Friday, August 16, 2019

Happy Birthday to Two Grande Dames

When readers think of Regency-set romances, they often think of two writers: Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer. Today, the Incomparable Georgette would have been 117 years old. She published her first book when she was 19 to much success. She went on to publish two dozen Regency romances, as well as a dozen detective novels and other historical novels. Two things I found amusing when I went looking for biographical information is that 1) copycats infuriated her and 2) she decided after her initial success that she didn’t need to court publicity. Her refusal to be interviewed never hurt. Her books are still widely read and praised to this day.

Today is also the birthday of a woman who had a profound impact on my life: my grandmother, Ruby Harris. She would have been 108. She grew up during the flapper era—I still have one of her dresses. When I was in high school, I had an assignment to interview someone who had lived through the Depression. I asked my grandmother. She immediately agreed, then asked, “When was that again?” Lest you think she was forgetful, she lived until she was 93, sharp and sassy. She wasn’t sure about the date of the Depression because it didn’t impact her much. She and her father had a job with the state of Washington, and her mother ran their family farm. My grandmother literally danced her way through those difficult times, attending balls at the local grange two to three times a week. That’s where she met my grandfather. Small wonder he was attracted to her. She was practical, wise, and witty, with a smile that made you smile back. As my mother likes to say, she could strike up a conversation with a rock.

When I was ten, she was in a horrible car accident left her crippled for the rest of her life. She credited her ability to learn to walk again to my father. We had a circular floor plan, and he would chase her from the living room through the kitchen and back yelling, “Come on, Ruby!” and clapping his hands. But I think it was her own indomitable spirit that allowed her to learn to walk again, to drive again, and to live her life on her own terms. Though she could no longer go dancing, she supported herself after her divorce in a time when women generally didn’t work outside the home. She took care of me and my brother when my mother taught school. She wrote letters for older people whose hands were shaking too much to allow them to correspond with loved ones. She also drove them to doctor appointments, until she voluntarily gave up her keys because she was afraid she couldn’t hit the brakes in time to stop if a child ran into the road. She was so proud of my writing, my books.

She was my hero, my inspiration. I still miss her.

Happy birthday, Grandma!


QNPoohBear said...

Happy Belated Birthday to two grande dames! The only definitive biography of Georgette Heyer is the one by Jennifer Kloester. I like The Private World of Georgette Heyer by Jane Aiken Hodge.

Your grandmother sounds like quite a woman! My maternal grandmother doesn't remember the Depression either. She was a little girl and her dad had a job as a college educator whether students could pay or not. She had a sheltered childhood but from the things she's been telling me, it sounds like she DOES remember, just doesn't realize how the Depression affected neighbors and friends. She did say that feedsack dresses were not cute and trendy. Any girl who came to school in one showed how poor her family was and it was shameful and embarrassing for those girls.

Regina Scott said...

Sorry not to answer sooner--crazy week! Thank you, QNPoohBear. Your grandmother sounds like a grande dame too! So fortunate to have role models like them!