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My grandmother and my mother, c.1933.

I remembered her pretty black coat of shinning silk brocade. The smooth black hair meticulously combed and dressed with sweet oil. The little white flower she wore at the nape of her neck. And there was that dainty high-collared blouse of cream-colored silk … with the black satin pants of three quarter length that stopped inches short of her trim little feet. 

Gene Sayre, pseudonym of Louise Brown Marshall, my grandmother.

This description is of Yatside, a youthful Chinese woman in 1930s China. It’s taken from a short story called You Goody For Me, which was written in 1939 and somewhat based on my grandmother’s experience living in China as a Navy captain’s wife.

Yes, my grandmother was a writer too. She penned several stories of her travel adventures and this one fictionalizes the day she met Yatside. Mrs. Albright (my grandmother) is holding an infant in her arms and just about to board a boat headed up the north coast and away from “war-stirred” Shanghai. Out of nowhere Yatside grabs her arm, points to the baby and says, “can do.” She is offering to work as a nanny and as it happens, that’s just what our protagonist needs. There begins a story of culture clashes, bonding, and finally, respect.

I can easily picture stylish Yatside – pretty and demure – and I’m willing to bet that the way she was dressed, as well as her manner, helped my grandmother make that split-second decision to take her on as a nanny.

IMG_20190816_172450668 (1)I feel very fortunate to have my grandmother’s stories, many are the original typed manuscripts. I’m learning a lot about not just her life, but also her conflicts, world view, how she treated people, and I’m getting a glimpse at some of her inner thoughts.

What a gift!

 

 

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