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Lilly- Poor but generous

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Lilly had nine children. Rena Joe, the fourth, strongly resembled the sixth child. Before she died her kids asked about looking different than the others. She said, “Well, that boy 'us back in town. Ya know, womens want some jus' a same as mens.” Many Lilly stories are sexual, very sexual. I would love to figure out how to go about telling them. I wish everyone could have known this lady.

Nine children means dozens of grand children. My friend, Lilly's granddaughter, is one of six children. If all nine children averaged six that would be 54 grandchildren. I know that sounds unlikely, but it's really not. Some may have had four or five, but that was made up for by others. Remember that poor farm families tend to be larger than wealthy town families, especially in times past. I always wondered how town families managed to not get pregnant. I imagine that there are other forms of entertainment in town. I know that there are large families in the city. Poverty is still the biggest influence on family size. But, back to the story.

Lilly was as poor as pauper, but she had a generous heart. She always gave each of her grandchildren a gift at Christmas. She managed this by doing most of her shopping at the city dump where things were free. Sometimes she would find a good bargain at a yard sale but mostly it was the dump. She loved to go out there. It was like treasure hunting. She would collect odds and ends all year for Christmas, or whatever other occasion or need called for stuff.

Once she gathered several partial gallons of paint, around 45 cans collected over a period of time. Her house needed painting so she just mixed all the paints together and used that to paint her house. It turned out to be an unusual, unnatural, and unsettling shade of green. She didn't mind; she was proud of the bargain.

Some of Lilly's great junk yard Christmas finds include:

a collection of assorted, unmatched tube socks
a radio shell
old 45s
half a jar of green beans (I'm sure this one didn't come from the dump)
panties, some of which still had a little spring to the elastic
books and magazines
various tools
rags that she cut into quilt blocks
a little pink sweater with a bunny on it (given to a little boy, and it was just a little small)

Not all of them were bad, but nobody wants panties from the dump even if they have been boiled in lie soap. However, there was only one response to whatever gift you received. “Oh, thank you grandma Lilly, I really love/needed/wanted that.” This gratitude must be delivered with all sincerity. If you showed shock, disappointment, or disgust you could count on a whipping to remember.

When my friend's oldest sister Tammy was about 14 Grandma Lilly handed her a Christmas package and said, “Honey, you're gettin' to an age where every young girl needs one a these. Now, I found it at the dump so you'll need to take it home and boil it real good. Then it'll be jus' fine.” She opened her package and found an old douche bag. The other five children watched for Tammy's reaction with wide eyed stone faces. Tammy looked up and smiled the most grateful smile and said, “Why thank you Grandma Lilly. That'll be so useful and I didn't have one already.”


  1. Buh4Bee's Avatar
    Wow! What a woman. I actually know someone like that, but she doesn't go to the dump. Poverty will change how you see the world and your value of material items. Amazing how the people knew how to react to Miz Lilly, because she must have been infamous for these acts.
    Great story!!
  2. Virgil's Avatar
  3. papayahed's Avatar
    ooohhhhh nooooo, poor Tammy.
  4. Niamh's Avatar
  5. applepie's Avatar
    Thank you for sharing these stories:) It is good that she was so generous, and very kind of her family to not repay her efforts with cruelty. It sounds like, no matter how strange or gross the gift, Lilly's heart was in the right place in giving them. I'll be looking for more stories:D
  6. 1n50mn14's Avatar
    These Lilly stories are fantastic, thanks for sharing them, M-H. It really puts a bit of perspective into one's day.
  7. mtpspur's Avatar
    You have such a way of making your family memories come alive and from the heart.