This page of the altered photo album I made for Mother’s Day 2006 is devoted to my great-grandmother, Lillian Illie (or Illi) Applegate. She married my great-grandfather, John Black Applegate, son of Emily Jane Reddick Applegate.
Great-Grandma (or Grandma-Up-Dayton, as she was known long after she’d moved from the Dayton area), was also my godmother. I have only vague memories of her physically because she married a Native American and moved to Oklahoma when I was little. However, we always heard from her at the holidays. She and her husband had a trading post kind of store in Pawnee, and one Christmas she sent a whole treasure trove of the things they sold at the store: mocassins for the men, tom-toms with stretched rubber heads, wooden “tomahawks” tied with dyed feathers, and who knows what else. I must have been about four; I don’t remember a lot, but I do recall the delightful hubbub when the gift package arrived, and everyone’s amusement at the geehaws that were unpacked. I can still hear the muffled thump of that tom-tom.
Great-Grandma was the terrific baker who made the “inspirational chocolate pie.” Recently while doing some genealogical digging, I found the census record that showed her and her siblings in Cincinnati’s House of Refuge in the early 1900s. I’ve often wondered how she got from Cincinnati to the wilds of Brown County, Ohio, and how she met my great-grandfather. In many of our photos of her as a younger woman, she looks as she does in that picture above: thin and cheerful, unbowed by what must have been a difficult life. By the time I knew her, she hadn’t been an Applegate for decades and she had a round, apple dumpling face like a grandmother out of a Norman Rockwell painting. It was especially startling to see that face in a program she sent from Oklahoma back in the 60s. It was a photo of tribal mothers of World War II veterans, and there in the back row of those dark Native American women floats Great-Grandma’s sugar cookie face. I guess she always had a talent for belonging.
Speaking of photos, in the original version of the one I used for the altered page above, Great-Grandma is standing at a wash tub, her hands clasping a washboard. I cloned out the washboard and filled the tub with flowers when I digitally altered the photo. I thought it was the least she deserved in honor of Mother’s Day.