She was born February 21, 1892 in Luverne, Alabama and grew up in Troy, Alabama, the middle sister of three girls-- younger than Mabel (the one in the middle behind the umbrella,) a little older than Pearl (the mischievous-looking one on the left, who used to chase Ruby around the yard, menacing her with the wrung-off heads of Sunday's chicken dinners. All her life, Ruby was slightly phobic about birds and didn't hesitate to blame her sister for this.)
I spent some time going through Ruby's old snapshot album in order to write this blog in honor of the anniversary of her birth. She was my maternal grandmother, known to me and my brother as Ba. She's the inspiration for Elizabeth's Gramma and was the best grandmother imaginable. But I always knew her as an old lady -- though reason and simple arithmetic tell me that for a good bit of the time I knew her she was younger than I am now.
I was in my twenties when I first saw this album and was entranced at the pictures of Ba as a girl, doing silly, girlish things. The album is full of shots of the sisters and their many friends mugging for the camera -- lined up on a fence, crowded into a wagon, posing like a (modest) chorus line to show off their shapely forms. They seemed to have so much fun.
I said to my grandmother back then that I wished we could have been friends.
Her answer was immediate -- "I thought we were."
And, we were, but in a different way -- one that I wouldn't trade even for the fun of hanging out with the Wright girls. I was her only granddaughter and our bond was made stronger by the fact that I was born on her 51rst birthday. Ba lived to be 91 and grew sweeter every year.
But just for a little while, I wish I could have known my grandmother as a girl -- in that time and in that place.