My Momaw was 78. Everyone called her Bertie, but that wasn't her real name. When I was about 6 or 7 years old, I brought her mail in to her and actually asked my mom who "Roberta" was. :) I'd had no idea up until that moment! She never had a middle name. She was one of 8 children herself, was the mother of 7, grandmother to 20 and great-grandmother to 24. She left behind quite a lineage.
Momaw Bertie was blessed and she was a blessing. She had the softest cheeks you'd ever kiss. It's funny the things that you remember through the years, isn't it? For instance, I remember that she always had the tallest beds and the puffiest pillows, and there were china dolls in just about every room. She could sew and embroider beautifully, and she always had a dedicated sewing room or craft room that I used to look at in amazement. Her bathroom always had a crocheted toilet-paper-roll-disguise with a plastic doll inside (I think that was a 70s trend), and little soaps, in various shapes, that we weren't supposed to actually use. ;) Her home smelled slightly of Pledge, baby powder, sawdust and black coffee. An odd mix, maybe, but these were signs that life was busy and always-improving there, and it was so comforting to my heart.
She had all of our pictures framed on the walls, propped up on tables, sitting on the piano (but not the pump organ that was burned in the house fire... that's another story). My uncles' Army portraits, my mom's cross-stitch pieces... they were all on display. She collected dishes and teacups, and I'll remember her little white coffee cups with green flowers for the rest of my life. When I left home in 1996, my mom sent me off with small glass salt and pepper shakers that used to belong to Momaw and Popaw. Momaw said she'd gotten them out of a box of oats years ago! We still use them on our table to this day.
She loved a good purse, a comfy pair of walking shoes, and soft pink nail polish. And of all the cars she and Popaw had owned over the years, she would always go back to driving a Lincoln again eventually. "I do like a Lincoln," she told me this summer.
Her biscuits were the stuff of legend in the Watts family. She made them from scratch (of course) and always flipped the dough with two fingers because that's how her mom, who had a broken finger, taught her to do it when she was just a girl. She said that lifting those "broken" fingers out of the way was her secret to making them taste so good. I love that story. She never rolled the dough out; instead she pinched a little piece off with her thumb and index finger, shaped it and then placed it in the pan. She always worked fast, too. My sister Trish said this week, "I asked her how she made her biscuits a few years ago. I'd watched her do it for years but never had a recipe. She replied in all seriousness with no mention of measurements, 'Ahhhh, mix it till it looks good and bake it till it's done.'" :) I don't think she ever measured an ingredient at all. And that's probably why those biscuits were so legendary and wonderful and mysterious to all of us.
She helped my Popaw remodel their (many) homes over the years, and she could do just about anything he could do: hang doors, put up sheetrock, knock down walls. She was strong and capable and she was Popaw's right hand. They always had a vision for their homes, and they spent their lives improving them... making them more spacious, more inviting, comfortable, and always welcoming. Christmases and Thanksgivings were a big deal and I loved the times when our whole family could get together. Popaw would play his fiddle, mom (and later Tony) would play the piano, one of my uncles and my dad would grab guitars and they'd all sing Christmas carols and church hymns in harmony. She loved those old hymns.