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Children's Story Garden  >  Grandmothers

Girl standing in wild undergrowth, casting milkwood seeds to the breeze.

The Children's Story Garden



"WHETHER you are big or little, dear children who read this story, don't you like to say, "Let's pretend?" Or if you are so very big that it would sound childish to you to say it, don't you like to do it, even if now you call it "day-dreams," or "castles in the air?"

"Well, then, let's pretend that we are taking a walk, and suddenly, looking in from the high-road, we catch sight of this dear little house! The evening sun is lighting up the tiny window-panes, and turning to gold the little stream that ripples under the bridge at the right. The great oak tree whose boughs rest protecting upon the roof, and the vines that clamber round the latticed doorway, soften the plain outlines, and the broad doorstone invites us to enter.

But look! Yes, some one is sitting in the doorway. Let's go closer! It is, oh, it is a dear little old lady, with her knitting. Now let's pretend again! Let's pretend that it is our very own Grandmother! And let's run fast, and settle down on the floor at her side, and — perhaps — ask her where she has been so long, and if she hasn't missed us, and if she won't tell, right away, that funny old story about the time that she and the calf got lost!

Now, didn't you enjoy that play-trip with me? If you did, it is because you really have a dear grandmother of your own. Whether you are with her often, or whether she is only a happy memory, fortunate are you if she has belonged in your lives! Of course, there is no one like mothers, and big sisters and aunts are necessary to a really complete family; but grandmothers — are different! They have so much more time than other folks; and they somehow always seem to understand.

Whether you are a timid little girl or a big boy who seems rough and noisy, but really is shy and loving, it is easy to tell things to Grandmother. She will know just how you feel, and will comfort and help you.

When I was a little girl I had a sweet grandmother whom I could never forget, though she left me so many long years ago. She was a slender little woman, straight as an arrow, with black eyes that were both bright and loving. Her husband died when she was still a young woman, leaving her with six children to bring up. She did it so beautifully, and they all lived to be fine men and women — and they always honored their little mother.

When I first remember my Grandmother she was an old lady, but as straight and as active as ever. She always wore the gray dress and the snowy book-muslin cap and handkerchief of the old-time Friends. Her time was divided among the families of her children, and happy was I when the days brought her to us! "Grandma's coming!" How much those words meant to me! I was a lonely little girl, without playmates, and Grandma took their place.

She kept all the little thrifty ways of her housekeeping years, and was eager to help with all the work of the household. She was specially fond of drying corn; and I can see her now, walking around the trays, stood in the sun, carefully stirring and turning the grains. Quilting was another favorite occupation, and she was never more happy than when she could sit by a frame and quilt the gay patches she had pieced together. It was she who taught me to sew patch-work, and I still have the doll's quilt that she helped me to make.

But the happiest thing that Grandma and I did together was going to the woods to gather chips. She would take a basket, and then the little woman and the little girl would wander away, hand in hand, up the road to the pretty woodland; and there under the grand old trees they would fill the basket with bits of bark and dry twigs, for the evening fire in the old farmhouse that was then home.

Happy times! Are you having them, boy or girl, with Grandmother or Grandfather, or, if you have not these, with Mother or Auntie? Don't forget the older folk. Don't spend all your time with comrades of your own age, or you will miss some of the loveliest memories that can come to your manhood or womanhood.

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In The Children's Story Garden. Stories collected by a committee of the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting — Anna Pettit Broomell, Emily Cooper Johnson, Elizabeth W. Collins, Alice Hall Paxson, Annie Hillborn, and Anna D. White. Illustrated by Katharine Richardson Wireman and Eugénie M. Wireman. Published in 1920 by J. B. Lippincott Company, Philadelphia.

Notes and links

The committee acknowledges Alice W. Jackson as the author of 'Grandmothers.' (See Introduction.)
Alice W. Jackson
According to a genealogy webpage, "Alice W. Jackson was born on 12 Jul 1863 in prob. Hockessin, DE. She graduated in 1883 in Swarthmore College (A.B.). She was a Teacher at Swarthmore Preparatory School after 1883 in Swarthmore."
From the same set of webpages, we learn that her parents, Amelia Spencer and James C. Jackson, married in 1844 "in Gwynedd (Orthodox) meeting-house near Penllyn, PA." Her father was a farmer, esp. fruit growing, in Hockessin, Delaware. Her maternal grandparents, Mary Custard and Jesse Spencer, had married in 1821 in the same Gwynedd meeting-house near Penllyn, PA (a few years before the separation of Hicksite and Orthodox meetings — see Notes about PYM).
Mary Custard Spencer (1792-1885) is presumably the subject of the above story. (Alice Walker's paternal grandmother, Jane Greasley Griffith [1781-1853], died ten years before her granddaughter Alice was born.) Mary Custard's husband, Jesse Spencer, is recorded as having died in 1841 after twenty years of marriage. They had six children together. Alice's mother, Amelia, was the eldest. Alice Walker's grandmother Mary was about 49 years old when her husband died, not such a "young woman" as Alice thinks, but this was more than twenty years before Alice was born. Their youngest child, William Foulke Spencer, was seven years old when his father died.
Although Alice's parents married in the care of an Orthodox meeting, some 35 years later Alice Jackson went to Swarthmore College, which was founded in 1864 and affiliated with the Hicksite branch. (Haverford College, founded in 1833, was the Orthodox college in the Philadelphia area.) Inquiring minds may want to know, who in this family jumped from one branch to the other, and when?
The main source for the genealogical information is Howard Malcolm Jenkins, Genealogical Sketch of the Descendants of Samuel Spencer of Pennsylvania, Ferris & Leach, 29 North Seventh Street, Philadelphia, 1904, pp. 185-86. In turn, Jenkins cites a "Genealogy of the Family, published 1878."