My most vivid memory of my maternal grandmother is an afternoon of running back and forth to a toy store to acquire the dream of all dolls. Grandma Adams was watching me for the afternoon, and in those days you could send children off to wander the neighborhoods and stores of downtown Provo, Utah without a worry. I came back breathlessly and told her of my find– not only the perfect doll but she had her own little pink carrier! I had a little money of my own and asked if she could make up the difference. Grandma gave me a dime and I ran back, so excited to make my purchase, only to find out it was not enough. I wasn’t quite old enough to do the math, so I ran back and she gave me another dime. That’s how I spent the afternoon, running a line from her house to the toy store until the prize was won. I know this sounds ridiculous to some, but Grandma was from the old school of thrift and prudence. You didn’t just hand out handfuls of money to children who asked for it! There was always some effort required. My earnestness was shown in the quick use of my legs and my red face. She acted surprised every time I ran in—“Grandma, it’s still not enough money!”–as if we were co-conspirators together in figuring out how to get that doll! She would exclaim and gasp and wonder out loud how long the precious prize was going to be out of reach. She was the perfect, sympathetic ally in every way. The prize was in our reach and it was a quest and adventure for me to figure it out. I kept that treasured doll for years and still marvel how she brilliantly kept a 7 year old busy and earnestly motivated, all afternoon.
(This is a much nicer doll. My doll had no cover on the carrier and less fancy clothes. This was the 60’s after all.)Also a shout out for a gritty memory. I think I remember this so clearly because I had to work so hard for it! Other than this vivid memory, I had limited exposure to my Grandmother, “Lila” Booth Adams. We lived two states away in St. Louis, Missouri. Grandma Adams died when I was 12 and in my teens I would hear my mother say a singular phrase when she had to do something hard or something to do with us children, “I’m going to be a Fierce, Mormon Mother and go take care of that!”
I internalized that phrase for years, especially when facing 6 distracted, whiny children and a weed infested garden, or having to go talk to an unhappy teacher about some problem with one of my children. It became a foundational phrase for me when I needed to square my shoulders and march ahead to do any Hard Thing that faced me. With the memory of my mother’s words ringing in my ears I could do the difficult but necessary.
I AM A FIERCE, MORMON MOTHER!
In my 40’s, living in Provo around my mother and Aunt Elsie who was the oldest of my mother’s sisters, I asked them one day where that phrase came from. Aunt Elsie said, “It came from my mother’s funeral. One of the speakers talked about how your Grandma Adams was a “Fierce Mormon Mother.” My curiosity was piqued, and I did a little digging.
Stay tuned for who coined the phrase. Part 2 coming up in my next post.