Monday, June 2, 2014

My Oma Huth

The Mueller family in New Braunfels 1902--Grandma's the baby
My father's mother, Henrietta Mueller Huth, was the daughter of German immigrants to Texas. All of her 78 years were hard ones, and I wish I'd understood that sooner so I could have encouraged her even more than I did.

Grandma grew up in a large family with seven living brothers and one sister, who wasn't part of her life for long because this sister was sent to a mental institution. Grandma became a second mother to her five younger brothers. She only finished the sixth grade.
Young Henrietta Mueller
When my Grandpa courted her and finally married her when she was 22, she must have dreamed of finally having her own household with at least one or two daughters of her own.
The courting couple took many photos together.
Married 1924
Alas, her first child didn't come along for 4 years, and she was only able to have one more (my Dad). Both boys, of course.
My grandparents, uncle & my Dad c. 1936

Life on their small farm was constant, back-breaking work. Not only did Grandma do all the cooking for her family, occasional farm workers, and mooching relatives, she washed clothes by hand (using water from a cistern since they didn't have indoor plumbing until the 1960's) and hung them on a clothesline, ironed with those cast iron monstrosities heated on the stovetop, sewed dresses by hand for herself and shirts for her men out of flour sacks, kept hundreds of chickens for eggs, meat, and "egg money," picked cotton, tended a garden, and did it all with a meek and gentle spirit. I never saw her angry or heard her complain. But I did see sadness in her eyes.
My uncle's wedding 1949; Grandma already white-headed

When she knew we were visiting she'd bake for days, filling a table with pies, cobblers, cookies, and her special homemade bread. I remember her hands were so strong and her fingers so long she could hold all her dominoes when she and Grandpa played "42" with my parents.

My hair was long, especially as a teen, and Grandma liked to brush it and "fix" it. While she did this I would ask about her family, and once even wrote down the names and dates she could remember (I still have those notes). Later she gave me photos of her great-grandmother, parents, wedding photos, and her catechism booklet (in German). She must have known I would treasure them.
Her catechism booklet dated 13 Apr 1919
The last two years of her life she spent at a rehab center or cared for at home by Grandpa after she had a debilitating stroke. For one of my last visits I made bread for her as my way of thanking her for all the yummy bread she'd made for us.
Only photo I have of her smile--captured in the late 1960s
I didn't learn until after she died that she'd dreamed of being a concert pianist. I also didn't understand until later that in the strict German culture in which she lived, the woman's side of the family was not the important one; the man's lineage was more worth remembering. So when I let Grandma know I wanted to remember HER family, it was the best thing I could have done for her. (That and let her play with my hair since she never had the daughter she wanted so badly.)

I have a few things in common with my Grandma: I too wanted many children, including a daughter or two, and like Grandma I have two sons, both of whom also moved far away to make their own lives with their families, and so I don't see them often, just like we weren't able to see Grandma often. She had two grandsons and five granddaughters; so far I have one and 2/3 granddaughters.

Thankfully, unlike Grandma Huth, I don't feel trapped on a farm with never-ending, back-breaking work. I have more freedom than she ever dreamed of having, and I try to count my blessings daily. Danke, Oma, und ich liebe dich.


  1. And you are living her dream. Instead of being a concert pianist you are a concert flutist. Makes you wonder what dream you have that your granddaughter might get to live.

  2. That's a great thought, Diana, and I hadn't even considered it. :) Thanks!

  3. What a tender memory from a truly beautiful gifted lady both inside and out. I love learning about other people's lives. Your grand babies are blessed to have you as their grandma and I am eager to see how you impact them no matter how far you live from them.

    1. Aw, thanks Anna. I like hearing old stories of other people's families, too, and love seeing old photographs. As for far-away grandbabies, I just try to consciously make good memories each time I see them and savor every moment.