LIVING LIFE HER WAY
Sarah Lee Bales McGiveron loved being different! She was taller than most of her family—almost six feet tall—and she wore her height proudly. She loved to travel, she lived happily many years with her short and funny husband Frank on a farm in Olean, New York, she was an adventurous cook, she held grudges, she liked to “loaf” and go window shopping.
Her mother Julia (sister of my grandmother Evalee) didn’t quite “get” Sarah Lee. She often wondered aloud why Sarah Lee wasn’t more like my mother Harriett. Sarah Lee shrugged and said, “Well, I should have been Aunt Evalee’s daughter and Harriett yours!”
She adored Frank and they always seemed to have so much fun together. She was about a foot taller than he but that didn’t bother either of them. They never had children but she was devoted to the five children of her only sister Anna Lee, who died young. She and Frank had hundreds of Chinese geese in New York. Arley once bought four of them for our pond—but the Tennessee climate didn’t quite suit them.
After Frank retired, he and Sarah built their dream home between Athens and Englewood—a rustic house with a beautiful view of the mountains. Within a year or two, he had a heart attack and died. Broken hearted, Sarah Lee couldn’t bear living alone in their dream home, so she sold it and moved into her childhood home with Aunt Julia. For some years, she pampered and cared for her mother.
When Aunt Julia was in her 90s and no longer able to get around, Sarah Lee told Mother she wasn’t able to have company. If she needed to run errands, she hired someone to stay with Aunt Julia instead of calling on Mother.
After Aunt Julia died, Sarah Lee moved into a downtown upstairs apartment in a building owned by the Browning Circle Women’s Club. She never drove and this was within easy walking distance of everything she needed. She traveled to visit family and friends in California, Texas, Kansas and other places. And without tension between them over her mother’s approval, she and Mother became much closer.
She took up a new hobby—collecting commemorative liquor bottles and decanters. She never was a drinker but everyone who was began giving her interesting bottles. She also scoured antique shops for finds. Eventually she had something like 3,000 bottles on shelving throughout her apartment.
I especially loved the adventurous recipes Sarah Lee tried! She had one for a sauerkraut salad that was amazingly tasty. Another favorite was her green tomato mincement, with which she baked pies. She also had quite a few “Yankee recipes” from her years in New York.
She was born on this date—March 13—119 years ago, and lived to be 96. Her last years were lonely ones in a nursing home with dementia. I loved this tall, interesting and adventurous cousin Sarah Lee!