This woman was born in Pennsylvania during the Civil War. She was part of a blended family that included 22 brothers and sisters. She came west by train to assist her brothers in their effort to dry farm wheat in California.
The stories that surround and make her legacy have some truth, some myth and some (I would think) total fabrication.
The woman that I knew when I was a child was tall, strong, opinionated, and smart. She was a card shark. She was a force of nature.
She was, at one point in her life, a suffragette. She was excommunicated from the Catholic Church for her vocal support of women’s rights. She was the only person I knew who could make my father put out a cigarette before he entered her home.
Every morning, without fail, she would rise, have a breakfast of a soft boiled egg and toast, and prepare herself for the day. Those preparations included massaging her face with pure lanolin and applying makeup in the same fashion. There was always a bit of rouge involved.
She proceeded from the facial regiment with a meticulous coifing of her hair. No matter her age or the condition of her arthritic hands, she brushed her long hair and twisted and pinned it into a French roll. It was always perfect.
The entire morning ablutions took one hour. One hour of sitting in a wooden wheelchair in front of her mirror followed by the donning of underclothes and a clean, pressed dress.
Then she would take her cane and walk to her living room to sit in her big, overstuffed chair. A reading lamp was to one side. A small table to the other. The playing cards rested there, ready for use with anyone who would play a game with her.
It is there, near the throne, that I learned to count by learning to play Cribbage and Canasta. To this day I can add to 15 or 31 without thinking. I am useless at other mathematical operations.
Tuesday nights were for “the girls”. The age range was from 70 to 90+. Canasta was the game and you had better know the game. My brothers and I were allowed to play as substitutes when one of “the girls” couldn’t make it. If you have an image of a male poker group, you would be about right. Just think a little more vicious….in a fun way.
The family cabin at Camp Nelson was built by her husband, Owen Flynn in 1923.
It still stands. It has been altered a bit from its original one room, pine stud and board construction but it is much used and much loved.
She spent her summers there away from the heat of the California Central Valley. When it passed to the next generations, we often took her to her home in the mountains. The road to the cabin was named Barbara Flynn Lane on her 98th birthday. She was there.
Camp Nelson and cards were part of her legacy. The rest comes from the indominable spirit that she gave to the women after her.
We called her “Cese” (pronounced ‘see-s’)
She passed at the age of 103, four days short of my 13th birthday.
She was the last of the Victorian women. Strong, outspoken, opinionated and righteous.
She was my great-grandmother.
It is on her shoulders that I and my daughter stand.