go with any more women prisoners to the prison, my grandmother waved at him from the back of the train as it went by the coal mine that he managed.

“My father managed that coal mine when coal was king,” my mother said, “and we had more money than the bank president.” That is until coal lost its hold to natural gas. Unfortunately, this was just at the time that my grandfather bought his own coal mine.

Money grew tight and my grandmother added several apartments to her house during World War II, which people rented out. Somewhere during that time, my grandfather died of a heart attack.

My grandfather told my mother before he died that he would always be near her, no matter what. She told me the same before she died. And I will tell my children the same. A good family legacy.

My grandmother lived to be in her mid-90’s. She called her luggage “grips” and once she lived with us, she would sometimes come downstairs with her grips in hand, ready to catch the train back home. She was not happy when Mother told her that she would not be going that day.

Winnie Waugh had dentures she filled with pink cream to stay connected to her gums and she had big pink drawers that were like wide silky shorts. She walked with a slow heavy gait and she often pointed her cane when she wanted someone to do something for her.

My mother visited her dutifully once she went to the nursing home in our hometown and we all went to see her often. I still remember the smell of stale urine of that home and the old people sitting in wheel chairs with blankets over their laps. My grandmother was in bed by then, not out and about. She died finally in that home. My mother seemed relieved.

I understand my grandmother had been a powerful women, a good woman, a woman with vision. Unfortunately, she was too old by the time I came along for me to see that real Winnie Waugh. I only saw the waning woman, who by that time was tired.  Still, I am aware that I come from strong and sturdy stock, even if there was that fleeing from Mississippi. I also know that Winnie Waugh knew how to survive through the good times and the bad.  I’m glad to know that I carry part of her with me today.


Friday Evening

I am sitting in the den of our home with my feet up and the television on at a low volume.  We have turned down an invitation to join the kids at a food tasting event in Arcadia (which is a good trek from here) and Ray and I are looking forward to a low-key night. Tomorrow morning we will be leaving early to volunteer at the St. Thomas Breakfast Club so staying in tonight and going to bed early has a definite appeal.

I have spent much of my day going through vintage books and determining their value via eBay.  This is the sort of task I love since after I type in the information, I get to peruse each book. If the results don’t merit our selling the book, then it goes into a box to give away.  If the book does have a reasonable value, then off it goes into another box for future listing. Of course, I am tempted to keep more books than I should but I have developed a reasonable amount of discipline. After all, I am running out of places to put those books I love so much!  I have had a lovely day doing this while listening to Leonard Cohen, Mumford and Sons, a bit of Bach and Lucinda Williams.  Hard to improve on that, at least as an occasional activity.

I got a haircut late this afternoon and then came home to color my hair.  I wouldn’t say this is a task I enjoy. One of these days, I’ll get to the point when dying my hair no longer makes any sense.  I don’t want to be one of those women whose face is far too old for dark hair.  So far, not quite there, but there will come a day.  Ray continues to encourage this activity.  I suppose this is what I get for marrying a man five years my junior. Oh, well, there are advantages to marrying a younger man, so I’ll put up with this inconvenience for now.  However, those bright silver roots are becoming fairly impressive.

On that note, I’ll bid you adieu until tomorrow. Have a lovely and restful evening.

We’ll talk again tomorrow.



Girlfriend Time

I just returned from visiting my friend, Judy HG, who is one of my closest buddies here in LA. We have just spent the last four hours covering a lot of ground in our conversation since it’s been a few months since we have seen each other. I would say one measure of a true friend is being able to pick up where you left off, no matter the time apart. 

Judy and I met at St. Thomas the Apostle several years back and we’ve told each other a good many thoughts and secrets over the years. I would say another measure of a true friend is someone with whom you can lay your heart bare. Trust is required for this and I trusted Judy pretty much from hello. That is a wonderful gift, finding a buddy with whom you can be completely honest without fear. I feel lucky in that regard. 

I am now off to bed. I have an early morning tomorrow. I will go to bed happy tonight after my time with my friend. The world feels like a better place knowing my buddy is in it. 

Sleep well and talk tomorrow. 

Happy Birthday, Gregorio!

This evening we gathered in Pasadena to celebrate our son-in-law Gregorio’s birthday. Sarah had ordered all sorts of delicious food for us to eat and we sat in their yard so we could also enjoy the cool temperatures. Liz, Ron, and Rachael were there (Ariel had to work) plus Luna and Nico, of course, along with Luna’s godfather, Casey. It was a relaxed and easy evening filled with laughter, gifts and birthday cake. 

Afterward, Rachael and I tidied the kitchen and then I supervised baths for the babies. That is a treat for me and also is a gift to two tired parents. Ray and I are now on our way home. 

Gregorio, we love you. Here’s to a wonderful upcoming year filled with fun, good health and prosperity!

5-Star Turkey Meatloaf Recipe

I made turkey meatloaf for lunch today, along with mashed potatoes, steamed carrots and a green salad.  This is one of my favorite meals, especially the turkey meatloaf.  I am including the recipe below just in case you’d like to try it. I can promise this is a tried-and-true recipe that will not disappoint.  I have been using this recipe for several years now and it continues to produce a delicious turkey meatloaf with just the right texture and flavor.

If you do try it, be sure and let me know the result.

Happy cooking.

We’ll talk again tomorrow.

Turkey Meatloaf

1 1/2 pound lean ground turkey
1 cup milk or chicken broth
1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoon chopped fresh basil or 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon mustard
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 chopped clove garlic
1 egg
3/4 cup ground cracker crumbs
1 onion, chopped
1/2 cup red pepper
1/4 cup ketchup

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients except ketchup. Spread mixture in greased 8 x 4 or 9 x 5 inch loaf pan. Spread ketchup over.

Bake uncovered 1 – 1 1/4 hours or until the thermometer reads at least 160 degrees. Let stand 5 minutes. Remove from pan.



Nicki, Max, Aretta and Zelda’s Visit from Texas

Our niece, Nicki, her husband, Max, and their kids, Aretta and Zelda, left today.  We had a lot of fun.  Aretta is four and Zelda is fourteen-months.  On Friday night, we went to Sarah’s house for a barbecue. Saturday, we headed to the Griffith Observatory, Carnie’s on Sunset Boulevard for lunch, a birthday party for a baby friend and then a pizza party at our house. Sunday, we went to the Getty Museum in the morning, had lunch there, then drove to Zuma Beach above Malibu.  We came home and had leftover pizza and a salad. Today, Nicki and Max left early to explore downtown Hollywood and the La Brea Tar Pits.  I just heard from them a few minutes ago and they are sitting in the airport with a delayed flight to Austin.  Still, they are settled and with two kids in tow, that can be good all on its own.  Happy travels to the Leatherwood-Schooler family.  We love you all.

Here are a few photos commemorating our time together.



Today we went with our Texas relatives to the Griffith Observatory.  We arrived before the doors opened so that we could get a jump on any crowds; however, we had not expected the parking lots to already be full, plus people hiking up from down the road where they had parked.  But lucky for us, someone pulled out of their parking place fairly close to the top and we scooted right in.  The busyness of the observatory reflected summer. There were people speaking a dozen different languages and tour buses filled with foreign tourists.  The best part of our time at the observatory was the show they put on entitled “Water is Life.”  We learned about the importance of water on earth and the search on other planets where it might exist.  Fascinating stuff and Luna and Aretta seemed to love it.

After the observatory, we drove down to Carney’s on the Sunset Strip where we had lunch.  Carney’s is an old railroad car that’s been there for many years.  The food is decent as are the prices.  Liz and Ron met us there.  From there we came home, had a nap, then headed to a birthday party for a little one-year-old who is Liz and Ron’s God son.  Afterward, our kids came to our house for a pizza party.

A full but happy day.

Here are the photos from Carney’s.  Photo credit goes to Liz.



Flash Fiction, Memoir and Essay

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