My great-grandmother, Elsie Lovina Eldridge Sterling, I called her Gram, lived in a cottage on the hill in Bonaventure, Florida that sat just on the outskirts of Cocoa. She was born on August 22, 1870. She would always bake cookies for me. When I was three, I would press my little nose on her screen door and ask, "Can I have a tookie, please"? Of course she always gave me one. She loved me, I knew that, and I loved her too. Today I realize how blessed I was to have known her.
On the back side of her cottage was a very small, screened-in porch. I would sit in one of the chairs on the porch with her and she would play Chinese checkers with me for hours as she told me stories of her and gramp when they dated in the horse and buggy days. She had long chestnut hair that even when it turned gray, she would braid every morning and wrap them up and over her head. Her laugh was somewhat of a giggle. Gram was a gentle soul.
Today, I have a necklace made from her chestnut hair, three strands, each braided in its own unique design. In the middle hanging from a gold clasp is a polished chestnut sea bean. The beans are found on the Florida beaches when they wash up from some Caribbean island. I feel close to her whenever I wear it.
Elsie Eldridge and Emond Sterling
Gram, Gramp and Me
I remember her washing my hands in her kitchen sink when I was a very little girl. She would wrap her hands around mine and gently wash them. Her hands felt as soft as a newborn baby blanket. They were wrinkled with blue veins and gnarled with arthritis, yet they made me feel safe. These beautiful hands trembled with age, but, despite this she taught me how to crochet. Later, I crocheted the edge of a white hankie in mint green and gave it to her. After she passed, I discovered that hankie, worn so very thin from use, but still in tack. Hands such as hers represent grace, beauty and love.
Gram loved birds and they loved her too. She would go out on her front stoop to feed them. They would actually eat from the palm of her hand. They waited for her each and every day. While sitting in the screened porch, as we did quite often, the birds flew around to the back of the cottage and they began to call out to her quite loudly. "Okey" she said, "I'm coming". She was late going out to feed them. As she stood up, they flew back to the front of the cottage to wait for her. She would call the blue jays little pigs, because they would try to eat all the food as they attempted to chase the smaller birds away. But, she wouldn't let any bird no matter how small get away without their fair share.
She passed away in 1961, living to the age of 91. She and gramp were cremated and laid to rest beneath the Mulberry tree located in the front yard of the cottage that sat on the hill. Years later, they were reverently moved and laid to rest at the foot of the casket of their daughter Florence and her husband Scott. No marker makes known that they are there.
Up until a few years before she passed she could still touch her toes without bending her knees. Because of her, I learned to appreciate and understand that just because you're growing older, doesn't mean you can't be young at heart and live a full life. I aspire to be as gracious as she.
She was wise enough to leave behind in her handwriting genealogy notes that proved to be invaluable to me in reseaching and building our family tree. One name she wrote down as follows: "Ann, as in history". She was referring to Anne Marbary Hutchinson (my 9th great grandmoter and her daughter Susanna who married Lieutenant Thomas Eldred, my 8th great grandparents.
Thank you Gram. It is wonderful to have this history written in your handwriting, listing your parents, grandparents, your great grandparents, but also your 2nd, 3rd and 4th great grandparents as well. This information informed me when the name went from Eldred to Eldridge.