My mother, Mary Onezima Ralph Bradley, was the fourth of nine children and her brother, Luther David Ralph, Jr., was just 18 months older than she was. On December 18, Steve and I drove to his home in Goodlettsville, Tennessee, to celebrate his 100th birthday. I wrote the following memories that I printed out for him. Though his health is pretty good, his hearing is not, so he can read this when the chaos has subsided. I’ll start with a picture of Mother and Uncle L.D. in Washington, D. C., in 1942.
As I think of visiting you to celebrate your 100th birthday, memories of our connections keep popping into my mind.
The earliest are of visiting you in your little house trailer in Murfreesboro. I loved how everything fit together so well. For some reason, I remember it better than where Mother, Daddy, and I lived above the garage.
Often, when we met you at Vertical Plains, you’d ask me if I wanted to go shopping in your store and of course I always said a rousing, “Yes!” You’d take me to the glove compartment of your car and “buy” me the candy I chose there. You’d pretend to misunderstand which one I wanted, and I’d giggle all over. I thought that was the greatest fun! That was surely before David or when David was just a baby and you couldn’t yet tease him. I can still picture where your car was parked there on the hill of Granddaddy’s driveway, but I don’t recall what kind of car it was. You may remember what you were driving in the late ‘40s.
Another memory—not as much fun—was when I was in first or second grade. We visited you all in Columbia and you watched me drawing with some crayons and paper you’d provided. You made fun of my drawing “lollipop trees” and assured me mine looked nothing like real trees. They did to me! And after I got glasses and saw what trees really looked like, I realized that you were right. Meanwhile, you gave me a couple of how-to drawing books that I studied and copied until they were in tatters. Because of them, I’ve had a much better sense of how to sketch things.
When I was around ten, Santa Claus brought me a lovely cedar chest that I still enjoy. You and Aunt Betty Ruth visited us in Blowing Rock, North Carolina, in 1967 or 1968, and you might recall that we had it with us even then. We have moved that cedar chest from Tennessee to Kansas to North Carolina to two homes in Illinois and then to four homes in Northern Kentucky, so you can see that I truly treasure it! I’ve enclosed a picture of it at the foot of my bed in our new home.
When I helped Annelle empty Aunt Juanita’s home on Long Hollow Pike, we found numerous letters that you’d written to her or Aunt Carleen many years ago. I kept the one I’ve enclosed because I loved the drawings on the first page and the account of your “foolishness” as a young man.
You probably don’t remember any of this! But I want you to know that I recall them all quite fondly. Steve and I wish you the happiest of birthdays—truly a milestone!