MAMA JAKE & DADDY ED – My Maternal Grandparents

Bertha Jake and Edwin P. Motley in older age

My grandparents, known to all the family as Mama Jake and Daddy Ed (a typical form of address in the South), had a happy 44-year marriage filled with the joys of children and each other’s company.

Big families were more a fact of life years ago. Mama Jake came from a family of eleven, the Seago’s,  and Daddy Ed had seven brothers and I don’t know how many sisters. Neither family were Catholic or Mormon, a common reason for large families these days. Family Bibles, testaments to life and death, were stuffed with information on births, marriages and even a few reasons for death. My cousin Nancy passed on a list of Mama Jake’s siblings, most likely from my grandmother’s Bible. Her brothers hadn’t fared so well in life: Henry died of poisoned liquor (I wonder if it was bootleg), John, a lawman, was shot by a bootlegger, and Albert fell accidentally—there were no details on these mishaps. I wondered about cancer of the heart, which befell a sister named Mary; two other sisters died from pneumonia and childbirth.

When I wanted to find out more about my grandparents, however, I knew whom to call: my older cousin, Amy Lee, a Danville native.  In my eyes, she’s the family historian because she was a witness and still remembers those long ago days.

Daddy Ed, who didn’t like sales, handled the books for Motley & Sons, the family furniture store in downtown Danville, Virginia, and took the bus home for Mama Jake’s hot lunch every day. “He never came in the house that he didn’t go straight to Mama Jake and kiss her,” Amy Lee recalled. Another relative has mentioned how kind he was.

Mama Jake not only took care of her husband and  seven children, but she “did everything for everybody” in the neighborhood, including Moseley Memorial Methodist Church, a few blocks away, Amy Lee said. She was also a fine seamstress and known for her silk ties, which she sold. My mother had the same natural inclinations–help your family and everybody else as well!

Daddy Ed never needed to spank any of his children or grandchildren for misbehavior. He didn’t even need words, Amy Lee commented, since, “He could look a hole right through you.”

Besides being the family poet, Daddy Ed loved to entertain by playing his guitar and mouth harp. He had a good sense of rhythm and would sing little songs for which he had created the words and music.

My mother and I lived with Mama Jake and Daddy Ed in their roomy home on the corner of Berryman Avenue for a few years during World War II and a couple of years afterward. My father Victor, an infantry major, was serving in Italy when Daddy Ed wrote this poem in 1944 to my mother, Garnette. I would imagine the poem was for her birthday on July 22. I like to imagine that he sung it to an appreciative family audience as well.

Another year has rolled around,

To find Bertha Garnette still in town.

She has reached the age of twenty-three,

And started her a family tree.

Her baby girl, Victoria Anne,

The finest young one in this land,

She twines herself around our heart,

And with her we would hate to part.

While daddy Victor, over the sea,

Fights like hell, for you and me.

So we must care for Garnette and Viki,

She’s mighty sweet, but also tricky.

How in the world could sweet Sixteen,

Make herself the Major’s queen,

Secure for herself good things in life,

Without the struggles, stress and strife.

But anyhow, we wish for you,

Long life, good health, your lover true,

Your baby grow to love you most,

And Victor come back home as host.

Daddy Ed signed the poem: Mamma and Daddy

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Rss Feed Tweeter button Facebook button Technorati button Reddit button Myspace button Linkedin button Webonews button Delicious button Digg button Flickr button Stumbleupon button Newsvine button Youtube button