Portrait of my Grandmother



The hands that tied this apron on every morning
that I can remember first picked a hundred pounds
of cotton in a day at age five.
They wrote out sums and spelling words
through eighth grade, then went back
to the more necessary work of picking
peaches, beans, cotton, whatever was in season.

They accepted a simple silver band from
the also-calloused hands of a mechanic
one day right in the middle of the Great Depression,
and they laid down the tow sack and picked up the apron.

Those hands cared for a man and his clothes,
their house and their babies.
They cooked three hot meals every day
and washed up the dishes by hand.
They made the clothes and the quilts,
and ran them through the wringer washer,
and hung them on the line to dry.

Those hands cut and combed and braided hair.
They bound up cuts and burns
and placed cool cloths on fevered foreheads.
They canned peaches and made piecrust
and fried chicken and carried food
to new mothers and grieving widows.
They wrote letters, cut coupons and paper dolls,
and taught smaller hands to crochet.

Those hands planted and watered and weeded.
They could put a dry stick in a pot of dirt  and it
would grow. They ironed other women’s husbands’
shirts to pick up a few dollars here and there.
They cleaned the church on Wednesday mornings
and put dimes in the offering plate on Sundays.

Those hands were never idle until they were
folded on her breast in a peaceful pose.

Some people’s lives are written on their faces.
My grandmother’s story was held in her hands.

~ Rebekah Choat

2 thoughts on “Portrait of my Grandmother

  1. Absolutely beautiful…

    Did you know your grandmother well? Did you live with her or did she live with your family or did this all come from visits or stories?

    I too have such deep moving memories of my Great Depression grandparents. A different generation and way of life.

    Let’s keep the flow…

    I will send you a chapter from my book that relates to the images you have share so graciously here.


    • Thanks, Kirk!

      I did know my grandma well. We lived close to her when I was a small child and again when I was a teenager, and most of our family vacations when we lived away were visits back to her house. I spent a great deal of time with her, and the events I mention in the poem that were before my time I heard over and over in stories, often lying next to her in bed on nights I stayed over. I have written and will write much more about her over time.

      I’d be honored to hear some of your stories as well. I look forward to whatever you’d like to share.


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