Dixie Peach: Cora Belle

Cooler than the other side of the pillow.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Cora Belle

Yesterday was the seventy-fifth birthday of my beloved aunt, Cora Belle. There was a nice luncheon at my sister's home and I was able to talk to them all on the phone while they celebrated. My sister got her an ice cream cake and said it reminded her of Aunt Cora - pink and pretty and sweet and a little nutty.

Yesterday was the anniversary of another sort. It was the seventy-fifth anniversary of the death of my grandmother, Cora Belle.

I know very little about my fraternal grandmother other than she died giving birth to my aunt. I don't even know the circumstaces surrounding her death except to guess that if you're in your 40s giving birth in rural northeast Mississippi in 1931 and something goes wrong your chances of survival are slim to none. I've always assumed that my grandfather must have thought a lot of her to name his last daughter after her.

It wasn't until just a couple years ago that I ever saw a photo of her. The picture I saw showed her with my grandfather - I never knew him either - and five of their eight children. My father was a few years away from being born and Aunt Cora would arrive nearly six years after him and we speculate that she may have been pregnant with my uncle Carroll - someone I didn't even know exsisted until I was an adult as he died from blood poisoning when he was around twelve years old. Another death of which no one spoke. Maybe there was really nothing to say. I like the picture though. I like the no nonsense look on my grandmother's face. She seems like she was the practical type, just like my father turned out to be.

As a child my grandmother was just a name to me. I knew she died in childbirth and that Aunt Cora was named after her. I never asked any of my father's older siblings about her. I never asked my father about any memories of her. There seemed to be a sadness surrounding her death and I never wanted to stir up bad feelings. My father never mentioned her. It's possible that it made him sad to do so but perhaps he only had hazy memories of her as she died about a month before he turned six years old.

Now that I've passed the age my grandmother was when she died, I wonder about her more. I wonder about what her life was like. How did it feel to have a child die before he had the chance to grow up? What was her life like with her big family? Why are there some big gaps between the births of some of her children? Did other children die before they had a chance to be born? I think about what sort of personality she may have had. I once met a woman who was a very close friend of my grandmother's. I met her about twenty-five years ago and at that time she was over ninety years old. I always found it humorous that my father was supposedly named after a man named Harris Dalton. The woman that I met was the person Harris Dalton was courting at the time my father was born and my grandmother had said that she couldn't think up a name for a baby boy so they named her after this woman's gentleman friend. The story this woman told gave me the impression that my grandmother had a funny streak in her. I'd like to think I got my sense of humor from her.

I wish I had thought more about my grandmother when my father was still alive. While growing up I didn't give much thought that my father had lost his mother by the time he turned six. He had older sisters and they took over doing mother-type things for him and Aunt Cora but that can't be the same as having a mother around. I wonder now how much it played into my father being somewhat distant from his own children. I don't know why I didn't think when I was growing up about the effect my grandmother's death would have had on my father. I wish I'd asked him about her. I wish I'd asked his older siblings about her. They're all gone now. The time to ask has passed.

There's a very old cemetary by a church five or six miles outside of my hometown. Two of my aunts are buried there. My great-great grandparents are buried there. My father is buried there. My grandmother Cora Belle is buried there. When I go there to visit my father's grave I see her own a few rows away and it makes me sad to look at it. It makes me sad to see that the date of death matches the date of birth of my favorite aunt. I feel sad for her family and sad that she never got to meet someone who turned out to be a wonderful, loving woman. I'd like to think that Aunt Cora got more from her mother than just her name. I'd like to think that they're just alike.


Anonymous Karen Moeller said...

I'm a first time reader to your site and this was a very thoughtful post. Probably many of your questions are universal. It's also a reason why genealogy is such a popular hobby. I've found that some of the family things I think are mundane make interesting reading when written down. I only wish some of my ancestors had done the same thing.

I'll go back and read more of your blog. I've got a college-age son spending a year in Germany. So far he is quite enamored with the country!

KarenM in NC

11:40 PM  
Anonymous Robin said...

Aunt Cora Belle is my birthday twin.

My grandmother, the one who died fifteen years ago last Saturday, also lost her mother in birth. At least, I think that's how it happened. I'm not sure if my great-grandmother died in birth or from complications later. It was never something that was discussed much, possibly because no one was left in my family who knew her. My grandmother's only sister was a toddler, and my great-grandfather was long gone. I miss that chunk of my family history.

12:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I see how many of my personality traits I have passed on to my children, I wonder about those who have come before me and how much of me is from them. It makes me feel a part of something bigger to think of their lives and stories, how they must have been. Great post, I enjoyed it very much.

12:46 AM  
Blogger Hilda said...

Wonderful post Dixie - and Happy Birthday Aunt Cora!

Although I was lucky to have known both and lived with one of my grandmothers, I never met either grandfather. I wish I had, I'm told my sense of humor is very similar to that of my maternal grandfather. I think I would have had a good relationship with both my grandfathers and learned a lot from them.

Unfortunately, I've never been able to visit their graves, as they are both buried in Cuba - but I am familiar with both family's histories and geneology, so at least I feel a little connected to them.

3:39 AM  

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