The invasion of Graham last weekend – with people from Montana, Kentucky, Oregon and Texas – was Peggy Scheid’s fault.
Family and friends made a big deal of her turning 100, which was nice, but the guest list at son Bill’s 5-acre spread for four days was 21. The party itself? That came close to the 80 invited.
Among those attending was Peg’s daughter, Pluma. And her granddaughter, Linda. And great-granddaughter Jennifer. And great-great granddaughter Alexandria. And then there was the newest member of the clan, Peg’s great-great-great granddaughter, Gabriel.
Six generations of women and, astonishingly, all born 20 years apart.
“That every 20-year thing was an accident,” Pluma said. “A happy accident.”
All weekend, the stories flowed, and there were enough to fill, say, a hundred years.
Peg’s full name is Peggy Krutz Spidel Synovec Hoffman Chestnut Scheid.
“I was married five times, buried three husbands and divorced two,” Peg said. “I decided that wasn’t a very good batting average, so I stopped.”
She was born in Nebraska, ran moonshine with her mother, fetched water from a windmill, saw a tornado pick up her home and put it back down, and survived the influenza epidemic.
“My mother put kerosene and goose grease on all our chests, backs and the bottom of our feet,” Peg said. “We all got through it.”
Somehow, despite crisis and tragedy, the women of the family have all gotten through. Pluma is 80, her daughter Linda, 60. Linda’s daughter Jennifer is 40, and her daughter Alexandria is 20.
The baby of the family, called Gabby by everyone, is nearing her first birthday. She’s a strong-willed child and screamed whenever Peg touched her.
“She hasn’t quite accepted me yet,” Peg said, laughing.
It didn’t dim the weekend even a little bit. In fact, a dress Gabby wore turned into one of the highlights.
“She was dressed in this red polka-dot dress, and I said, ‘Wait a minute, Grandma has a doll with that same material,’ ” Linda said. “We went and found the doll – Grandma said she’d probably made it in her 60s – and it was the same material. We took pictures of Gabby and that doll!”
As for memories, they were everywhere.
“I remember her stories from the olden days when I was a little girl,” Linda said. “I loved hearing them.”
Stories from Peg like these:
• “When I was a child, I met an Indian woman who read bones. She’d throw the bones, pick one or two out and shake her head. ‘So sad,’ she told me. She said I would have nine children but only three would live. When I grew up, I had three children – and six miscarriages.”
• “I remember a cyclone hit our house, lifted it off the ground and set it down facing another direction. All the windows and doors were gone, but in the kitchen our table was untouched, and my Bible was still sitting on it. It blew our dog into a lake.”
• “My father left my mother with five children, the youngest still a baby, and then the Depression hit. Mom had a wicked thimble finger. She’d thump you with it if you’d been bad.”
Peg remembers seeing her first airplane – a biplane – and watching “a woman in a tight outfit and a long scarf’ walk the wings in flight. She recalls fetching water, heating it on a wood stove and only then being able to wash clothes by hand.
She has traveled all her adult life.
“My goal as a little girl was to sit on the steps of every state capital,” she said. “I made it to all but six.”
Since Christmas of 2005, she has lived in Graham in a house behind the home of Bill and daughter-in-law Lynn. The place has everything she needs, including a stove, and she is self sufficient.
But she won’t drive.
“I don’t worry about me, but the other drivers are crazy out here,” she said.
So every week, she is driven to Fred Meyer and stands in the line where her favorite cashier is working. That cashier, by the way, was among the 80 people invited to the birthday party.
Peg has survived cancer, floods and Mount St. Helen’s and done so without changing her attitude about life.
“I start every day as an adventure,” she said. “You can’t control very much in life. When the rug gets pulled out from under me, I start over. My mother used to tell me, ‘Nobody wants to see a sad person.’
“When things are tough, you get though them – or you try. Tears don’t help anyone.”
As some family members said goodbye Sunday, heading for the airport, there were a few tears, but more smiles and even a few laughs.
“We’ll be back for your 105th birthday,” one grandson-in-law or another said.
“Good,” Peg said. “I’ll be here.”