Friday, February 5, 2016

A Picture of My Grandma

  • Leonard Francis Brooks, (Grandma) Bertha Evelena Brooks, 
    William Homer Brooks, Geneva Agnes Brooks ca.1912

    A Picture of My Grandma     
    words and music © by Eddie Allen Music 2016

    That's a picture of my Grandma
    When she was just a little girl
    Her clothes seem funny to us now
    But did you ever see such curls?
    And that's your great-great Uncle Leonard
    Standin' by her side
    No I never met him
    He was a young man when he died

    The only childhood picture that I have
    I think it's nineteen-twelve
    A photograph cost money then
    They had so little for themselves

    It must have been a big occasion
    All in their Sunday best
    No one's smiling in the picture though
    So we can only guess
    What their lives were like back in those days
    My Grandma used to say
    We didn't know how poor we were
    We just struggled from day to day

    We picked cotton 'til our hands were sore
    Our backs and shoulders bent
    Daddy'd always say just one row more
    When us kids begged to quit

    Seven children of this union born 
    To her parents Jess and Jane
    Nancy Edna died at five weeks old
    When Grandma was just eight
    And then Leonard in that car crash
    When cars and roads were new
    Memories filled my Grandma's eyes with tears
    There were more than just a few

    For death came often in those days
    There was danger and disease
    Doctors scarce but undertakers
    Common as you please

    It was her dream to be a teacher
    A dream not meant to be
    She studied hard and she got good marks
    But grinding poverty
    Forced her back into the cotton fields
    So many mouths to feed
    A stream of hoboes at the door
    They were all in need

    So fifth grade was the end of school
    She was needed back at home
    Hard work was the only tool
    When survival was the goal

    She met and married my Granddad
    In nineteen twenty-four
    Three years she kept house in a tent
    With hard earth for their floor
    He worked in the oil fields
    Kansas Oklahome
    Across the Texas plains on horseback
    They were savin' for a home

    Their work paid off they bought a farm
    In Kingman County where
    The tiny town of Norwich, Kansas
    Lay three miles west of there

    In 'twenty-eight and 'thirty
    Came my Dad and Uncle Mel
    The same time that the Dust Bowl came
    And turned their lives to Hell
    Neighbors thought the world was ending
    Many packed and ran away
    Grandma might have been afraid
    But she was bound to stay

    She shoveled dust out of that house
    Each and every day
    Wet dishrags 'round the babies' mouths
    So they could breathe okay

    Tough times don't last forever
    Tough people make it through
    By the time I came along 
    In nineteen fifty-two
    In the little house my Granddad built
    Here on Denton Street
    Is where I first remember Grandma
    Where I scampered at her feet

    The peace and love within that home
    Are now a part of me
    And when across this world I've roamed
    I've always longed to be

    There beside my Grandma
    When she's cookin' at the stove
    Or sittin' right up close to her
    In that De Soto that she drove
    Or workin' in her garden
    Hoein' in the beans
    Or cuttin' rhubarb for a pie
    Or patchin' up my jeans

    I know that she was only human
    But to me she seemed a saint
    She often spoke of her hard times
    But she spoke without complaint

    And now just one more story
    It's the last one that she told
    Her and Granddad drove to Kansas
    After they'd grown old
    They came across that dusty field
    The cotton was in bloom
    She wanted him to take her picture
    And to hang it in their room

    But when he viewed her through the lens
    He shook with love and rage
    He said I will not take your photograph
    Not with you standin' in this cage

    So that's my Grandma in the picture
    When she was just a little girl
    We gave her name to you
    Back when you became our world
    Now a little boy who is your own
    His life won't be so hard
    He'll never know how rich he is 
    Because my Grandma won't be far

    She'll look down on him and me
    When I hold his hand
    And I'll tell him her history
    As he grows to be a man

    That's my Grandma in the picture
    When she was just a little girl
    Her clothes seem funny to us now
    But did you ever see such curls?