We spent last weekend in Florida on a whirlwind trip to Cabbage's family home. It was our first trip there together, and the first time I had ever been to their family ranch. It seems strange that we hadn't gone before, but our life, other trips, and more pressing responsibilities had taken priority.
Last weekend, we put aside the other trappings of everyday life and went for Molly. Molly is Cabbage's step-grandmother, and she was turning 100 years old.
One hundred years of life bears some reflection. A full century of laughter and love, learning and loss, faith and work and hope and struggles.
Molly still lives on their family ranch, and in her daily life she is surrounded by her children and their children. Her home is the same one she shared with Cabbage's grandfather, who passed away three years ago in his late nineties.
She was born in Florida, married and had six children. After her first husband died, she married Cabbage's grandfather, Troy, in 1953 and became a stepmother to his three children, including Cabbage's mother. Molly and Troy also had a son of their own who is just ten years older than Cabbage.
Molly and Troy worked hard all their lives. Beyond raising their ten children, together they built a family ranch that covered a square mile.
It's located just miles from the very heart of Ocala, which is serious horse country. Fabulous horse farms, green fields, huge moss-covered trees, and arenas and tracks at every turn. Color me happy.
This ranch is no slouch, either, and I was really amazed by the endless, verdant fields. The main ranch road is simply a mowed track, fenced on both sides, cutting through fertile grass and groves of trees.
Troy and Molly's ranch was a working ranch, and they raised award-winning Santa Gertrudis cattle. At times they farmed oats, watermelon, and other crops. Molly's life was not easy, and her days were filled with all the many chores that comprise the realities of being a mother, wife, and rancher.
In her younger years, she was particularly shaped by her life, her workload, and the times. At her birthday party, Cabbage recounted a story while talking with his uncle and me.
Cabbage: I was about five years old and I was in the cow pens helping Grandaddy work cows. I got kicked in the back of the head and it split my scalp open a little. I still have an X-shaped scar there today. The next morning, when I woke up I had bled on my pillowcase. I got my butt chewed out by Molly for bleeding all over the pillow.
Me: You got chewed out for bleeding on the pillowcase? Because you were five and your head was split open? By their cow?
Cabbage: Yep. [laughing] She was tough.
My experiences with Molly weren't quite of the same tenor. When Cabbage and I were married she sent a very sweet card, and when Beep was born she sent the baby a gift. It was a thrill to receive her gestures and grandmotherly comments, written in her shaky hand and carried across the miles.
On Saturday we found the birthday girl sitting in the middle of a lovely party as her loved ones circulated and hugged each other. She was truly the queen.
Everyone took turns visiting with Molly at the head table.
Cabbage has such a nice way with people. I think this was about the time she was tired of smiling for photos and confided to him "I can't make this face all day."
Beep wore her best hand-smocked dress and shoved her face full of snacks. (She did have an unfortunate episode of caffeine crashing at the exact time we sat down to eat... more on that later. Let me assure you there was some excellent parenting involved in the lead-up to that situation.)
I'm happy to say Beep gave Molly a hug.
Although she's frail, Molly is still sharp. We'd never met before but she knew exactly who I was, and who Beep was. She hugged and kissed everyone, spoke on the microphone, ate a big piece of cake, and generally defied her age and all odds.
It was such a pleasure to meet Grandma Molly and understand a little more about her, the family she helped create, and the man I married.