Ida M Flood was born in February of 1884 in Virginia. She was the oldest of her siblings, and by the age of 16 was being raised by a single mother. Unfortunately, I have been unable to find what happened to Ida's father. There is a great deal of mystery swirling around her "mulatto" identity, as listed on every census record where her name appears. Following her father's death, her mother took over supporting the family by becoming a cook. At the age of 20, Ida married into the Harvey family. Despite the fact that Ida's father-in-law had been a slave, the family was quite well off.
Following the civil war, Ida's father-in-law ran a thriving tobacco farm. The farm was so successful that the family hired white sharecroppers to work the land, and the family frequently took shopping trips to New York, proving that shopping is in fact in my blood.
By 1920 Ida's in-laws passed away, and she and her husband, Paul, ran the tobacco farm, along with extended family. They had 3 surviving children, Hattie Lee (my great grandmother), Grace and Paul.
I am told that every Sunday Ida cooked a full meal for all the hired hands who worked the farm, skills she no doubt learned from her mother. The kitchen would fill with the smells of dinner and dessert- pies and cakes which my great grandmother helped cook but could not touch. There was a rule in this house- those who worked ate first and to their hearts' content. This family refused to treat the hired hands like slaves. The family would not feast in their faces, or leave them wanting food; they did not receive the left overs or the trash that the family did not want. They got the best, the first, and they could eat as much as they wanted.
Though this was torture for my great grandmother, a child trying to resist the smell of cakes and pies, in case she received none, I am so proud to know this about my great, great grandmother. How easy it would have been to lord their power over the farm hands, to wallow in resentment of the past. Her own father in law, who she lived with for at least a decade, would carry the marks of slavery, and perhaps her own father as well. Ida refused to be like the oppressors of the past, and I love her for it.
May we all aspire to be people who choose our way forward, not based on the wounds of the past- no matter how painful the memories. Let us instead give our best and give it generously.