Birth to almost seven years was a wonderful time for me! I was delivered by my maternal grandmother in mid-August, four months before the USA entered WWII. The rural setting in north Louisiana was abundant in its wealth of fruit, vegetables, peanuts, popcorn sugarcane, and everything needed to have a plentiful, sustaining lifestyle. Cows provided; milk, cream, and butter. Chickens gave us; eggs as well as meat. Grandma was an excellent cook on her wood burning stove. There was no electricity so day to day living was a harsh reality for the adults, but not so for a young growing girl.
When the war began our lives changed. Many of the good fruits of life we had enjoyed changed. Stamps were issured and certain food items were rationed. For example, we could not get sugar so our source of sweetness came from molasses that my grandfather made, or from wild honey, he captured in the woods. Beeswax was an item that was used in candle making as well as smoothing the bottom of a heavy iron used for ironing clothes. These irons were black cast iron and were heated by the fire in the fireplace.
My mother, older brother, and I were living at my mother’s parents from the time I had been born, I’m not sure where my father was at this time. Perhaps he had a job away somewhere. However, once the war started he had to join the army which took him away. My grandmother had two brothers who also had to go to serve their country. An early memory of my father was of a tall, thin, man dressed all in khakis who came to the farm for a visit. He would throw me in the air, and he ate molasses on his eggs. That was the last time I saw him until I was twenty-five and was two when I had the first memory.
Six months went by from his last visit and my mother was six months pregnant with my younger sister when the red cross personnel came to give my mother a traumatic message. They told her my father had gone AWOL and he had gotten another woman pregnant. I can’t imagine the feelings of rage, sorrow, and frustration my mother must have felt. She was about twenty- six at this time. My grandmother was only four feet, eleven inches tall, but she was force to be reckoned with! She said our father would never be welcomed at her home again, and my mother divorced him. The only thing anyone, my grandmother included ever said about him was,”He was handsome, charming, and hardworking when he wasn’t drinking. However, he was always drinking”. He also had a bad temper, was a womanizer and a drunkard. The very earliest memory of my dad was when I was a crawling baby and he was angry and threw a book at me. I crawled under a piece of furniture to escape him. We were living in South Louisiana at in furnished housing. I remember having to walk to get to the bathhouses.
When it came time for my younger sister to be born my mother was taken to the hospital to have her. I don’t recall mother going to the hospital, but I do recall when she was brought home. We small children, my brother, cousins, and I had been left in the care of Momma’s youngest sister. She was thirteen and I was three. We were on the banks of the Ouachita River when we saw this big black hearse driving up. What a sight for us! It was astonishing because we lived thirteen miles from town and hardly anyone in rural Louisiana had a vehicle. This was an impressive car. We rushed to the car to see the new baby. She was a beautiful doll.
After my sister was born my mother settled into a life of caring for a newborn baby as well as a six, and three years old. Life on the farm was hard. No electricity added to the backbreaking work of sustenance and survival. Just getting water from the proper sources was tiring. Pump water for drinking, well water for bathing, and river water for doing laundry. The pump water had an excellent taste, but couldn’t be used for laundry, because the iron content would have turned the whites to yellow. As it was all of the clothes were boiled in a big black, cast iron pot, beginning with the whites and moving on to the dirtiest.
After three years of being single and taking care of three children on a rural farm, my mother was ready for a life that offered her more fulfillment.
To be continued.