This is being reposted from another blog that I use to write in. I’ll tell you why that title at the end.
I went to the post office this morning to mail out bills. I saw a woman there standing at the lobby counter. She was making out postal orders for bills. Accompanying her was a little girl….about 6 years old, gangly, skinny, long blonde hair and blue eyes. I thought she looked familiar but could not place her. Driving home, I realized who she was. She was ME. That’s who she reminded me of….myself. I wanted to go back and hug her and tell her that everything would be alright. But, that would have been lying. Because things are not always “alright”, are they? Anyway, this little girl triggered the following memories.
When I was a little girl, my family was so poor that we “couldn’t even pay attention”. My mother was 36 years old when I was born and my father was 56 years old. My father had spent his life working in the coal mines. At an early age, he had a severe case of “black lung”. Black lung comes from working underground in a coal mine and breathing coal dust all day. The coal dust lines the inside of the lungs and blocks breathing passages. So, I never knew my dad when he worked, only after his retirement. The coal companies were not so worker friendly then. We had health benefits and he got a small check. We lived month to month on that small check. With a family of five children and two adults, it was necessary to have a garden. We had a huge garden every year.
Each spring, my mom, dad, and us kids would plant a huge garden….green beans, potatoes, corn, squash, tomatoes, etc. We all had to work the garden. Weekends and after school, we were required to water the garden from a well, pick off tator bugs, corn worms, beetles, etc. We worked hard on that d*** garden. And each harvest, we picked tons of fresh vegetables for canning, freezing, eating, and usually had enough to share with neighbors. The wooded hills behind our house was filled with the different berries of the seasons…..ripe, red, juicy wild strawberries, black, shining blackberries, and even blueberries. We picked berries until our hands were scratched and bleeding from thorns. My mom would can these berries and make pies and cobblers during the winter. She also made apple butter, jam, and jelly. I can still remember the wonderful taste of the berries that we would eat fresh off of the vine while berry picking.
One summer it was HOT…..so hot that even us usually energetic kids just wanted to lay in the shade. The sun burnt down every day. To make matters worse, there was very, very little rain. I can remember our dad yelling at us to quit being lazy and get water from the well to water the garden plants. I was 6 ******* years old. My sister was 4. My brothers were around 8 and 10. My oldest sister was about 13. We had to go fill up buckets in the well house and carry them to the garden everyday. We spent hours picking insects off of the vegetables. Our sunburned bodies soon became dark. It was a pretty miserable summer but it was not unbearable. We would throw water on each other….until we got caught. My mom would take us on long walks late in the afternoon down the cool, shaded path of the holler that led to our house. We ran like little wild animals thru the woods and down to a small creek. Early that summer, though, that creek dried up. When fall came, we didn’t have a whole lot to harvest. Deer and other wild animals came out of the woods looking for food. There food stash was pretty scarce due to the heat. Tator bugs and corn worms had gotten the best of those two groups. We had not been able to buy much garden bug dust that summer and had just not been able to keep up with the insects. No rain had really taken it’s toll on everything……including the berries. My mom and dad did the best they could with what we could harvest. I remember my mom canning beans with blight that she would have thrown away in previous years. Not as many cobblers and pies, either. The berries were canned for winter. I remember the ears of corn on our table that were almost comical because they had so many wormy places cut out of them. It was not a good summer. I had a beagle named Ginger that summer. I loved that dog. My dad sold her because we needed the money. Funny thing……Ginger was not even gone 24 hours before she found her way back home. She had been sold to a man about 20 miles away. He came a few days later to tell us that she was gone….only to see her in the yard. The man was a kind man, though. He would not take Ginger back. Nor, would he take his money back.
Finally, those hot, miserable summer days turned into crisp fall mornings. School started back and we couldn’t afford the new pencils and paper or other supplies needed. My dad broke a cardinal rule and went to talk to a man that owned a local market. The man let him start a small charge account there to get us what we needed. My dad despised debt. He thought that a “good man” would never be in debt. It deeply bothered him that he was in this position. But, as soon as his miner’s pension check came in, he paid the bill. I remember how happy he was that day and what a great mood he was in. He had even bought us some bubblegum and ice cream…..something that we rarely got.
So, things were OK for a little while. Winter came and we ate our canned vegetables and lots of dried beans. My mom had a routine every Saturday night. She would clean the house and mop all the floors. As soon as the last floor was mopped, she made homemade, chocolate fudge. It was soooooo f****** good. We would fight over who was gonna get to “lick the pot”…….take a spoon and scrape the sides of the pot for the still warm candy. But, one Sat. night, after mopping, she went outside to sit on the porch in the wooden swing. So, after just a little while, we (the kids) went outside to see what was up with our candy. She looked like she was going to cry and told us that she didn’t have any sugar or cocoa. We asked if she had forgotten it at the store and she said no, that we had no money to buy any. We were really disappointed but I don’t think as much as she was.
One day, my mom told us (kids) that we were going for a long walk. We were all wanting to go. She made it sound so adventurous. We ended up walking several miles. We ended up at the small market that my dad had taken out credit. My mom told us to wait outside. She was inside for a while but when she came out she had a couple of bags of groceries. Being just kids, I guess it didn’t occurred to us how she got them. She made us promise to not tell our daddy. I’m trying to remember where he was that day but I can’t recall. Then, she went home and made us a batch of fudge…..yummy, yummy, madefromscarch, mommy fudge. After that, whenever my dad was gone, she would give us peanut butter sandwiches, cheese, or something that we had not been having lately.
One day, my dad had gone into town. When he came back, he was so angry that he was redfaced. He ran in the house and grabbed my mom away from the sink where she was doing dishes. He hit her. He hit her hard. No open hand hit. A fist. And he kept hitting her. He quit long enough to scream at her. Her secret was out. She had opened up an account at that local market to get food for her kids. I don’t know how she planned on paying it back. Maybe, with money from selling jams or jellies. I just don’t know. My dad was furious. How could she have done this? She had gone behind his back and gotten credit. He was so angry that I remember me and my little sister cowering under some kitchen chairs. She had embarrassed him. She had bruised his ego. She had defied him. I can still remember the sound of his fist on her back. That awful phlunk sound of fist meeting flesh. She was a tiny woman….5′ 1″ and maybe a 100 lbs. She had no defense. She was on the floor. He was kicking her. He picked up a chair and threw it at her. We were so afraid. Finally, we all came out of our hiding places and started to scream at him to stop. But, he wouldn’t. He was merciless. My older brother jumped on his back, only to be thrown off like a rag doll. Crying, begging, pleading….that’s all we could do. Finally, she lay there as limp as a dishrag. A scared look came across his face and he left the room. I know that he thought he had killed her. We thought that, too. I remember us gathering around her and saying,”Mommy, mommy, mommy” over and over. My oldest sister went and got a cold wash cloth and put it on her face. She wasn’t moving. It was one of the most frigthening moments of my life. Finally, we heard her gasp for air. She laid there for a minute trying to get her breath. Finally, holding her rib cage, she sat up. She was badly bruised, but ALIVE!!!! I hated my dad right then. And although, in later years, in became a much kinder, gentler husband to my mom, I still hate him for that. She forgave him. But, so far, I haven’t been able to forgive that act of violence. And, I doubt very, very much that I will ever be able to forgive it.
So, little girl at the post office, things will NOT always be alright. And I’m not gonna lie to you
This makes me wonder if some of my rage came from my father. My brother goes into rages, too. Or, does a maybe, something trigger this memory and starts a slow burn that soon becomes a raging inferno. I don’t know.