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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Century or Centuries (02/17/11)

TITLE: One Hundred Years Lived Well
By Verna Cole Mitchell


Ma wanted to live to be 100. That was my grandmother’s main objective in life from the time she was about 75 years of age. This goal only intensified when Pa died at age 79. She stands out still in importance among the influences on my young life.

When I was a girl, I loved to go in the summer to visit Ma and Pa at their house at the top of a steep hill in the Kentucky mountains. I would be Ma’s shadow for her busy days, when she kept her house dust-free, in spite of the dirt road that ran past their house. She served the best meals to be found anywhere. It was a delight to be able to enjoy her homemade airy biscuits with melted butter and homemade jams, along with crisp fried chicken, fresh vegetables and salads from her garden, as well as moist coconut cakes and other never-to-be-forgotten pastries.

Ma was the go-to person in her little community for any with a need. I would cringe when she would tell me about about “laying out” a body for burial in the cemetery across the street from their house. Most of the time, though, I enjoyed her stories about her own girlhood and raising seven children, my dad and his twin sister, being the youngest.

With her very definite ideas about the importance of a good work ethic (something she never lacked), Ma set out one day, when I was about eight or nine, to teach me to prepare a fried chicken. First, she found one of her plumpest chickens, then wrung its neck in her sloping side yard, before bringing it in to the sink in the kitchen to pluck its feathers. I didn’t last long at helping her with that task and went on my way with her scolding ringing in my ears.

Ma had strong ideas, also, about faith and moral integrity. I didn’t find out till later that some of her early admonitions were not additions to the Ten Commandments, as I had supposed.

We spent a great deal of time together as kitchen clean-up buddies when she and Pa would come to spend the coldest of the winter months at our house. We would giggle together like two little girls.

After Pa died, Ma went to visit with one after another of her children. One of our family’s favorite stories comes from a Christmas she spent at our house. Since Ma was unable to prepare meals as she once had, she made the gravy while Mom fixed a wonderful turkey dinner with many side dishes. After the blessing, when everything had been passed and the main sound was fork to plate, Ma spoke in a clear voice, “Sure is good gravy, isn’t it?”

Setting out in earnest to achieve her goal of a century birthday, she added to this desire her plan not to become an ugly old woman. Not only had Ma been strong physically, mentally, and emotionally, but she had also been very attractive with dark hair, sparkling brown eyes, and a rosy complexion. Though she would declare she wore no make-up, the Avon lipstick samples her daughters left on her dresser with their visits dwindled away somehow.

Having begun her beautification process, Ma continued with lotions to keep her cheeks soft and exercise to keep her body firm. She came to visit me at college when she was about 80 years old, and the girls on my hall in the dorm fell in love with her. She woke me up in the morning by touching her toes 100 times—a feat I couldn’t accomplish.

Ma’s final years were spent with her second oldest daughter, whose husband declared that she spent the entire morning every day, primping and powdering and perfuming.Pictures show that,indeed, she never wrinkled as most old ladies do.

Finally, though, about six months before her one hundredth birthday, Ma’s body just gave out. She remained alert mentally to the end with the firm opinions she was always ready to share.

Sadly for Ma, it was discovered after her death that there was an error in the recorded birth date she had, and she had, in fact, lived even past 100 years.

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This article has been read 628 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Anita van der Elst02/25/11
Enjoyed this characterization of a centenarian.
Bonnie Bowden 02/25/11
I loved the MC's zest and enthusiasm for life. A real testament to those who remain active and vital throughout their lives.
Beth LaBuff 03/05/11
Verna, you have so many endearing tidbits about Ma, I'm sad I never met her. I especially enjoyed that she determind to never become ugly and how the avon lipstick samples dwindled. Your ending so totally caught me off guard, and I loved it! Ma made it afterall! :)