Who in the world is I.E. Smith? For all my childhood, I saw that on her mail. As a child, I never even thought to ask. She was just “Grandmother Smith” to me. Of course, that was back before the days when grandchildren called their grandparents, Cisa and Stoney. Yeah, that’s our name—who knew?
Grandmother Smith (to distinguish her from my other grandmother, Grandmother Stansberry), was just short of five feet, petite, but definitely feisty. She instilled within me that a girl could do just about anything that she set her mind to do.
Born in 1890, Ila Elwynna Patton was the daughter of a third generation American citizen, Timothy Patton, coming to Indian Territory in the early 1900’s to settle and make a new life for his family. Grandmother told me that she remembered camping along a creek, listening fearfully as the Indians danced and sang in the distance.
My grandmother grew up to be a strong and independent young woman. She married and had five children. One day she decided that she wanted to open up a couple of rooms in her house. She found some kind of big sledge hammer and knocked out a wall. Her young husband came home that evening and just shook his head.
My grandfather was a barber and sold Maytag appliances, going out to the farmers in the county, washing their clothes and giving them a shave and a haircut in order to make the sale. He died of pneumonia at 48, leaving my grandmother with teenagers, a new house in the middle of construction, and the Maytag business. She took on all of that, finished her house and proceeded to sell Maytags even when people told her that she just needed to stay home and take care of her family.
During WWII, Grandmother Smith opened the Cinderella Shop, a woman’s “dress” shop that, of course, sold dresses since women could not even imagine wearing pants. She loved going to market in Dallas with her different clients in mind, calling them up when she returned to let them know that she found the perfect outfit.
Grandmother remarried after the war, selling the Cinderella Shop and moving with her husband, Phil, to Lake Tenkiller to open a bait shop. It was a child’s paradise. In the summer, my mother would put me on the bus in Tulsa with a brown paper bag of good things to eat, several brand new comic books and send me to Grandmother’s to stay. She and Phil lived in a little apartment attached to the bait shop. I loved going to bed at night, listening to the soothing sound of the minnow vats in the next room.
Grandmother would always take me fishing when I came to visit. Fascinated, I remember watching her beautifully manicured; bright red nails squish a worm or crawdad on a hook. She was ever patient when my line got tangled, or I just got bored with the whole thing.
For reasons I never knew, Grandmother divorced Phil and moved back to Cordell. At the age of 75, she was out dancing and met Charlie. They were married for over 20 years since Grandmother lived to be 103.
I am who I am because of the strong women in my life, women like my Grandmother Smith who called me “honey” and loved me unconditionally. I am proud to be her granddaughter. I hope that my granddaughters and grandsons will someday feel the same way.