Friday, July 16, 2010

MAMA FANNIE



I was lucky to have 3 grandmothers. Two biological and one step grandmother. This is about my father's mother, fondly known as Mama Fannie.



Mama Fannie in 1964 with "Mama Fannie's precious," me.

She was and always will be my bench mark for a lady. Frances Euphemia Givens was born of Irish, Scotch and English decent, fairly evenly split. She had the prettiest red hair I have ever seen but perhaps I am prejudice.

Francis married a man named Charles who cared for her quite well financially and gave her three children, one died in infancy. That was all he gave her though for he was a cold man who was an open philanderer. He ran a very profitable Cuban cigar factory in Key West and as much as she was a lady, he was just that much of a louse.

Once they were to attend a grand ball. Frances had very long hair and the style of that day involved piling it high on a persons head in an elaborate fashion with jeweled combs and clips. Since it was a well attended ball, the local beauticians were back logged. In those days, the beauticians came to your house and Francis' appointment was for the day before the ball.

That meant she had to sleep in a straight backed chair all night so as not to mess up her hair. Her housekeeper had to spend the night with her to poke her if she appeared about to topple off the chair. The next afternoon, quite drained, she dressed in a lovely new green satin gown she was oh so proud of and broke out the family jewelry. When she was all dressed and ready to go out the door, she asked her husband shyly how she looked.

He looked her up and down and then spoke. She was hoping for, “You look lovely my dear” in southern gentleman fashion. Instead he growled, “You look like a great-big-glittering-turd.” So much for class.

We kids loved that story and made her tell it to our friends which she always did with a twinkle in her eye and soft chuckles. More than enough time had passed so that she enjoyed the humor and the pain was long forgotten. We just loved to hear such a proper lady say the word “turd” which always brought a flush to her cheeks.

My grandfather Charles whom I never met (no loss), died when my father was in college. He died of well earned syphilis which was fatal in those pre-penicillin days. Francis remained a widow till she died almost 50 years later. Somehow I feel that she had such a bad marriage, she just had no desire to try again.


On thing that always stood out in my memory was that Mama Fannie was always ready and presentable. Whenever she stepped out of her bedroom in the morning, she was coiffed, tastefully made up and girdled. To the contrary, I am content to walk around for hours in a torn T, floppy slippers and bad bed hair. Think I fell pretty far from the tree.

Her main claim to fame besides her family, was that she once accepted rent checks from Ernest Hemingway. He rented the second floor of her house while his home was being renovated in Key West.

She said when he left, it took two dump trucks to haul off the bottles. She really regretted not saving a few of them as they were mostly demijohns and would be valuable years later and more so with Mr. Hemingway's DNA being on them.

Not sure which one looked like his but this is a sampling of the type of bottle a demijohn is.

Mama Fannie was always my idea of what a proper, gentile southern lady should be--- if you ignored that “turd” telling. She was a great role model but she was also my staunchest supporter. I could do no wrong in her eyes. They few times in her opinion I did wrong, she would gently bribe me back on the right path. Everyone needs someone like that in their corner. It is easier to stand tall if there is a safe place to rest your heart when you fail.

I miss you Mama Fannie.

29 comments :

  1. Patti
    Thank you for telling us about this wonderful lady. So glad you had her just like you said everyone needs a safe place to fall. Please keep telling us about your life. Your thoughts bring new life to the days we live now.

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  2. Awwww...what a sweeet post! I could imagine everything about Mama Fannie through your vivid descriptions !!! She does sound like quite a lady. Composure personified!

    p.s. - You were such a pretty lady!!! :):)

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  3. Wow! That's again a typically Patti-Story! Very well written and gripping from beginning to end.

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  4. Patti, You were so lucky to have such a granny. That second to the last line is now stuck in my mind.
    Have a great weekend!

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  5. What a lovely story of a lovely lady. The strength of some women amazes me when I hear stories like this.

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  6. Your "Mama Fannie" sounds like quite a person. How lucky to have had her in your life. I love that photo of the two of you.

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  7. What a neat story, Patti... I wish that I would have had someone like your grandmother Fannie in my life. Since I was born when Mama was 42 and Daddy was 53, ALL of my grandparents were dead before I was born...

    Fannie was a southern lady --for sure... My friend's father --who died a few years ago at the age of 100-- was a true southern gentleman. Even in retirement and as he grew OLD, he always had to dress in his suit and tie (every single day).... Unbelievable, isn't it????

    Great story... Loved it..

    Have a good weekend.
    Hugs,
    Betsy

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  8. What a sweet and charming portrait! You were lucky with such a lovely woman watching your back.

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  9. p.s. you look so sweet yourself!

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  10. Rita,
    Thanks so much for being interested. We all so need that safe place don't we.

    lostworld,
    She was a dandy. Gee, thanks for the compliment. Oddly when I see a young picture of me, I just think how thin I used to be and didn't even try. Those days are gone.

    Brighid,
    I hope you have such a person. Usually Grandparents and dogs are the masters of unconditional love.

    Olga,
    She was strong for she lived through that unpleasant marriage and forged a life on her own.

    robin,
    I do feel very lucky. She gave much more than she ever got. For such a gentle woman, she was very strong.

    Reader Wil,
    Thanks Wil, I'm glad I didn't bore you with my remembering.

    Betsy,
    Thanks Betsy. It is sad you didn't have grandparents for they do provide a love and caring without the rules parents need to use.
    Wonder why they felt they had to be properly dressed at all times?

    Lakeviewer,
    Yes I was lucky and don't I know it and gee, thanks. Always a bit shocking to see the thin, wrinkle free version of yourself.Those were the days.

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  11. I didn't want your story to end Patti, so many interesting details and I'm sure ther's many more. Can't imagine sleeping in a straight back chair all night and renting a room to Ernest Hemingway...wish I had those bottles!

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  12. Mama Fannie sounds like a true lady. You were lucky to have her as your granny.

    I have always wondered how some people always appear so put together and neat. No matter how hard I try, I always end up looking messy.

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  13. Before I married an aunt gave me some good advice, "comb your hair first thing every morning." I have followed that advice faithfully for 48 years. This was a lovely story.

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  14. My grandmother was from the North, but she too was always dressed for the day, neatly combed hair, nylons and good shoes.
    Her husband also lacked appreciation for the woman he married.
    Grandma always told us to 'save some, and spend some. Save for a rainy day, they do come ... but spend some so life is worth living.
    Helen

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  15. I never knew any of my grandmothers. The equivalent in my life was two old makd aunts who took my mother to raise, and hence, were surrogate "grandmothers."

    Love the story and I think it shows that relationships are not always as they seem, marriage, parenting, etc. You never know whom we will influence. As H. Clinton aptly wrote, It takes a village.

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  16. Wanda,
    I know--we really don't realize how lucky we are. She always said that "pride suffered no pain". I must not be proud enough.
    Thanks so much, there will be more stories of her in the future. This was a snapshot.

    Sweet Virginia Breeze,
    Think it takes more time than most of us are willing to put in. I know for a fact, I would not sit in a chair overnight.

    Linda,
    You took her advice to heart. It might help that you have such a good looking husband to give you the eye in the AM.

    Anon,
    Perhaps it was not so much a regional thing as a generational thing. Love your Grandma's saying. Words to live by.

    Nitwit,
    It does take a village and it helps if some of the villagers enjoy spoiling the child. Surrogate grannies are just as good.

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  17. What a wonderful story. We all need a Grandma like that. The one who was most like that, died when I was 16, so I didn't have her long enough.
    It's nice that you have such fond memories.

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  18. She sounds like a terrific woman...And how wonderful for you to have her in your corner...!
    I loved your line about Grandpa dying from a "well earned Syphilis..."..lol...It's a damn good thing he didn't pass it on to your very dear Mama Fannie....It sounds like she truly deserved better than him.
    Wonderful post, Patti...And you thought you had nothing more to share.

    Incidentally...as to my "directing"...lol...the obly things I directed are these Videos...Al pictures are candids, mostly. I'm glad you enjoy seeing me on these posts---I wish I liked seeing me. (lol)

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  19. What a lady she was and a turd "he" was. demijohns, great to learn about those beautiful bottles.

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  20. One too many emotions sprung forth in that tale. Your grandma sounded like a great lady. Your story seemed to indicate she carried her suffering quietly and meekly. Who is that pretty lady sitting next to your grandma? I can see why you had no shortage of male admirers.

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  21. Patty,
    Well at least you had her for 16 years. We were both lucky.

    OOLOH,
    Pretty sure when she found out he was running around (he wasn't discreet) she probably cut him off. Divorce wasn't a real option in those days.
    I like it when we see you, keep it up.

    Linda Starr,
    Love your twist on the words. Well done.
    I would have loved to have had at least one.

    GQ,
    Unfortunately, that is how a lot of women behaved in those days and she was a rather meek soul.
    Gee thanks fellow but I'm sure my volume of boyfriends pretty much had to do with my being single so darn long.

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  22. Hello Patti! Mama Fannie sounds perfectly wonderful. It brought back memories of my Grandmothers (I had three as well) and their unconditional love and support (so important to young girls). Lovely photo of the two of you…you still have those bright eyes and beautiful smile! : ) By the way, I keep forgetting to ask…did you leave an orange tote at my house when you were very sweetly taking care of Brandy for me?

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  23. Jewels,
    Nope, not my tote. Perhaps it belongs to your company.
    Thanks for the compliment. The main thing that struck me was how thin I was with out even trying.
    So glad you and Brandy are over the hump. Stay that way.

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  24. Oh, so wonderful!!!! Mark this down as one of my favorites! So different from my grandmother! Her family sent all the daughters off to boarding school, but she and her younger sister kept climbing out the window to go out and meet boys. So the family had two proper ladies and two hell raisers.

    I'm relieved to hear you're schlepping around in a torn t-shirt. me too, but all this time I've been blaming it on my grandmother.

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  25. How pretty you were!! I had a grandmother like that as well. I could do no wrong in her eyes and she always stood up for me with my mom. She died 38 and 1/2 years ago, and I still miss her nearly every day.

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  26. Mary Lee
    Thank you. I can probably relate to your Grannys better:))
    Since I wrote that, I got a bit embarrased and have graduated to a T with no holes. Moving forward but not far. Its just that those old tee shirts are so soft.

    kenju,
    Aw, thanks Judy. I just keep seeing naturally thin.
    They never leave us do they. They owned unconditional love.

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  27. Sweet story - everyone needs a Mama Fannie. blessings, marlene

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  28. Stitchinbythelake,
    Thank you and you are so right. I feel so badly for those who never had someone totally in their corner.

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  29. Dont know how I missed this post ...you were so pretty in the photo...you still have the sparkle. What a great account of an amazing lady ...really enjoyed reading about her.

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