Saturday, December 3, 2011

Teressa Jane Reeves Henderson

Long ago, in Little Rock, I had the not so common privilege of actually knowing my great-grandmother. I called her Gambau; my mother and her siblings called her Mamau Henderson. She was born Teressa Jane Reeves in 1879 in Newark, Independence County, Arkansas, a great-granddaughter of Jordan Reeves Jr and Mary Magness, early settlers of that location.

Physically, Tressie was a tiny person. I surpassed her in height by the time I was ten years old. I was fascinated by her pierced earlobes, which hung nearly to her shoulders (or so I thought) from decades of wearing heavy earrings. She swept her long white hair up in a bun that she wore on top of her head. In every picture I've ever seen of her, starting with this one as a young mother, until she died at age 79, her hairstyle was the same, her hair color being the indicator of time passing. A sturdy farm woman, she wore throughout her life the same calico cotton dresses made of feedsacks with button front, inset midriff or belt, and flared skirt ending just above her ankles. I have no doubt that she made those dresses herself, the sewing gene being deeply ingrained in me and my maternal line.

In 1896, Tressie married Johnny C Henderson, a man of diminutive stature, only slightly taller than she was. and had five children, four of whom survived to adulthood. Breaking with tradition, none of her children bore family names: Eula, Opal (a boy), Maudie (my grandmother), Beuna, and Rene (a boy), all names not used (thankfully) before or since in the family.

In this five generation picture taken in 1939, Tressie is second from the left. Tressie died in Little Rock in 1959. The child is my cousin Johnny.

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