My grandmother was born Loretta Florence Tracy on
December 26, 1921. She later married my grandfather (Walter Howard Michael) and they lived in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri. She once told me of how her first child (my father) was born one snowy winter. They had tried to drive their old pickup truck through the blinding snow, but it was no use; the snow was piling up too quickly and so they returned to their cabin where she gave birth without the help of a Doctor. It was February 8, 1940 when little Howard Michael was brought into the world. The Doctor was sent for and he arrived a day or so later and wrote out the birth certificate. That was the beginning of what I would learn of a very courageous woman.
My grandmother and grandfather went on to have two more little boys and they were taught to help around the dairy that had belonged in my grandfather’s family for some time. They also learned how to hunt and fish at a very early age; everyone had to help supplement the food for their table. Times were hard for many families during those years.
My father once told me that when he was about the age of six, my grandmother had warned him and his brothers not to play near an old stump that was in the woods near their farm; needless to say he didn’t listen very well and it became one of his favorite places to go and his two younger brothers would follow after him. One day my grandmother found them there and she picked up my father by the back of his bib overalls and hung him over the old large stump. My father said that there was several cottonmouth snakes intertwined and slithering down below in the hollowed out stump and he now understood why she didn’t want him or his brothers playing there.
My father also told me that one day my grandmother had caught him in a lie and took him out to the cow pasture. She picked up a stick and began to stir a pile of cow dung. She asked him if he could smell it. He said that he could and she went on to stir it some more and my father began to hold his nose. She told him that telling a lie was just like stirring up that cow patty; it only got worse as you held onto it. She said that only speaking the truth would end the stink.
A few years later, my grandmother and grandfather decided to pack up their family and move to
. My grandmother said that it was one of the hardest things that she ever had to do; she left all of her siblings and parents behind. My father was only eight years old at the time. They settled in a little town called Hughson. My grandfather’s brothers would also move their families to California as well; all leaving the family dairy. California
Some of my grandmother’s relations had moved out to
many years before and they settled in an area that had been named after her family; a town called California . I often saw her writing letters at her kitchen table to her family that she longed to see. Sometimes she would read me some of the letters that they had written to her. Each summer my grandparents tried to take a trip back to Tracy to see their family. My brother and I even went on a few occasions. Some years some of the relatives would travel to Missouri ; California Disneyland was always one of the main attractions for them.
I knew my grandmother was a Church goer and she and my grandfather often took my brother and I when we were younger. She loved to sing in Church and some of my fondest memories are of her singing Hymns at the kitchen sink while she washed her dishes and also of her singing an Irish ditty as she bounced one of her grandchildren or great-grandchildren on her knee.
Later I would find out that she was one of the first to sign up at Church to bring food, clean the Church, encourage a grieving soul, or open up her home for Bible studies. She had been a Sunday School Teacher, Choir Member, Church Prayer Team Member, Church Secretary, and even the Church Treasurer.
The one thing I knew that she always did and did well was to feed anyone and everyone that came to her door. Lol! My grandmother served Pastors, Police Officers, a few Police Chiefs, the Mayor, and even a Congressman. Now I’ve come to learn that it wasn’t only my grandmother’s great cooking; believe me it was some good eating. I think that it was also my grandmother’s Godly counsel that many came for; she was a very wise and prayerful woman who loved the Lord greatly and was eager to share Him and His word with anyone.
The funny thing was that my grandmother mostly entertained while wearing her house slippers. She was a very down-to-earth person; small of stature with black curly hair that I later learned (of course) was dyed and permed by one of my aunts. My grandmother rarely left her home; for one reason, she never got her drivers license. I’m not sure if that was because she never wanted to or if it was my grandfather’s doing? The other reason was because her home was pretty much the “hub” and everyone wanted to come over and came often. My uncles, aunts and cousins were often all gathered there; especially for Sunday Supper. I now believe that it was also another way to get us all to go to Church on Sunday so that we could enjoy her bounty later! Lol!
To my knowledge, my grandmother never held a job other than the one she had at home. Believe me when I tell you that she worked at home. Not only for a very demanding husband, but was also caregiver to most of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren at one time or another as well as the children of the neighborhood. I often found a new child in her arms when I stopped by for a visit. I also saw many a stranger coming away with an armload of food from her stocked pantry shelves; today some might call that hoarding. I see it as being a good steward.
I think that my grandmother was the perfect example of a humble servant. She never complained or asked for anything for herself and yet gave so much to others. God only knows how many lives my grandmother touched in her lifetime and how many other lives she is touching now through her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and however many generations are allowed.
I have only experienced a small portion of the sacrifices that she made when my husband and I packed up our family and left our relatives moving to the State of
. Now my daughters only know the history of this great woman because I have told it to them. But I also know that a part of her is alive in and through me reaching out to others. Thank you Lord that I have had the pleasure to know this sweet and dear woman (Loretta Florence Tracy Michael) and her descendants rise up and call her blessed. : ) Virginia