ÂŠ Lynnie Bruce 2009
“I hope you come see us soon”. We knew her as Nannie. She would visit us fairly often in Virginia Beach, ensconced in the living room with her afghan knitting, large hearing aid and cane. At bedtime we’d snuggle on either side of her for the next chapter of Mary Poppins or Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat. She wore plastic, pearl-bead necklaces and painted her tennis shoes with white shoe polish. Her name was Margaret Lynn Lewis Carruthers, and she was our mother’s mother. Margaret Lynn Lewis was born July 26, 1902, in Charleston, West Virginia, to Colonel Charles Cameron Lewis, Jr., and Laura Payne. She was one of five children and the only daughter. Her brothers were Captain Charles Cameron Lewis III (b.1890), Andrew Payne Lewis (b.1893), Frank Payne Lewis (b.1896), and John Dickinson Lewis (b.1905). At a young age she contracted polio, which affected her hearing and legs; however, vigorous exercise partly mitigated the residuals of the disease, and various hearing aids offset any hearing loss. On October 22, 1925 she married Thomas Moore Carruthers. July 1, 1929, a little girl, Elizabeth Josephine, was born. Three years later on August 17 her sister, Laura, was added to the family.
Soon after, Margaret Lynn and Tom divorced. The children stayed with their father, living with his parents in Charlottesville, Virginia. He later married Mabel Burgess, giving Betty Jo and Lolly a stepsister, Barbara, and half sister, Carol. Margaret Lynn, who suffered from depression, moved back to Charleston, West Virginia, where she lived with her mother when not being treated by various doctors and institutions. Eventually she found solace in a tworoom cabin in Sweet Chalybeate, Virginia, close to her ancestors’ inn, Old Sweet Springs, West Virginia. She died May 20, 1977 in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Betty Jo and Lolly saw their mother infrequently but kept in touch with letters, cards, and drawings throughout the years. Margaret Lynn rarely held her children or felt their goodnight kisses, but she carefully saved and pasted each piece of correspondence in much-handled scrapbooks. When our mother died in 2008 we discovered these documents hidden in boxes of family memorabilia. Our mother, Betty Jo, seldom spoke of her mother when talking about childhood years; thus, for my sister, brother and I along with Lolly’s four children, the tattered paper scrapbooks provide us with a glimpse into our mothers’ and our grandmother’s shared past. Love Letters is the story of a mother and her daughters, of words written by two and cherished by one.
Lynnie Bruce October 12, 2009
â€œWhen my mother comes over she helps me. I get an A. I wish she would be here to help me everyday. When I come over to see Lolly she makes me feel very jolly. I wish I could be there to see her everyday.â€?
â€œ... on the back I have drawn some illustrations of my spring summer clothes. I now have three dresses, a coat and some new shoes. Love, Betty Joâ€? February 22, 1944
Sweet Chalybeate, Virginia
A mother's scrapbook of her two daughters' correspondence.