Posted 04-13-2004 at 15:55:29
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By no fault of her own, she was born into the well documented 1930’s United States depression era. Her rural home was of a poor one. The house was old and sagged, sadly weathered and warped, and prone to unstoppable drafts. Three square meals a days were far and out for the norm for her and her sibling brothers and sisters. They were lucky if’en they ate twice a day: and, her mother thanked God for these meager blessings. If it were any miserable comfort for her mother. Conditions weren’t to unlike some the same around and about the other households in or outside their neighborhood across the country.
The child’s unskilled father was unemployed, most of the time. Finding work was difficult, in these penniless times. Having had little education, there was little hope for promising work for a man who could barely read or write. And, jobs for laborers were even scarcer. Then, living in the very furthest rural part of the country where few papers, if any, were ever viewed or read. And, radios were owned only by the better-off. He knew or learned little or nothing of any government jobs projects that might have benefited him and his family.
The older children did their parts in foraging the landscape for edibles. The boys caught fish, fogs, and turtles Summers; snaring rabbits and birds Winters. And, catching as catch can each Spring and Fall. The bigger girls picked berries and greens as the warmer seasons passed. The soil was so poor, about the best the garden could provide were a few potatoes. Other vegetables and fruits were preserved for out of season’s eating; as best as could be done when preservatives sugar, salt, and/or vinegar could be gotten. Apple and peach drops were gleamed of neighbors orchards. Some corn, wheat, and other grains were taken in trade for seasonal harvesting and thrashing labors. Then, the nearby village milled it for home use.
While food was sometimes in unseasonable short supply, warmth was no problem. They heated and cooked with wood; and, firewood as free for the taking from the woodlots near and by, around their home. Getting the wood to the house was also work: that was the price of the fuel. A crosscut saw of the hands-on, non-mechanical variety, was used for cutting, by her father and eldest brother. The timber cut in to manageable tote and splitting lengths was then stored, stacked and chopped outside the backdoor.
The girl child, already a rare, dark eyed, dark haired, beauty at the tender age of two, is already decidedly flexing her independent spirit. One day, she goes outside against her mother’s instructions. In a split flash of a second, she toddles into the un-checkable swing of an older brother’s already wheeled wood-chopping axe. She’s struck hard, knocking her to the ground. Her face was slashed and ripped open by the sharp edged blow of the offensive blade, and she’s bleeding profusely.
No transportation, nor money for a proper physician’s attention and care, she gets no more help than her anguished and powerless mother can only offer or provide for her injury. Her wound is washed, Iodine’d, and bandaged. She’s agonizingly cuddled and rocked to sleep by her mother. The child is steeped in flesh twinging antiseptic, intensely stinging thousands of opened nerve-endings. Nothing more is done for the child, for the lack of simply wished for dollars. The little girl is soothed and cuddled until she drifts into restless, sporadic sleep.
As the days, weeks, months, pass, the child miraculously survives; but, there is a barbaric cost. The child grows with a widely and widening misshapened face. Her lip split almost to her ear, her upper teeth and gum are openly exposed, leaving the girls face a grotesque spectacle, by any gruesome measure of the imagination. Neither physician nor pharmaceutically helped, she’d become an object of ridicules. Her father’s financial inability to do anything for the initail care or the further correction of her unsightly face; he comes to hating the reminding sight of his progeny’s face and her whole being in total. Her father has feigned kicks and slaps at or towards her direction, and had told her “Get away!”. “Get out-a my sight!”. “Go hide”. or “get lost!”.
The child, coming under constant abuse and endangerment around her father, her mother weighs alternatives to appease her husband and hold the healthy majority of her family together. Iy is a fretful time. Too many mouths to feed, let alone finding funds for one child’s corrective surgery is clearly impossible. The best this mother could do for this household is to get rid of the ill-favored child.
It is a very trying time for mother and daughter, each in her own way. The mother knowing her baby’s life is in peril if she keeps this child in their home. Sadly, the hapless child must be gotten rid of. The child also knew of her father’s ever growing hatred towards her person: and sensed her life endangered under his roof, particularly in her night-time’s blackened dreams and nightmares.
The mother has decided her daughter’s fate, and has devised and formed a plan. A sorrowful scheme: she will send her cherished and beloved child into a place her mother has only fantasized about. A heavenly place void of hunger and cold. A place where all the child’s wants and desires might be fulfilled. A heavenly place with a loving father. It will be place the child would have no use for the worldly goods she’ll leave behind: dingy grain-sack cloth dresses, shoes she’s never had, and a sorry doll missing an arm and a leg with one eye that won’t flutter anymore, wearing a dirty rag dress.
One morning, the mother addresses her daughter to prepare herself for a long walk to a neighbor’s for a tinned can of fresh cows milk. Nobody else is around. Her father has gone somewhere, perhaps looking for work. Her brothers and sisters are in school. It is only the two of them, her and her mother. She’s prepared for a daily routine that the child had done in the company of an older bother or sister, on other warmer, bare-footed days, some-several times before. Only today, the routine, it’d be different.
The child is almost been ceremonially prepared. She is bathed in front of the open oven door of the kitchen range the night before. The next morning, her hair is carefully combed and braided with exceptional care. Her mother had clothed her in her finest clean flour-sack dress. It isn’t an exceptional dress, just one that hadn’t been torn or thread worn through. On her feet, she is to wear a pair of outgrown, falling-apart, hand-me-down shoes that she had never worn until that day. It is the best her mother could provide.
Her mother bundled her extra tight, even for Spring. She gave her daughter an extra-long extra-tight loving hug before sending her out the door alone, un-liking a remembered first time but definitely for the last time. The girl wasn’t coming back: her mother knew this: but, the child did not.
The child wondered about her mother’s behavior. The extra care she had taken in her appearance. Then, the super-long, big hug, the extra kisses, and sending her alone for the milk. When by the custom, she had always gone with a brother or sister before.
Even so, trustingly setting out, the child walked stariaght down the road proudly, her mother clearly trusting her, a big girl now, to the task of bringing home a full milk-pail by herself. Never turning around, not looking back, her knobby kneed, spindly little legs carried her, an undernourished body`n’souled little person, further and further away from the only home and loving mother she had ever known. Little is she knowing, she will not see her mother again for some months and/or even years.
The best this loving mother could do is to let a daughterless couple take her damaged and endangered child for one of their own. The child is given safety and future’s sake. A hard and bitter parting in so many ways, for so many people. Yet, it is the mother’s child only salvation. She must let this daughter-child wander into the prearranged safety of another potential parent’s home: perhaps never to lay eyes upon her own family again?
* * * * *
At the farmer’s house, were the child had gone for the milk, she is detained with well-house chilled sweet milk and fresh baked cookies. In the passing of time, the afternoon drifted into early evening. Another neighbor lady stops into the farmers house and takes the child home with her, for the night. The worried child is reassured, her mother knows where she is, and her mother wont mind her staying with the neighbors for supper and the night.
The child eats, a good, all she can eat supper: topped off by a homemade cake with sugar-sweetened frosting. She had never seen a cake before; and, it wasn’t even somebody’s birthday. She is dressed in a comfortably soft, cozy, flannel sheets, all to herself. Best of all, there were no cross actions of contemptuous words laid on her from her father.
Under a new roof, the child is loved by one and allin the new household. Her adoptive parents are,, too, taking and loving her more and more as one of their own, The little girl ate regular, had her own bed all to herself, fresh new clothes - clean clothes. She reluctantly received medical attention and medication when needed. And, she didn’t have to go outside to go potty. She had found a new kindness and peace in her new surroundings. A peace that she hadn’t remembered feeling for a long time, even within her real mother’s loving protection. She is to be a newly-renewed, very important little person.
* * * * *
The young bonny lass is to meet her first beau, her dark brown eyes sparkling innocently melt the very heart of a notable gentleman. A man who’d probably do more for her that would last her the rest of her life than the bravery a Knighted Hero imaginable. It’s start with his looking the lass over with a clinical eye, and immunizing her to childhood diseases. Then, every now and then, the aquiline nosed - grandiose, hawked=nosed, pointy faced, tall physician, would look and study upon the repulsive three cornered mouth, beyond and into the flesh and bone structures of the young girl’s ravaged face. The compassionate Doctor would see again and again.
Scarcely handsome himself, the good Doctor understood the child’s misfortunes circumstances. The Doctor’s own face was a Character factor he had learned to live with: A face his sainted mother or his blindly amour smitten wife could only have loved. His ugliness, so gross, made him in this community’s eyes, a characteristically good-looking man - a distinguishing stately-faced gentleman. None of his patients seemed to notice or see or care of his appearance. The folks in the small Great Lake port and farming community know him for the dedicated, benevolent, and trusted family physician he was.
Be it a routine checkup for a cold or a fevered illness, or an every now and then command audience; which her adoptive ma didn’t seem to mind; the child is brought before the Doctor. Each time, he would caringly looked at her miss happened face with deep study and deeper concern.
He knew this adoptive family, too. They weren’t considered well-off. While this family’s able to hold its depression era. They, too, have no extra funds for a fancy, highfalutin metropolis specialist to look after the child’s injury afflicted face.
Four more years are to pass,. Memories of her biological parents are but shadows, fading way back into the creases of her memory. She’s found and accepted peaceful happiness, with her adoptive parents, The invisible strength of this family, the love, and the ridicule and snide remarks of theles compassionate, less understanding, cruel children in play or at school.
But, it would be a fever and a cough, an inflamed and sore throat, that would be making the beginnings for the next improvement in her young life. She is diagnosed as having a severe case of tonsillitis. That was it! A tonsillectomy is in order. It’d not be an easy decision, the doctor recommends that he wants to attempt a reconstruction of the little girl’s cheek and drawn mouth. An operation, he warns, that would most likely be the first of several.
School is out, the urgency of the throat operation was at hand. The girl will miss the class picnic. Then, as if for, or by retribution the child was told, “Your throat will only hurt a little bit, and you may have all the ice-cream you may eat, afterwards.” coming out of the anesthetic, she finds the good doctor had lied to her. Her face and mouth are numb at fist. Them, the surgery begins to ache: and worse, 1A’ stitch just inside her lip came to hurting so very badly; she can’t bite or chew. She can only sip room temperature fluids through a straw.
She survives both surgeries, and heals. The doctor was pleased with his reconstruction efforts. He had successfully performed in that one operation, what he had originally thought would take two or three! Needless to say, both of them were pleased, the doctor and the young miss. Her face is once again beautiful. Gone is the gash, misshapen her face, and in its place a blushing cheek and a pretty mouth: a set of lip, that, another some-day-beau might just like to kiss?… Yuck!…
Most of all, she had all of her self-respect back! Perhaps, one day, a young man she’d meet, knowing he is trouble, her heart will tremble. By then he’d only see what might be a small scar, as only a minute growth-mark, on the veneer of an astonishing, warm-hearted creature.
* * * * * * * * *
Here this story takes on truths’ serious changes . The story conceived and created with some words of/or thoughts that I had heard and collected in the back of my mind over many years of listening our married life. I wrote the piece, and as is my custom: then, I let my wife read it, explaining that I was sorry-ly trying to write a virtual reality piece, for my creative writing class assignment. A one semester High School enrichment course I enrolled to see if my trying to write something for my children’s children was wasted time. This was a second or third assignment time traveling the closing proximity of our wedding anniversary.
My Frieda sat reading silently, for a sober change, making no mid-draft comment, as she most often times did. I looked at her, looking for that reflected picture of approval; that would come, across her face ; if the tale had any promise of being good. Instead,, tears welled up in her eyes and rolled down her cheeks. She had become a crying mess. When she had finished reading, she looked at me, from watered and red eyed, and finally speaking and asked me, “How did you know?”
“Just putting things you’ve said to me over the years together.” I honestly answered.
Nothing more was said. I had my farm work to be attended to. I dressed for the outdoors and left. That was earlier that morning, right after breakfast.
Coming in for lunch, Frieda was waiting for me. All wound-up like an early nineteen-thirty’s three dollar watch. Over lunch she told me the rest of her story. “One day, my mother had sent me out the door and down that road with a tin pail knowing she would never see me again. I had no idea what my mother and all those people had in store for me… The only,.. The best part of the ordeal’s beginning was when that I needn’t fear my father’s drunken wrath anymore. I was safe!… To be sent out of your home, never to see your mother again!.. That’s virtual reality!…”
Before lunch, I had a troubled mind, thinking the piece not quite good enough, perhaps missing the mark. I had a beginning and an end: only, the middle was missing or weak. I was about to dismiss the story and try again. Then, when she added that part of her mother separating her from the only home she had known. I had heard the tragic reality, tearfully dumped on me. I could no longer let the piece go. That time of her life was virtual reality in some of it’s rawest poorest form lovingly given away for a better life’s chance form.
And, I thought I had had it rough after our marriage?.. What with all the falls, dislocated joints and broken bones, I body and spirit I had endured. Why, she had experienced some of the most horrendous pains unimaginable, as a child, before we had met. It was on wonder she was so understanding and compassionate for me and my painful ordeals, all these married years of our married life…
I can’t imagine loving any other woman, the love I have for this one. I… I am lucky the man to have known and hold dear such a beautiful creature, all of my err our married days!.. So here it is/was ! My thirty-fifth anniversary gift, of understanding, a shared moments anxiety with the love of my life, my wife. I pray us many more understanding years.
Must add one more Post script. I reintroduced my beloved wife back into her beloved mother’s arms. For fear of my own demise, I was to become an even luckier married-man to have known and fall in love with her mother, as well, for her daughter.