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Bigida - Part I The Warrior

Ida Miller Stewart
Ida Miller Stewart was a warrior. Extremely proud of her Indian heritage, she would have made a terrific Indian chief. She had the unflinching, penetrating gaze of Indians, and a stance that suggested that she was both royalty and invincible. Our family was openly in awe of her. She was aware of her influence and power, but used it wisely. She was more than overseer of our family, she was our fortress. Her children and grandchildren were not to be tampered with. Her sons-in law and acquaintances called her “Big Ida” and knew that she would brook no nonsense when it came to her family. When met with her ire, the offender would meekly retreat.

She had the reputation of being a fighter, a real tough lady. Her exploits (probably greatly exaggerated) were legendary. We, of course, believed every word. Yet, none of us ever saw her fight; indeed, we never heard her voice loud in argument or directives. Who would have dared to dispute her? “Speak softly and carry a big stick” was her motto. Nevertheless, we feared her more than God and accepted her word as gospel.

I will always carry a clear picture of her in my mind: craggy face, deep set eyes, prominent cheek bones, light skin browned by the sun and sprinkled with the freckles that she hated, soft crinkled hair lightly mixed with gray (steel gray would suit her). She carried her height with a proud regal bearing. She refused to allow her grand-children to call her “Grandmother or Grandma. “Grand” symbolized old, and she would never grow old. None of us ever knew for sure how old she was. Her inscrutable face kept her secret well. Big Ida was a grand lady, a matriarch incarnate. We loved her, we respected her, and we honored her. When the impossible happened and she died, we were left defenseless. No longer would she keep the world at bay for us. We were left to fend for ourselves. Our legacy: the inspiring memory of our warrior and chief, Mama Stewart.

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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