18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today:
Saturday, May 10, 1913: Nothing much doing today. I got my diploma this evening. The ones we had at commencement were fakes.
Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:
Congratulations, Grandma! It’s official now, you’re a high school graduate.
Your diploma hangs in my house, and is one reason that I’ve always been so fascinated with you. I’ve told the story before, but I’ll tell it again.
I’m going to repost part of what I wrote on Day 2 of this blog, January 2, 2011:
Helena, Helen or Grandma?
As I work at posting this diary I’ve struggled with what name to use when referring to the diary’s author.
The diary’s author called herself Helena. My grandmother called herself Helen.
I grew up in the farmhouse where my grandmother lived when my father was a child. When I was a teen I found Helena Muffly’s high school diploma in the attic.
I saw Grandma the next Sunday at church. After church I asked her whether her name was Helen or Helena.
She said Helen. When I told her about the name on the diploma. She laughed and replied, “Oh, that was just kid stuff.”
My cousin Stu did a little research on Grandma’s name using the Family Search.org tool. He found that her name is listed as Helena in the 1900 and 1920 censuses–but that it is Helen in the 1910 one.
Helen? Helena? Grandma? It seems strange to call a teen Grandma, but that’s how I think of her. Maybe I’ll just call the author Grandma when I write about her even though she was many years away from becoming my grandmother.
When I was in a college I visited the home of my roommate’s parents. Their family room was decorated with framed old family documents—marriage certificates, birth certificates, diplomas, baptismal certificates and so on.
I immediately thought of Grandma’s diploma in my parent’s attic and the mystery surrounding her name—and asked if I could have it. I framed the diploma and it’s been part of my household décor in the many apartments and houses that I’ve lived in since then.