Saturday, December 3, 2016

Grandma Gray

This is my maternal grandmother, Orpha Jane Gray, daughter of Pamelia Conger and William H. Brown. She was born on December 4, 1871. I am not sure how old she is this picture, but I like to think that she was 75 as I was born on her 75th birthday. My middle name is Jane after Orpha Jane. (She always said that she was glad that my parents did not choose to name me Orpha too.)

Grandma Gray was a smart lady and a teacher. Although her teaching career must have been short-lived, as woman teachers had to resign if they married. She and my grandfather, John Milton Gray, were secretly married on August 13, 1891.

Orpha and John had eight children, Mina, William Howard, Rollin, Orpha, Ida Blanche, Samuel, Sarah Margaret, and Laura. Daughters Sarah and Orpha died at a young age. Even though eight children was probably common for that time period, I remember Grandma telling another relative about these many births. She exclaimed that she got pregnant every time her husband hung his pants on the bedpost.

Grandma Gray lived with our family for several years from the early 1950's to the early 1960's. She and my mother, Laura, both strong-willed women, did not always see life from the same perspective. Although they did not have sustained arguments, each woman voiced their opinions on a variety of topics.

Since my mother worked outside the home, Grandma occasionally helped with household tasks. She baked a wonderful lemon meringue pie and delicious homemade noodles. Like many woman of her age, she crocheted and sewed.

Grandma was a religious woman her entire 97 years on this planet. Life for Orpha began as a Calvinist. She worshiped most of her life as a Methodist as her husband, John, was a Methodist minister. In her nineties, Grandma became an Episcopalian in order to worship with our family.
When she was confirmed at Trinity Episcopal Church, my mother bought her a maroon dress. She told us that she always wanted a red dress, but her mother, Pamelia, said that ladies of the evening wore red. Apparently, Calvinists were conservative dressers.

Politically, Grandma was a Prohibitionist. This probably was partly due to the time period that she grew to adulthood and her religious background. Moreover, maybe this was due to the presence of alcoholism in her family. As a child, I was allowed to enter the voting booth. I watched Grandma pull the lever to vote for a straight Prohibitionist ticket. On November 22, 1963, I remember telling Grandma that the president had been shot. She expressed great sorrow although admitting that she did not agree with Kennedy's policies.

I wish that I could tell you more about Orpha Jane Brown Gray, but like many grandchildren I failed to ask Grandma about her life when she could tell me.