18 November 2010


Yesterday my Gramps gave me this lovely little painting. In 1939 he purchased it at Dayton's for his mother (my great-grandmother & namesake) as a birthday gift. It was a mere coincidence that it was inscribed, "Delilah", though I suspect that is what spurred Gramps to buy the painting for her as Delilah was her first name.

I never knew her, but I was named for her so I do feel a certain affinity for her. I grew up hearing about her. I know her life story backwards & forwards: the names of all nine of her children, the house she lived in, the house she was born in. Her heartaches & her joy.

Handsome Randy & I have recently begun watching the new HBO series, Boardwalk Empire. Boardwalk Empire takes place in the year 1920, which is the year Gramps was born. As I've been watching this program, I have been struck with thoughts of my great-grandmother, Delilah- Dolly actually is the name she went by- and what life must have been like for her as a woman/mother/wife during that time. Pretty tough.

By 1920, Dolly had bore 7 of 9 children. She was 32 years old. The family lived on what was then considered the outskirts of Minneapolis in Liberty Heights, not so affectionately referred to as "The Sticks," according to Gramps. They had 4 rooms in that little house - 2 bedrooms, a kitchen & sitting room. The bathroom was an outdoor outhouse or "biffy". There were chickens and a pig in the backyard. Working in construction, her husband, Royce was the sole financial supporter of the family while she stayed home with the children and tended to the house. Voting was a brand new right for women.

This is in great contrast to my own life at age 32 today in 2010. I have not born any children. While I live in Minneapolis less than a mile from where Dolly raised her family & lived out her years, I have no animals in my backyard (aside from a house cat) & I have indoor plumbing. My husband Randy and I share household expenses equally and I hold a full time job. I did not have to fight for the right to vote & have exercised this right since I turned 18.

Oh yes, I think about Dolly a lot and needless to say, this little painting is a priceless and prized possession.

I have grown up admiring it and being told that one day, when I was old enough, it would be mine. When I brought it home yesterday I was elated. I rubbed the frame with lemon oil and polished the glass. I held the painting in my hands and imagined what Dolly felt when she saw it for the first time. She smiled, was happy- probably very touched- and said, "Thank you, Doug, " or maybe even, "Thank you, Dougie." I like to think that she called him Dougie for endearment. I don't know where it hung in her home, only that it hung somewhere from that day in 1939 until my grandpa reclaimed it after her death in 1977.

This Little Painting does not only represent my great-grandmother, Dolly, but also my Gramps, Doug Davis. Gramps had it hanging in his living room until a few years ago when he took it down to make way for an art piece he'd received as a gift. It was then moved to an easel and set among family photos on a dining room hutch. This spring the hutch was dismantled ("too much clutter") and The Little Painting was set aside.

The Little Painting brings me back to rides to piano lessons and theatre classes given by Gramps during which he gave history lessons as well as talked past and present day politics with me. These car rides made me feel wise beyond my years and as I grew older the lessons grew into discussions. Now the conversations we used to have in his little Ford Escort take place a few times a week in the living room of his apartment a mere 3 blocks from my own house and a mile or so from Dolly's, his childhood home, where The Little Painting originally hung for 38 years.

I am not exactly certain where I will hang it, but The Little Painting will be in a place that I pass by everyday. And with that passing, I will always be reminded of my great-grandmother Dolly, my Gramps and the impressive stock that I come from.


1 comment:

  1. This is so beautiful and a huge blessing to know so much of your family history... for that I am a bit jelly but sooo happy for you Dolls!