Friday, September 19, 2008

Momma Said
by Peppur Chambers, Vicki Rogers & Alberta White (pic 2nd from right)

This past Christmas holiday, I spent some time looking at cherished photos in my mom’s 1970s white, leather bound album with chipped, gilded, script letters that announce, “Family Album”. Like any other album from any other family, it holds irreplaceable moments captured by outdated contraptions. I was flipping through the pics as I often do when I’m at mom’s house in Arizona. I’m a hopeless romantic for Era’s gone-by and a hound dog for family clues…I love to inspect pictures and attempt to unlock the mystery of what was “really” going on in the flash of a moment, i.e. Where were they? What were they doing? Are they having a good time or a bad time? Ultimately, a camera flash is a light that show a story that wasn't necessarily meant to be told because some people see the act of taking a snapshot as an opportunity to reveal only what they want you to see – especially when the photographer is trying to capture something else. My grandma, Alberta White, is a master at this, whether she’s trapped in a photo or ribbing you for missing a play in Hearts.

As I looked through the album at pictures of Gram (my mom’s mom) in the 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70s, I thought about who Gram was then and who she is now. I wondered if she was the same person. Whatever the answer, I felt the urge to share these pictures with my step mom of some twenty-five years. I saw it as an introduction of sorts since, surprisingly, Gram and my step mom were meeting for the first time, as there had never been a reason to be in the same room after my parent’s divorce.

I knew Gram would appreciate this gesture since she knows she was a hot woman; you can tell by the stance she takes in her photos and sometimes by the expressions in the people around her. She often says I remind her of how she was then. (Lineage-wise, she absolutely takes credit for where I come from and in the last photo below its amazing how much I look like her!)

In tribute to her hotness, I had the brilliant idea of interviewing Gram for Momma Said (and give my momma a break from writing). Only, I thought of it once I got back to LA. Duh. I wish I’d thought of this when I was with her. Anyway, I had mom interview Gram with these questions and email them back to me. Gram is stoically vibrant … Rather than answer my random questions clinically presented through her daughter, she’d sooner munch on (required) sugar free crackers from her bedroom haven filled with the distinct sound of film noir programming on Turner Classic Movies while softly yelling hushed, truncated obscenities at Myrna Loy. So this is the snapshot we were able to get during the TCM “intermissions”:

What's one thing you learned from your mother? (Good or Bad)
How to be thrifty.

What's one thing you told all four of your daughters?
How to respect other people.

What's one thing you wish you had told them?
I pretty much covered it all (for instance, how important it is to live a good life.)

What's one thing you wish you hadn't told them?
That there is some good in everyone-I’m not so sure now.

What's one thing you wish your mom had told you?
How to care for yourself.

What do you think is your lasting legacy?
My children

What time in your life has been or is your favorite? Why? In my thirties and forties--way much less stress.

What's the best thing about Alberta White? (What's your middle name?! Who are you named for?)
My personality. Middle name Louise (named by my Uncle Clifford - don’t know if I was named for anyone)

What makes a woman powerful?
Her knowledge that she is powerful and using that knowledge.

What's the best thing about being a woman?
Realizing that she does have strength and power in all of her endeavors.

What's the best thing about being a grandma?
Being able to show favoritism without causing pain.

What's the best thing about being a mom?
Knowing (later in life) HOW DEAR YOUR ARE TO your children (caps are a typo)

If I had a daughter, what would you say to her?
Pick out all the things about your mom that you cherish and practice living them.

Date of birth (not year unless you want to include) and location of birth
March 24, 1932 Wright City .Mo

Parent's names
Hadley and Lillian Hamm

Worked in KU ____ office for how long? _____ years
Kansas University Chemistry Dept (office and lab) 19 ½ years. Lawrence High School Principal Secretary - 20yrs

What'd you do before KU again?
House cleaning before KU and LHS

Describe your best childhood memory. (And don't say there wasn't one! :)
Having new shoes at Easter Time.

*Thank you to my Aunt Pamela Sanchez for the photos online!

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