Desta wasn’t just a pretty bauble or a gorgeous housewife. She was beautiful in the deepest sense of the word. She was her own woman before she knew she could be and before Marlene or Katherine wore pants on screen. A career woman with five children, a supportive mother, and a tender heart.
I guess when your mother is a one-room school teacher you learn a lot. Some might say she had to learn the hard way, but we all become students in the end.
Graduated East Union HS in 1938. She would have been valedictorian if not for a dispute between a teacher and a principal about she and one Miss Smutz. Turns out Miss Smutz was related to one of them. In the end, the Superintendent got involved and called a meeting with families, the two girls, and all parties concerned. The Super thanked everyone for coming and said since an agreement could not be reached, there would not be a valedictorian or a salutatorian. He also declared that there would be two less teachers the next year. Big to-do for a graduating class of only eighteen people.
Desta knew that African Violets needed to be in her east window to stay beautiful and alive. She could grow everything that grew. She loved to have a hand full of dirt – a strange trait for a woman who had also won several beauty contests – the local debutante. She loved sharing her garden with her grandchildren in later years. We worked in the sun, the smell of fresh Indiana soil in our nostrils and the salt of our sweat when we went inside. I tasted my first beer with her … and I also had my first kiss. But that’s another story.
Eventually over the years her back began to slump forward more and more and in her older years she had what appeared to be a hunchback. Her fingers became as big around as toes and she was no taller than 4’8″ if that. But when she looked at you through those bifocal lenses, her angelic smile, cherub like cheeks (even as she earned that boney gait that the elderly tend to have) … Your heart melted the vision before you into a walking talking sugar sweet cookie that was fond of sayings like, ”Bless your heart,” and ”Oh, my!”