Monday, July 7, 2014

She Inspired Independence and Self Determination

"Never forget how to play," is what this lovely woman told me at the tender age of five-years-old. Her wisdom and life experiences are the inspiration of this blog and the website, and also for my life in general.

Born at a time when women were not as equal as they are today she stepped outside the box to do it her way.

Born Lynda Kennedy she married a second generation American from a good Irish family like herself. Their families were both from County Cork. Never knew if the families knew each other previously but they were true to their roots. Especially in her beauty.

Fair complexion, high cheek bones and her hair when I knew her was white, thick, soft and to her hips. She wore it pinned up as in the photo, but when this photo was made she had Titian red hair. So her fiery red hair matched her determined temperament.

She was married to Peter Mullen until 1917 when she divorced him. She had done her best to giver her son a solid family, but Peter's drunkenness and physical abuse brought her temper to a boil.

Her son Leo remembered hearing her warn his dad, "If you ever hit me again, remember you'll have to go to sleep sometime, and you might not wake up." Leo was 14-years-old when Lynda met Peter at the door with a loaded Colt 45 and told him to never come back again.

Peter did leave and he never sent any money to help support Leo. Lynda had to find a way to make an income.

It wasn't until the 1860's that Alabama allowed married women to own property and maintain their own income. There was new ground being walked by women in 1917 and property ownership was one thing but she decided to own income producing property. She started by renting out a room in their house on Georgia Ave. in Mobile, Ala. The house was small but the rent from a room kept she and Leo fed and in their home. Before she died in 1963 I remember going with her to collect rents from her tenants. Several years after her death Leo had to sell the properties to the Federal Government for the land to build Interstate - 10.

She did get married again to a man who was most proud of his wife's independence. She also fostered a healthy respect for independence in her son Leo and he too married a very strong minded woman who worked outside of the home when it wasn't the proper thing for a wife and mother to do.

Lynda Kennedy Mullen McKenzie, was playful in spirit and always ready to tell a good story. She had at one time been fond of smoking a corn cob pipe, but by the time I met her in 1956, she had quit smoking the pip and would puff on a cigarette every now and then.

She grew herbs in the kitchen windows and people came to her for remedies of their ailments. She was a practitioner of  what they call "The Secret" today. "Anything you put your mind to, you can do," she advised my brothers and I as we grew older in her tender care.

Lynda, was known to me as Granny, my great grandmother. She was tender and loving until you made her angry, when that old fiery temperament would flash from her eyes.

She inspired my mother to be a very independent woman and also left me with many great lessons and an adventurous and independent spirit as well. But the one thing that always stands out the most was her whispering in my little girl ears, "Always remember how to play."