Listen to the Stories

By Sue Mayfield Geiger

Listen to the Stories

I never knew her. My mother never knew her. She was an elegant, petite lady of Austrian heritage born in 1889 at St. Joseph’s Orphanage in San Antonio, Texas. She spent her early years under the watchful eyes of Catholic nuns until 1901 when she was adopted by the McCormick family.

A student at Our Lady of the Lake, she had barely completed high school when a dashing, tall stranger came into her life, married her and moved her to Galveston. With long, dark hair and ivory skin, her beauty is only revealed to us in old photographs. One, in particular, taken on her wedding day, shows an angelic half-smile on the face of a young girl with hair piled high on her head, ruffled lace at her throat, and an elaborate rosary draped around her neck. We can’t see her hands, but have been told that they lovingly embraced five children, combed their hair, touched their tiny fingers and nurtured their souls. She only lived to be 28-years-old, dying in 1917 from complications of pneumonia when my mother was a mere nine-months-old.

So, I grew up never knowing my grandmother. My mother grew up never knowing her mother. Her name was Marie Albright McCormick Robinson. We’ve traced together as much information as possible, but still there are gaps about the woman who gathered her children by her side each evening, taught them prayers and cuddled them in the folds of her petticoats and flowing skirt. So we have been told.

After my mother married and had her own children, the details of my grandmother’s life seemed to fade away. Siblings married and had their own children and grandchildren. We always knew that there was a Marie Albright McCormick Robinson, but so little was known about her. There were only the stories. So important in life. The stories. They just keep getting passed on from generation to generation, keeping relatives and events alive. Heritage. Roots. Family Trees.

I was always fascinated by the details of Marie’s short life. I studied her photo often, wondering about her early years in the orphanage, her youth, her feelings. I knew that my grandmother was buried in Galveston on 61st Street, but for some reason, we never went there. It wouldn’t be until a few years ago that I decided to stop at Calvary Catholic Cemetery and pay her a visit. Many of the tombstones still stand erect and majestic, yet others have crumbled and decayed, reclaimed by the marshy, low terrain, as was probably the case with my grandmother’s. Relatives contributed to help defray costs and a new marker was ordered. It is rosewood granite, engraved in lovely French script that reads: Marie McCormick Robinson, 1889 – 1917, With Loving Dedication.

When my mother was still alive, I took her to see it. She was happy to see that her biological mother’s final resting place was now properly marked. Yet we didn’t just visit a marker. We visited my mother’s mother, my grandmother; a lady who was once a living, breathing important part of the universe. Although we never knew her, we will always love her. We will always remember her life, treasure the stories and wonder how we all might have been affected had she lived.

Honor your mother – living or deceased. If you are fortunate enough to still have her in your midst, pay her a visit, tell her you love her, and above all else, get her to tell you some stories. You may have heard them a thousand times, but that’s okay. It’s always nice to hear them again.

About this writer

  • Sue Mayfield Geiger

    Sue Mayfield Geiger

    Sue Mayfield Geiger is the granddaughter and niece of pressmen who worked at the Gulf Publishing Company in Houston, Texas. She grew up near enormous typesetting machines, inhaling the smell of ink and writing stories on reams of discarded paper. Today she freelances for several publications, both regional and national, and her short stories and poems have appeared in various literary magazines. She lives on the Texas Gulf Coast.

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One Response to “Listen to the Stories”

  1. Linda O'Connell says:

    Your story was very moving. Your grandmother passed her love on through the generations through her stories. It is so important to talk about and remember our ancestors.

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