Mary Cole Law was my grandmother, my dad's mom. To me, she was Mimi. We were very close, and the older I get the more I realize how much of me came from her. She was raised in Shreveport, Louisana, and married my grandfather, Elston Ratcliff Law. My grandfather courted her during his time as a paratrooper in World War II. He actually sent her engagement ring in the mail from his training in Fort Benning, Georgia. It is the very same diamond that I wear on my left hand now. He had all the letters he sent to her during the war typed up and bound in a book, and I recently read them and am amazed at what they went through during that time and how they waited to be together. She was a very strong lady!
My grandparents traveled and experienced more of the world than most people. My grandfather worked as a lawyer for Gulf Oil and traveled all over the world. My grandmother went with him alot, but she hated to fly. He always brought back something for her wherever he went. Their house was like a museum, and she could tell you where everything came from. Brad and I have many items in our home that came from their house, and that is very comforting to me. They also moved alot. They lived in Houston, Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Guadalajara, Mexico, and finally retired in Atlanta, Texas (where they lived while I was growing up). My grandfather became the mayor of Atlanta and was instrumental in the renovating of the current Atlanta library. They accomplished many great things and lived a full life together, but you would never catch Mimi bragging about any of it. She was a very private and humble person.
I have so many warm memories of their home: Sunday lunch and Dallas Cowboys football, Thanksgiving around the dining room table, opening presents on Christmas Eve (she was just as anxious as the kids and would always let us get in our stockings early), hunting Easter eggs in the ivy, fishing and spending time on the patio, trying new recipes in the kitchen (my grandfather said she never made the same thing twice), playing in her closet with her shoes and purses (she loved fashion), watching David Letterman (she hated that he wore white socks with his suits), trying on her jewelry, watching her pin curls in her hair EVERY night, playing cards and Monopoly in the sunroom, going to the library, traveling to visit my cousins, singing and performing on the living room "stage," and just hanging out and rocking in the kitchen talking about what was going on in the world. She never wore blue jeans or socks with her shoes, only hose with dress shoes. She "put on her face" (her make-up) everyday.
But my absolute favorite times were when I would spend the night and it was just her and me. This is what a typical visit would consist of. She always took me to the grocery store to pick out what I wanted to eat while I was there, even if it was only for the night. She always bought way more than we could possibly eat. She always expected you to eat when you were at her house, and there was always something sweet. We got to sleep in in the mornings, and she would make me silver dollar blueberry pancakes. We would eat yummy homemade pimento cheese sandwiches for lunch (cut into quarters), and for dinner we often had bacon-wrapped filets and twice baked potatoes on TV trays in the den while we watched A Biography on A&E. We included my grandfather in this part- he always wanted things to be educational. She always made his meals and served him. She was the picture of a homemaker. We often did pedicures and manicures at night and stayed up late watching award shows (she loved keeping up with all the celebrities). And then there was the shopping! We would come home with bags and bags of clothes and shoes. I definetely got my love of shoes from her! My grandfather always wanted me to put on a fashion show, and I loved trying on all my new things. But Mimi didn't want him to know about ALL of it. We would go through the bags and she would say, "Okay, you can show him this and this, but let's just leave these in the bag." Ha! No wonder I get in trouble sometimes for hiding my shopping excursions from Brad. We had so much fun, and I still miss her so much.
These memories and more I will share with Mary Ella about her great-grandmother Mary, as well as what I learned from her. She taught me good manners and respect, I mean the old school type of manners that no one teaches anymore. This came from my dad too because she obviously impressed them on him. I don't know alot of men that are that up on their etiquette, but he was. She taught me how to set the table, lay out the spread, and entertain guests. She was the best hostess, and I hope Mary Ella can grow up in a home with that type of hospitality and respect. She was a true Southern belle, and I am proud to pass on her name.
This is Brad talking: Ella LaNora Harriman was my grandmother, my dad's mom. She was the second youngest of seven children raised in rural Madison County Arkansas. This is where she met and fell in love with my grandfather, Wayne Alden Harriman. The day they married they caught a milk cart from Huntsville to Fayetteville to start their new life. Six months into their marriage Grandpa was called into serivce for his country. He served in the Navy in the South Pacific during World War II. During the war Grandma moved to California and found a job building warplanes while she waited for Grandpa to come home. She was a "Rosie the Riveter." After the war, times were hard and jobs were scarce in Northwest Arkansas. Grandma and Grandpa moved to Washington State to work in fruit orchards. This is where my uncle John was born.
Some of my greatest memories were spending weeks at a time in the summer with my grandparents. My grandpa always grew a large garden and Grandma was the greatest cook I've ever known. Grandpa would tell her what was ripe that day and she would build the menu for the day around the garden. She would cook fried okra, squash, beans, peas, greens, coleslaw, potato salad and that was just for lunch. She loved to play cards and games. Everyday we would watch Gunsmoke, Mattlock, and Jeopardy. It was amazing how well she could answer all of the questions, especially when there was a Biblical category. She loved to sew and was very good at it. Later in her life she would invite younger women from church over to her house to teach them how to sew. She was a very loving and giving person. One summer when I was a teenager our church hired a new youth minister. She let John move in with her until he could get established. She would make him 3 squares a day. Recently, I had the opportunity to talk to a former minister of the church that my grandparents attended. He told me a story of how she would bring him lunch and always take care of him. Obviously there was a pattern that my grandma established early in her life and maintained until the day she passed. She loved to take care of people.
My grandmother was a very strong woman. She was able to beat the odds many times in her life. She survived two bouts with breast cancer, two hip replacements, and several heart surgeries, among other things. She was also linked to the start of my parents' family. When my parents were first married she became very sick and wasn't expected to live. My parents wanted her to be able to know her grandchildren, so they began their family. Obviously she made it thru that sickness, because not only was I able to know her, but she was also able to see 7 great-grandchildren.
Of all the great things my Grandmother was and did in her life the most important thing to her was being a Christian. My grandpa was an elder in the church, and together they brought more souls to Christ than we will ever know or comprehend. Not long after Jessica met Grandma she told her this about my family, "We're all members of the church of Christ, and we're all Republicans." Another great memory of all those summers was working with Grandma and Grandpa stapling together World Bible school tracks. These tracks were sent all over the world to teach people about the Gospel.
Jessica and I are proud to pass on her name to Mary Ella, and we hope to raise our daughter in a way that would carry on the legacy created by Grandma and Grandpa Harriman. Mary Ella is blessed to be named after her great-grandmother Ella.