In times of stress…

Sep 19, 2015 | 2 comments

Helen & Harry Espy,1947 by Hilda Cole Espy

The H.A. Espys,1947 by Hilda Cole Espy

In all likelihood, it’s living in her house and among many of her treasures that I feel so close to my grandmother, even though she died in 1954 shortly after I had begun college. For special dinner parties, when I set the table with her china and crystal and silverware, I can’t help but think about all the times she must have done the same thing. Conversely, in times of stress I often wonder what she might have done in a similar situation.

Just now with all the angst in the village surrounding our relationship with the County, I idly wondered what was going on in this household a hundred years ago. I took a look in my Dear Medora book and found that on this very date a century ago my grandmother had written this letter to her eldest daughter.

Mrdora, 1916

Mrdora, 1916

Sunday, September 19, 1915

            Is there any place you could get a suit not to exceed twenty-five dollars and charge it? We cannot pay more than this, and want you to get it as much cheaper as possible. Do be careful. Don’t buy one the scale that you got your shoes. Six dollars was dreadful. This would get two or even three pair for the rest of the family. There is a saying that nothing is so bad but what it can be worse, but I verily believe the worst stage has reached us financially. We don’t know from day to day how things may turn. However, I know there will come a time when we can make up to you for this skimping.
Papa says he wants you to make better marks during this your senior year. Send for your application blank right away to enter Stanford.
Hastily, Mama

Unfortunately, the time that they could make up for the “skimping” never came. Not in Medora’s lifetime, anyway. She died less than four months later, a few days past her 17th birthday – suddenly, in her sleep, of a cerebral hemorrhage. According to my mother and her siblings, my grandmother never completely recovered from Medora’s death. She was a devoted and loving mother to each of her remaining five children but, they said, there was always an air of melancholy about her. My mother was certain that my grandmother could never come to grips with the things that had been left unsaid and undone or, contrariwise, with the expectations and demands she had made upon Medora as ‘the oldest.’

Charlie, 2011

Charlie, 2011

I don’t know that any of these thoughts helped me out directly with regard to the current happenings in Oysterville. But, thinking about my grandmother’s grief and its enduring aftermath does make me reassess (once again) the things I think are important. With that thought in mind, I called my son. We had a long chat about all manner of things and, especially, about the village and its struggles. After all, his relationship with Oysterville will outlast mine and I can only hope that it is a stress-free one – probably not very different from every mother’s wish for her child, no matter in what regard.


  1. Deirdre Purcell

    Good reflections, Sydney.
    If the worst does come to pass with the county is there any action to buffer the potential effects on Oysterville?

    • sydney

      Sadly, no.


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