Moonville Mae Shares History in the Family

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January 24, 2023 by Moonville Mae - Views: 53

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Moonville Mae Shares History in the Family

My doll from Aunt Lizzie
Aunt Lizzie's baby shower
doll is 80 years old

Heritage is a key part of all of our lives.  We are who we are because of our families who raised us.  And as we look back through the generations of our ancestors, we can see the ties to who we are today.  This came clearer to me this past fall when a cousin shared that a community member had given her a handmade doll that the cousin’s grandmother had made and given as a baby shower gift 80 years ago.  Cousin Nancy wondered where her doll was, the one that her grandmother, Lizzie, had made for her?  She must have made one for her if she had made one for our older friend. 

So, she asked her sister, Carolyn, about the doll.  Did Carolyn know anything about the doll?  No.  So, then she asked Cousin Becky who said she had one but had lost it over several moves.  Next, Nancy mentioned it to me.  And it made me think of the doll in my dresser drawer.  This doll I have had since before I can remember without knowing how I got it.  It has always been with me.  So, after we compared the two dolls, we decided that yes, I have a doll that my Great Aunt Lizzie made for me when I was born.  It is well worn and with the hair color of my mother.  My doll has been a treasure to me all my life, but I did not know that it was made especially for me by my beloved aunt.  Now, it means even more. 

This doll shows Aunt Lizzie’s expertise as a seamstress who raised three daughters in the early 1900s, but her sister, my grandmother, Fanny, lacked that gift.  I tried to get Granny to make clothes for my first Barbie doll and remember being very disappointed at the outcome.  The two sisters were extremely close living across the field where they could see each other’s house from their windows all their adult lives.  But their interests were quite different.  Granny was in the yard working with the flowers, planting gardens, seeing to the animals, baking to take to the curb market in Greenville.  Sewing was a necessary evil to her.  I have objects of hers that are dear to me, but nothing of cloth or yarn. 

Nancy's pattern doll
Clarabell the Clown from the
Howdy Doody Show
early 1950s

Granny wrote for a local newspaper occasionally and here I am doing the same.  Granny loved her flowers and planted both sides of her long driveway with beautiful zinnias and marigolds each summer.  She tended rows and rows of jonquils spreading manure and plowing the weeds away with her old mule, Red (several of us cousins still have her daffodils).  She mowed little grass, but swept the year with a broom.  She kept a backyard hole covered with window frames facing south to overwinter her most precious plants, (a cold frame).  She grew kudzu on a metal frame to shade her kitchen each summer and she kept a manual wood saw to cut meat in her pantry (I have that saw in my storage room to this day). 

My granny was a plant sharer too.  She would bring plants and plant them in my parents’ yard.   She shared strawberries and some still come up each year behind my house.  She planted a flowering quince along the road when I was a child and it still blooms each spring.  But the most treasured plant she shared with us was an apple tree, a very tart apple.  But that apple makes the best applesauce and we made sauce from that midsummer fruit for decades.  It was a family project for three generations of us each summer.  Sadly, that tree has given up the ghost in the last couple of years.  I wish I had shared that tree so I could get it back. 

Cousins Nancy and Carolyn and I weren’t told the story of the dolls.  No one shared and we almost lost that story.  They lost their dolls probably when their parents built a new house.  Nancy had a beautiful collection of dolls in her bedroom in the new house.  I had wonderful Barbies, Betsy McCalls, and brides and ballerinas as I grew.  I don’t have those dolls now, but I do have two rag dolls, one looks like my mother and the other like Clarabell the Clown without hands.  And now we have the story of Aunt Lizzie welcoming the girls in the family and community with her gift of sewing.

Remember that sharing your plants and your stories and your treasures, like my doll, makes sure that you will always be able to get that treasure back again and that it will outlive you for generations and generations.

Anne Peden, Phd.
Greenville County Historic 
Preservation Commission
Fork Shoals Historical Society
Piedmont Historical Preservation Society■


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