Ancestors born before 1900

Ancestors born before 1900
Frances Simpkins, Leah Foote, Emmaline Foote, Rosetta Foote

Friday, July 25, 2014

My Grandmother's Hands

When Gram, Lucille Ruth Lee Stokes, went to Heaven on December 6, 2006, I took down the poem I'd written for her and placed it in her coffin. I finally stumbled on an early version of it today as I try to make a dent in the mess I've made of her once impeccably clean house. Of course in typing this in, it means that I'm once again distracted from the job.

I really loved my Gram and was so blessed that she was always right upstairs. Hopefully she'll be with me as I continue this archaeology dig in her home. This was written on December 27, 1983. I was in Bukavu, Zaire (now DRC) in the early days of my in-country Peace Corps training to be a Fish Volunteer. The waves of emotions during my first trip Home to Mama Africa were such blessings.

My Grandmother's Hands

I stare at my hands.
After years of dainty piano,
at last they can more than appreciate
the stories told by the hands:

Of yesterday's slaves
who struggled through a living hell
Building not only the south,
but, in their fight, laid the foundation
for us, their future.

Of today's African women
who from sun up to well past dark-
work fields, cook food, carry water, clean clothes,
march miles with incredible weight balanced so carefully on their heads,
often with infants strapped to their backs.

And of my Grandmother's Hands
Paled and wrinkled, calloused and firm.
The story of personal struggle and a pride,
comparable to no other.

Those hands, which washed windows and scrubbed floors,
show the strength of generations.
And to those hands, the generations to come owe everything.

For in her fight, head always held high,
My Grandmother, bowing to no one but her God,
built and taught our family
to care, to love, and to be proud.

My hands sense the trials of yesterday's slaves and today's African women,
but it is my heart that holds everlasting love and respect for
My Grandmother
whose hands have held me close
and guided my way.

Gram (1/20/1905 SC - 12/6/2006 NY) and me 1988

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