This post is inspired by the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge by Amy Johnson Crow. The week 5 challenge is “In the Census”.
When I was a kid, it was hard for me to think of my grandparents as anything other than … grandparents. My grandpa was 55 years old when I was born, my grandma was 51. In my mind, they are always in their 60s and that’s how I choose to remember them. I never thought of them as young, certainly not teenagers. But, they were once!
Moving in with My Boyfriend
My husband and I started dating when I was 24. A year into the relationship, we decided to move in together. We were basically maintaining two homes and only living in one of them. Financially, it made more sense. That is, of course, what I told my parents! Even at 25, they weren’t thrilled that I was moving in with him before marriage … a wee bit of old-fashioned thinking. So, they insisted I “get permission” from Grandma and Grandpa. What you don’t know is that I had a very strong bond with my grandpa – so I think they were planning on him disapproving and me staying put to keep him happy. Boy, did that plan backfire!
I sat with my grandparents over lunch in their kitchen eating bologna sandwiches and “red Jello” and we discussed my intentions. Neither of them said anything negative. In fact, grandpa said nothing at all. He just smirked, a little mischievous smile with his bright blue eyes. My grandma simply said, “If this is what you two want, we will support you.” I wasn’t surprised, really, but I think my parents were! By the time I was 27, Chili and I were walking down the aisle to tie the knot and my grandparents were right there in the front row, Grandpa with a smirk on his face.
Married … or Not
Years after my marriage, and after my grandparents passed, I was updating my family tree. I had obtained their marriage license – they were married on March 30, 1940. In examining it, I realized that Grandma lied about her age on their license. She was only 16 when they were wed. The license says 18. That was my first reminder that they had, in fact, once been young!
When the 1940 census was finally released in 2012, I searched for them so I would have an address of where they lived in that first year of marriage. Much to my surprise, they weren’t even living together! The census was taken in April 1940.
It shows her living at home and him living with his sister and her family!
Look even closer – there is an “S” listed next to her name in the “Marital Status” column! He is listed as married while she is listed as single. Now, I know … you’re thinking it could have just been a mix up because it was so soon after their marriage date.
I later learned that they lived apart for three months before she told her family that they had eloped! Three whole months! So, this little census mystery was well intended, at least on her part, and it’s one of my favorite family stories. I just hope the folks at church aren’t reading this!
It All Makes Sense
Once I put all of these puzzle pieces together, I suddenly understood Grandpa’s smirk and Grandma’s simple statement when I asked for permission to “live in sin” as my mother would say. They couldn’t very well be anything other than supportive without being a bit hypocritical.
They started out together in secret. There were bumps along the way. But they had 5 wonderful crazy children together who gave them nine grandchildren, eleven great grands, and two great-great grands … one of whom Grandpa lived long enough to meet. They were married 66 years when Grandma died in 2006. Not too shabby for a secret wedding.
I only hope Chili and I make it that far – but we’ll be REALLY old then!
I think we’ll make it …