Valentine’s Day is associated with love and sentimentality, sometimes to the extreme. But my maternal grandmother’s birthday was Valentine’s Day, and she was dearly loved by those who knew her.
Rubanner Fletcher was affectionately called Banner by her siblings. I’ve often wondered how she was named Rubanner because you will be hard pressed to find another person with that given name among the thousands of names on genealogy websites or even Google itself. My aunt once told me she asked her mother the same question. My grandmother told her that some people (whether relatives, neighbors, or friends, I don’t know) came by to visit her family after Grandmother’s older sister had been born, and they suggested the name Rubanner. My great grandparents said they had already named her Sarah Elizabeth. This couple evidently had a very strong influence on my great grandparents because that was the name they gave my grandmother who was the next daughter born into the family.
My mother said my grandmother would often speak of how sweet her father was. Maybe she was a daddy’s girl.
Grandma Dukes (her married surname) was the only grandparent I remember. We didn’t live in the town where she lived after I started school, so my memories were of weekend trips, longer summer visits, or her visits to our home. I recall her and my mother quilting on a big frame in our living room one year when I was about six or seven, and they let me make some stitches. Although my stitches didn’t add any quality to the quilt, what a wonderful memory that these two women would let me be a part of their work. Quilting was not the only skill my grandmother had with her hands. She also embroidered and tatted, and I treasure that I have some of her handiwork in handkerchiefs, dresser scarves, and pillowcases. She also had a treadle sewing machine that was such fun for us to play on. And she made the best sour cream pound cake on earth.
On visits to my grandmother’s home, my sister and I slept in the bed with her on her feather mattress. It seems I was always in the middle and everyone rolled toward me. Maybe that’s why I loved John Denver’s song “Grandma’s Feather Bed.”
My grandmother lived all her life in Florida in the flatlands. We lived in north Georgia and loved to visit the mountains. I remember one trip when we took my grandmother with us to see the beautiful fall leaves. Her knuckles were white from hanging on to the seat so tightly as my daddy maneuvered the curves going up and down the mountains. He asked, “Look at that waterfall, Mrs. Dukes. Isn’t it pretty?” As he glanced back at her, she wasn’t looking at anything but the road. After walking down from Clingman’s Dome, my daddy and grandmother were in the car waiting on the rest of us to walk back. As they looked over the scenery, my daddy asked her, “Isn’t it beautiful up here?” She replied with, “It would be if it was flat. If I can see below me, it’s not pretty.”
Another memory I have of my grandmother is that of her sitting in her rocking chair reading her Bible. My mother said when they were living on the farm, they always attended the church that was nearest to them. Although Grandma never drove a car herself, she faithfully attended church. After all the children were grown and gone, a couple from her church in Jacksonville came by every week to pick her up. She was the secretary for the Junior Department in Sunday School for as long as I can remember.
There are many more memories of this special lady who was as kind a person as you will ever meet, who never had a mean word to say about anyone, and who loved her children, grandchildren, and God dearly. It’s so appropriate she was born on Valentine’s Day.