Grandma Don't Take No Mess!

4/11/2010 12 comment(s)
I have been blown away by some of the heartfelt and touching stories coming forth from the Genealogy Community. Stories about sweet, tender, nurturing grandmothers who imparted pearls of wisdom. My post is not like that.

I had the honor of being granddaughter to Para Lee Martin. Grandmother Para Lee, as she was known, was a tough-talking, no-nonsense disciplinarian who did not pal around with her kids, grand kids, or pretty much anyone who was under her care.

Born Para Lee Leonard in Tallahassee, Florida, Grandmother Para Lee married my Grandfather, Robert Lee Martin at the tender age of 14. In my mind’s eye, she birthed each of her nine children during her lunch hour, while still keeping the house in good order and having a hot dinner on the table by 6 o’clock p.m.

Physically, she was beautiful, with flawless sable skin, a figure that rivaled a Coca-Cola bottle, and piercing brown eyes. When I say piercing, I don’t mean that figuratively. If needed, I believed she could have made them come out like appendages, as would a prehistoric Transformer, locking her sights on the object of her wrath.

Don’t be scared. She also had an amicable side. She understood charm and finesse. She was loved by many in both the community and church. She was generous with her time and gifts, sharing with those who had less than she.

Back at home, she led her brood by intimidation. Those under her roof did not challenge her. Defiance could cost you the skin off your backside. Or worse. Being a quick study, I didn’t need the Cliff Notes to learn the storyline of Grandmother Para Lee. Fortunate for me, she seemed to favor me. She told me early on that I reminded her of herself. She could see straight through my angelic facade and pegged me for the sharp-tongued, mischievous, precocious child I was. She often would wink at me, when no one else was looking. That was my secret signal that all was well, for the moment.

Family folklore says she wielded a knife. And on one hot Florida day, I got a chance to see her in action. She told me to come outside to help her clean fish, a task I had seen my own Mother gracefully do many times. But on this day, I saw my Grandmother scale, decapitate, and gut fish in what at the time seemed like a 3-second operation. As she held on to the fish tightly, its eyes, shiny and wide, began to bulge, as if the fish was pleading with me, “You’re just going to stand there?!” Yep, I’m just going to stand here, like a soldier at attention, and bring her another bucket, if she calls for one.

Some of you may not understand this type of woman. Some of you may call her mean. But I lovingly called her Grandmother. She was the Matriarch of our family...and she didn't take no mess!

Para Lee Martin
June 13, 1925 - June 12, 1994


Amy Coffin Wednesday, January 25, 2012 - 5:49:58 AM
What a wonderful tribute to your grandmother. I love the images you chose to describe her. Thank you for sharing Para Lee Martin with us!
Leslie Ann Ballou Wednesday, January 25, 2012 - 5:50:38 AM
I loved this story!
MissDazey Wednesday, January 25, 2012 - 5:51:15 AM
Your Grandmothers sounds like many mothers I have known. I love the line "that she led her brood by intimidation". With that many children, sometimes one had to. Thanks for sharing her.
Renate Wednesday, January 25, 2012 - 5:51:46 AM
I loved that tribute to your grandmother! It was beautifully told, and that's a great picture of her. Through your post, you've made me feel as though I know Para Lee, and the picture just adds to that!

Thanks for sharing,
Sandra Taliaferro Wednesday, January 25, 2012 - 5:52:16 AM

What a beautiful tribute to your grandmother. I can tell she was a gem, and you have painted a vivid picture of her. I know your Grandmother Para Lee would be proud. Thanks for sharing her with us, and thank you for participating in the 2nd edition of the CoAAG.

Mavis Wednesday, January 25, 2012 - 5:52:52 AM
That was a wonderful tribute to your grandmother and I love the way you told her story.
Tom McKnight Wednesday, January 25, 2012 - 5:53:10 AM
Dear Amy,
What a wonderful tribute to the ancestors. Their story, not HIS-tory must be told and conveyed so that it is a collective Our-story. This is the binding element that keeps us all centered, focused and respectful of and for the sacrifices made by those or yester-year and that makes us who we are today as well as what we are expected to be tomorrow.
Carter G. Woodson, the Father of Black History Month said the following:

"If a race has no history, if it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world and it stands in danger of being exterminated". "Those who have no record of what their forebears have accomplished lose the inspiration which comes from the teaching of biography and history". And lastly, "Truth comes to us from the past, then, like gold, is washed down from the mountains".

This is some good truth and some good gold. May it continue to flow from the hearts, minds and spirits from those who care and must care.

Thank you Amy for sharing this tribute will all of us - it's inspirational and a constant reminder to never give up the search. God bless and keeping on keeping on.

Peace, Love and Strength - Tom McKnight
Terrence G. Wednesday, January 25, 2012 - 5:53:44 AM
I enjoyed reading this post about your grandmother.
Atalie St. James Wednesday, January 25, 2012 - 5:54:11 AM
I loving called her grandmother too. Yet, I never knew that side of her. To me she was the lady who was always ready to greet me with a fresh popsicle. It's great being the youngest! :-)
Amy (Admin) Wednesday, January 25, 2012 - 5:54:41 AM
Amy, Leslie, MizzDazey, Renate, Sandra, Mavis, Tom & Terrence

Thank you all for sharing in this story with me! I could have written a book of stories, and perhaps one day I will, but I see you all got the picture. She was an amazing woman, and you never had to guess where you stood with her.

Atalie, I think you may not have been old enough to see the "other side" of her. Plus, you were pretty cute as a baby. But it gives new meaning to the term "scared straight."

Wayne Martin Wednesday, January 25, 2012 - 5:55:12 AM
Cousin, you hit that one right on the "HEAD"! I've expirienced at first hand her wrath living in her household during my "Teen" years and I can tell you it wasn't easy but, without her "Tough Love" I can honestly say that I wouldn't be the man that I am today! Para Lee Martin or "Pat" as they use to call her THANK YOU! and I LOVE YOU!
Roberta Martin Brown Sunday, May 18, 2014 - 7:56:26 PM
I can now appreciate the tough love handed out during my formative years. Raising that many children was not easy. However hard it was, she and my father manage to keep food on the table, clothes on our backs and a roof over our heads. Yes, she dealt a heavy hand, but the respect she garnered, the values she instilled in us, and the lessons of life that we learned shaped our lives and made us the successful women and men we are today. I think we can use more disciplinarians like Grandmother Para Lee Martin ( my mom). Love you, mom.

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