Mildred Louise Bondurant
1921 – 2005
Relationship to Fawn: Grandmother
By Richard Gwynallen
As I am writing this, numbers are surging again in the COVID pandemic that has taken more than 800,000 American lives and almost 5.5 million worldwide. Back in 1921, when my mother was born, pneumonia was exacting its toll across the country. It shaped the lives of my mother and her siblings. As I wrote in a previous article, The Bondurants – Keeping a Family Together, my mother’s father died of pneumonia before she was born and her mother died of pneumonia when my mother was two years old.
My mother would have been 100 years old this year. The trajectory of her life took her from farm life in North Carolina to working as a single Mom in small town diners in North Carolina and Virginia to being an Army wife in places such as Japan and California to the final decades of her life in Baltimore. This article is not about the details of my mother’s childhood or young adulthood. Nor is it about her life with my father, which I discussed in Worth and Louise – Falling in Love in the 1950s. Rather, I want to record examples of what I came to see as some of the lessons of her life and some of the very personal things that made her who she was. It would be impossible to convey all the possible little stories, but here I will offer a few. Many of the incidents I’ll record here are things that one would know only if you knew her well, and even then maybe not everyone. It strikes me that some of what gives special color to a person’s life is so intimate that that part of their story doesn’t pass on to future generations. Maybe it doesn’t have to. I’m sure my mother would wonder who would care about these little things. When I would try to get her to record some occurrences in her life, she’d laugh and say, “Okay, but I just don’t know why anyone would care about these stories. My family was as common as dirt.” However, as I would tell her, everyone descended from her would want to know – such “little things” give color to a life (I certainly wish I knew more of them about my grandparents) and often contain some of the main lessons of their lives.