Tales of Mom 7

 

The Meeting

By Trudy A. Martinez

The next night Terry waits; he arrives early at the set meeting place. Nine O’clock comes and goes, but no Nellie Mae. All the while he is thinking, “She’ll be here any minute.” Occasionally, he pulls out his pocket watch, flips it open to check the time, and tells himself, “In a minute, she’ll be here, in a minute.”

After a while, he gets out of the automobile and walks around, pacing back and forth. He is so certain she will come. In his mind he imagines reasons for her delay, “Her daddy must be up late dealing with a household problem; or he’s preparing for Sunday’s sermon.” When the cock crows and the sun hit the horizon, he knows his wait is over. He is wrong. Nellie isn’t coming. He waited all night, hoping. He hangs his head down in disappointment, his tiredness overwhelms him, and he dozes off to sleep right there in his automobile just below the hilly crest.

A few hours pass. Terry awakes suddenly.

“I ‘m a man of my word,” Terry tells himself. “I’m going to see her daddy.” He declares,” I don’t just want to court her; I want her for my wife”.

Nellie is at the mill working when Terry came a calling on Pa without her knowledge. Pa is not too happy about the matter, especially since he immediately asks, “May I have Nellie Mae’s hand in marriage.”

Terry’s request comes as a complete surprise. There has been no courting. And Pa knowing Terry’s reputation and all doesn’t help matters.

Pa tells Terry, “I’ll need to get back to you, Terry, on this matter. I just won’t give you an answer one way or the other until I speak with everyone this might affect. And frankly, I just don’t believe you are worthy of my daughter’s hand.”

Terry leaves, thanking him for his consideration.

The whole matter just doesn’t sit well with Pa.

Ma, on the other hand, (remembering five or six years back what happens with Nellie’s friend who had all the prospects of becoming a beau and marrying her), feels a notion to defend her worthiness rather than “bad mouthing” her suitor.

“So she don’t talk proper—most of the time not at all”, Ma says, “She do well with everything else; she cooks, she sews; she be thriftier than most. She do well ‘round here. Don’t she Pa?”

Pa says nothing. Every time he looks, as if he is about to open his mouth to speak, Ma adds a little reinforcement to her argument.

“She knows how to care for the youngins,” she says, shaking a finger at him. “She practically raises them three boys on her own.”

Glancing over at Pa, she seeks acknowledgment, “Ain’t that right, Pa?” She asks.

“Of course it is—you know it too”, she answers for him. “She be up every mornin’ before the cock crows milking old bitsy.”

Pa, (thinking she might reconsider her approach if she thinks about how Nellie’s marrying will affect her) asks quickly before Ma has a chance to take a breath and start in again, “What are you going to do without her, Ma?”

“I—be missing Nellie —that for sure.” Leaning over close to Pa’s ear she suggests, “This boy wantin’ her. He’s wantin’ to help Nellie talk too. We cannot let him slip away. We got to be doing right by her, Pa. She be twenty-two in December”.

After pausing for a moment to gather her thoughts, she starts in again, reminding him of past mistakes they make.

“If you ask me that question: “What are you going to do without her?” Before you scare the poor little Griffin boy, Earl, away, Nellie be married now with youngins of her own. We never see him no more, not even on Sundays.”

Neither considers Nellie’s feelings on the subject, but they decide amongst themselves to let Nellie decide for herself.

Ma tells Nellie when she returns home from the Mill, “Terry came by to see Pa, asking permission to courts ya, Nellie. How ya feel about it? Does ya want be courted, Nellie?

Nellie nods.

“Then Pa be telling him it’ll be okay for him be courting ya.”

As soon as Terry gets the news, he is at the door. Nellie no longer walks to the Mill every day (except Sunday). Instead, Terry picks Nellie up and drives her there in his automobile; he returns her home in the evening. On Sunday’s Terry accompanies Nellie to her Pa’s church. It is a regular routine until (after a short engagement) Terry pops the question. Nellie accepts. And they both run off and elope; they marry.

 

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(Nellie Mae and Terry Charles on their wedding day)

 

They set up housekeeping nearby. Nellie continues to work at the mill. Terry encourages and instructs Nellie on her speech. They are a beautiful looking couple. Nellie is truly a beautiful woman.

 

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(Nellie made this outfit. She now dresses to please her husband)

Ma and Pa accept the marriage and pray everything will go well with them. Knowing Nellie received the right spiritual training, they feel she will seek the Lord’s guidance in her life as time goes by.

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Tales from Mom (1), The Chicken Feathers

By Trudy A. Martinez

As darkness dissipates the rooster crows, Nellie Mae awakes. She raises her head from an overstuffed pillow, one she personally fills with chicken feathers in her earlier years. Ma said when she is only four, “Nellie, you is old enough to do the chores. Get the basket yonder and come with your mama.”

Tagging after Ma, she watches and learns to gather the eggs for the morning meal. Next to an egg, she discovers her first feather. It is different, not a typical chicken feather, consisting of a hard tube like quill; instead, the quill is underdeveloped and soft; and the feathery portion is white, light, and airy. Holding the feathery fluff up to admire its beauty, its shimmer and shine, it dances out of her hand into the cool morning breeze. Quickly, she seizes the airy fluff from its flight and stuffs it in her pinafore pocket, placing it later in her secret place.

Each day’s journey to the chicken pen produces more. Although her chores involve plucking feathers from the dinner chickens, per-snicker- y as she is, she expresses no interest in them; only the little ones she unveils with the eggs catch her fancy. Perhaps the disinterest in the plucked feathers is why it surprises Ma to learn of her collection.

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(Nellie Mae is the light hair little girl standing next to Pa. Pa is sitting holding her younger brother (at that time). Behind Pa is Grandma Ida. Next are Nellie’s older sister and two other brothers. That is Ma sitting in the chair)

Ma is not snooping in Nellie Mae’s things as you might think; she is cleaning when, knocking over a box, feathers suddenly fly all over the room.

Watching Ma reaching to capture the tiny feathers as they take flight above her head and then float downward like snowflakes on a frosty winter morn is quite a sight. The thrust of her hand, like a burst of wind, sends the tiny feathers scurrying in the opposite direction as she attempts to snatch them from midair.

Catching a few, she vies to put them back; unfortunately, each time she raises the lid as many feathers leave as are put in. Ma, growing weary of the process, leaves the room, snatches an empty flour sack, and yells for Nellie’s help; and they both stuff all the feathers into the flower print sack. A piece of that sack survives in a quilt Nellie later makes.

Tales of Mom 6

 

The Apple

By Trudy A. Martinez

As Nellie reaches the top of the hilly crest, she stops and glances back at Terry’s automobile moving down the road. Her mind wanders, as she cuts through the pasture, until she comes across Pa’s horse, Heartthrob. She remembers standing nearby watching her Pa jaw his tobacco, when a church member came by with a horse. “This horse has an ailing leg,” he said. “I can’t make use of him, neither can I put him out of his misery, just don’t have the heart for it. Would you care to take him?” He asked.

Pa nods in the affirmative, takes a few more chews on his tobacco, lends over to the right slightly, and spits, before he properly thanks the man. “Much oblige,” he says, thanking the man. “Appreciate you’ll thinking of me instead of putting him down.” Pa is known for his ability to work miracles (so they say) on such creatures. Animals take to Pa.

After the man leaves, Pa mixes up a remedy, plasters it on Heartthrob, and wraps it snuggly the horse leg, and sets him out to pasture. Before too long, the horse is doing much better; and the mare who shares the pasture with him is with foal.

Next to the pasture stands an old apple tree; this tree holds special memories and a special secret. When the family first moves from Sherman to the Denison farm, the huge apple tree is dying.  It has only one live limb. The rest of the tree looks desolate, and appears nearly dead. On the last remaining branch, there is one large red apple (not quite ripe) hanging for everyone to see.

Papa tells all us youngins, “Do not touch that apple;” he points to it and reiterates, “That apple is mine!”

There is no arguing with Papa; what he says is law. He is a kind man, but he is also a stern man. When Papa lays down the law, you know he means business and you better stay on the narrow path and do right by him.

The secret of the dying tree embraces and haunts Nellie Mae from time to time. Her mind rehashes the temptations wearing her down.  “I could resist, Lord. I just could resist. Try as I may, I could not resist; it was so red; I was so hungry.”

The echo of Papa’s voice telling her ”do not touch that apple” rings in her ear as she plans and as she climbs the tree anyways.  “I got the apple, Lord.  I sat under the dying tree, Lord.  And I ate that apple, the same one my Papa forbade me to eat.   It was the best.  It was juicy.  Never had I tasted an apple so sweet. Forgive me Lord.”

Papa asks, ‘Who ate my apple?’

He never asks directly. “Nellie did you eat my apple?”

Nellie Mae says as she rehashes the memories of her failing. “Someday I’ll tell Pa, someday, but not today.”

Heartthrob takes the blame by default for the missing apple. He is the right height to reach up and grab it. Nellie buries her shame and her actions deep in her memory telling herself, “Someday, someday, but not today.”

Tales from Mom 5

Off the Narrow Path

By Trudy A. Martinez

Seeing the farmhouse up the road and wanting to get out of the car now, her hand touches his.

“You are sweet,” he says when he feels the gentle touch of her hand. Smiling, he turns to gaze upon her beauty, expecting a similar greeting in response. However, this is not to be.

Nellie, disturbed that he interprets the touch of her hand incorrectly, pulls her hand away. A stiff rigid frown replaces the once smooth lines of her smile. “O-op!” she wails, touching his hand again; this time her touch is more like a jab, and she quickly pulls it away.

“What is the matter, pretty one?’ He asks, not knowing whether the sudden change in her demeanor or the sound of her voice enlists his attention more. “You said something: ‘‘O-op’—you want me to stop?”

She nods, feeling a sense of dread quickly replaced by a sense of relief when he puts his foot on the brake pedal.

“There’s no farm for at least a half mile,” he remarks assuredly, adding“, and that is the Preacher’s,” Suddenly realizing by the look on her face he has kindled another fire with his words, he asks, “Are you the Preacher’s daughter?”

She trembles as memories of the past flash before her. Just thinking of how her Pa might react sends chills down her spine.

“You are—are you not?”

She nods slowly, not wanting to acknowledge her heritage although she knows she must. Nellie feels no embarrassment, what she feels the most is fear though not for herself but for him.

“Doesn’t matter,” he says, declaring sincerely, “I still want to see you again.” Then he asks, “When can that be?”

Shrugging her shoulders, she descends from the automobile, thinking, and “If I ignore his questions, they will stop”. However, Terry’s persistence continues and finally prevails.

“How about seeing you Sunday for Church?” He asks.

Nellie Mae keeps her silence. Her eyes grow in size, reflecting the fear in her demeanor, as she forcefully swings her head to and fro’ (from left to right) to express her negative reply. “Church,” she thought“, is the last place I want to be seen with a beau.”

“Are you afraid of what your Pa will say?”

Astonished by his response, her eyes grow even larger. She thinks he can read her mind. Nevertheless, that is not so; it is her eyes he is reading like the words on the page of an open book.

“What time does he go to bed?”

Not imagining why he asked, she holds up eight fingers before she turns to walk away.

“Wait”, he pleads, “Then meet me here at nine o’clock tomorrow night”, adding an afterthought, “After he goes to bed.”

Flustered by his request, she hesitates.

“If you don’t say yes, I’ll be pounding at your daddy’s door, asking him”, he threatens as he jumps from the vehicle and approaches her.

Thinking, “He is a lot like Mr. Peabody”; she nods under duress.

“You know, pretty thing,” he says, looking into her expressive eyes“, you say more with them eyes, and nods and gestures than most women do with a thousand words”.

Nellie blushes shyly, dropping her face from his sight.

His hand catches her head just under the chin; tilting it back, he kisses her tenderly on the mouth. “I’m going to teach these lips to speak,” he says.

She pushes him away, turns, and runs toward the hilly crest, thinking, “That is all I need—him to be laughing at me like the others”. Oh, how she wants to talk like other people without hearing laughter after each word she speaks. “Can he really teach me?” She asks herself.

In her mind, she considers his good qualities. Patience, manners, and education rank the highest. His mother taught him well. Though his mother is the local schoolteacher, the same one who gave Nellie such a hard time when she went to school, she feels just because she is his mother if anyone can teach her to speak he can.

“Nine tomorrow,” he yells after her.

Tales from Mom 4

Tales from Mom 4

By Trudy A. Martinez

This morning one particular patch on Nellie’s handmade quilt captivates her eye, bringing with it sweet memories; it is plain, not particularly pretty, just thin grey stripes on a yellowing, once white, background. Terry, a bright adventurous young lad, wore a shirt made of that same material the day he asks for her hand. Nellie Mae first catches Terry’s eye at the “Miss Perfect” beauty contest, an annual event that brings all the prettiest young compatriots into town as contestants and all the men and boys, both handsome and ordinary, as onlookers.

Participating in the contest never enters Nellie’s mind when she starts for town in her Sunday best dress.  Swatches of the material from the outfit she wears, strategically placed on the ‘crazy quilt’ pattern, surround the gray stripped one. As Nellie Mae’s gently caress the swatches with her hand, her memories surface and intermingle.

Seeking a job at the local mill is foremost in her mind and her reason for making the trip to town. Three younger brothers, whom she cares for since birth, are all in school now, freeing her to work outside the farm.

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(Nellie’s three youngest brothers)

Before she sets out for town, Ma gives her some words of advice; those words are still lingering in her ears a few miles down the road. “First impressions are lasting ones—just hand them your papers—smile—but keep quiet. You hear me?” Nellie finds herself nodding her head as she walks, just as she did when Ma first said those words to her, when suddenly her concentration is broke by the sound of a familiar voice, a young neighbor woman who lives down the road.

“Nellie Mae–Nellie, wait up, Nellie Mae”, a young woman hollers as she hurries to catch up.

Nellie stops cold and stares at the lanky young woman running to meet her. It is Molly. The awkward appearance of her long legs, stretching out and sort of swinging back in place as if being maneuvered by the strings of a puppeteer, brings a smile to her face. “Nobody’s perfect,” she thinks..

“Still not talking?” Molly asks once she catches up with her. “You know you can—I mean to me—I never laugh like others.”

Nellie says nothing. She just smiles. It is true, Molly never laughs at her. Regardless, Nellie Mae has no desire to talk. “What the sense in talking,’” she reflects, “When I think what to say, it sounds good—in me mind—but when I open my mouth, garble comes out.”

“Are you entering?” asks Molly.

Surprised by Molly’s question, Nellie’s eyes grow in size, as if frightened by some unknown monster, and her head shakes vigorously to show her negative reply.

“Why are you dressed up then?”

Struggling to communicate while handing Molly her papers, she manages to mouth, “m-mm–,” before being interrupted.

“You’re going for a job?”

Nellie nods, feeling a sense of relief from Molly’s postulation.

“You can do them both—you know.”

Keeping silent, she shrugs her shoulders, hoping Molly will drop the subject.

“No need of talking—you’re pretty enough—just have to let them measure you—walk across the stage—that is all. All the beaus will be whistling when they see you. You have a beau, Nellie?”

Nellie shakes her head; lowering it, she meditates, “God knows I wants a beau—but them young ones been taking all me time. My baby sisters done got one—they’ll marry before me.”

Interrupting Nellie’s inner reflection, Molly blurts out, “Then you just got to. You are sure to win—win a beau too.”

Her eyes suddenly show interest in what Molly is saying. “Perhaps”, she contemplates, “This isn’t such a bad thing—if I get a beau”. Although she did not speak a word, her decision to enter becomes shared knowledge just from her reaction.

Deciding to walk to the mill with Nellie because she fears all her convincing will be for naught if she lets her out of her sight, Molly tells her, “I be going with you to the mill—for support.” She knew, though most of the local industries lay off workers, the mill is still hiring some. “I hope she’ll be getting the job”, Molly utters to herself. Arriving at the gate, she leans against the fence and lingers, leaving Nellie to enter alone.

Remembering back a few years, Molly thinks, “It’s better to be poor than rich.” Perhaps, she is right. After all, the Wall Street crash did not affect the poor as it did the rich. How can you lose something you never had? Money is not as important to the poor, at least not in the same way. In our small town, only Mr. Beacon dabbles in the market.

Mr. Beacon paid dearly for his adventurous nature—left his family (May he rest in peace) without a penny. Beacon’s reaction to his fate of losing all his worldly possessions left a lasting impression upon Molly, leaving her to think, “The poor are blessed by God and the rich man condemns himself with his greed”. A short time passes before Nellie returns. Molly catching sight of her coming out jumps up and down impatiently waves her arm to attract her attention. “You get it?” She asks as Nellie Mae draws near.

Smiling, Nellie nods. As her head oscillates, a ring of gold, like a hallo, forms from the sun’s reflection ricocheting off her brown hair.

“Good—now, come on or we be late.” Molly remarks as she clutches Nellie’s hand and leads her away toward town where the contestants are gathering and giggling and carrying on. On the way, she stops to give her pointers on how to walk and move her body just so, explaining, “When you are walking on the stage, these exaggerations are okay, accepted even.”

Nellie Mae watches Molly with eager eyes. Although, in her mind she wonders, “What’d Pa say—him being the preacher and all?” Not wanting to think about how he might feel about her walking with her hips swinging from side to side in such a way and attempting to push all such deliberations from her head, she tells herself, “He don’t got to know about it.”

Nonetheless, she finds herself placing her hands over her ears as if to drown out his words: “The devil will be tempting you—tell him No! This is the road to Hell.”

Removing her hands from her ears she reasons, “Surely, is no sin to finds me a beau”, and she sashays forward, mimicking Molly’s movements.

“You’ve got it!” Molly acclaims just as young, overconfident man, who has been following the two women and watching their every move, approaches.

“Howdy—are you new to town?” His deep voice intrudes upon their enmity, leaving Molly irritated and Nellie in awe.

“You know we are not new to town.” Molly replies sharply, shaking a finger at him while thinking, “He is still using the same line”.

Nellie, on the other hand, smiles. “Such a comely man,” she thinks, “Tall, dark “.

Fixing his eyes in a steady intent look, he cuts Molly off with his astute reply, “I wasn’t speaking to you”. Then the tone of his voice softens and his eyes sparkle as his attention draws toward Nellie, “I was conversing with this lovely lady here”.

Acting like a mother protecting her young, Molly lashes out at him, “She is not for the likes of you, Terry. She has set her sights a might higher.”

“Let the little lady speak for herself,” he quickly responds. He is not in the habit of giving up so easily; and he is not ready to let someone else decide whom he can approach, especially a woman.

Nellie says nothing; letting her eyes drop, a smile forms discreetly on her face. She is feeling special, experiencing emotions new to her. In a sense, she is like a child in a candy store with a shiny copper penny, craving a sweet morsel in a glass display case priced beyond her reach; she can only look and dream of tasting the sweetness.

Molly, on the other hand, feels obligated as a friend to protect Nellie from the likes of Terry. Therefore, when he asks her to back off, standing firm to her conviction, she does the opposite. “She doesn’t talk, especially to the likes of you. Get yourself away from us! You hear me?” She shouts as she waves him away with her hands as if she was shooing a pesky fly.

Ignoring Molly’s outburst, Terry turns to Nellie. “Be seeing you later, little lady?” He asks, looking directly at her. Even though he asks a question, the expression on his face and his body language conveys a promise.

Nellie remains quiet. Raising her head, she bites her lip, glares up at his towering figure with her brown eyes sparkling, expressing a desire to know him before he turns and strolls away.

“The gall! That is no beau for you, Nellie. He be scum. You best be listening to me,” she says, attempting to draw her attention away from him. “He only be after one thing—there be others. Just look at him flirting with them women—He be drawn from one to another like a bee to the flowers.”

Molly did not need to tell Nellie to look. Her eyes stuck to him like a fly to sticky paper, lacking the ability to pull away.

“Come on”, Molly says as she nudges Nellie. “We best hurry. They be lining up to measure.” The two young women speed up their pace, seeing the stage just ahead with its decorations of Red, White, and Blue streamers, flapping in the breeze. It is not the Fourth yet. Regardless, it is just as festive and the colors are there, signifying the spirit of the crowd and the American way.

Some see the contest as a chance for women, at least one, to aspire without marching off to Washington for their rights as Miss Beacon did with the high society women in her earlier years. She said, “I was helping to carry the ‘How Long Must Women Wait for Liberty?’ Banner when the police arrest me along with about 100 others.” Objecting to her plight, she did the only thing she thinks she can to gain the upper hand: She refuses to eat. Naturally, the men in authority cannot let her keep an upper hand; so they force feed her, holding her down, stuffing food in her mouth, pouring water in, and pitching her nose so she cannot breathe, forcing her to shallow against her will.

Standing next to the stage, old Mr. Peabody is doing the measuring and some forcing of his own. Occasionally, he makes excuses for the slip of his hand. “Pardon me,” he will say, “I didn’t mean to touch you; my hand slipped a little”, giggling profusely as he speaks, he will ask, “You will pardon me won’t you?” Now what is a woman to do but pardon him—him being the Judge and the damage already done?

A woman has to watch her reputation, making an accusation might damage her permanently. Look what happens to Mary Belle. She is just walking home—she accuses a man. In spite of what transpires, she is the one who leaves town because everyone says, “She is spoiled.” After Peabody gets his jollies and finishes the measuring, the band starts to play, bringing all the onlookers’ prior activities into abeyance.

The crowd consists mostly of men. Of course, Miss Lilly Beacon is there too, with her sign in one hand, waving over her head so everybody can see she is against the whole affair, and her parasol in the other, shading her pale skin from the sun, and seeking a different sort of liberty. Her stance on life changes considerably after her daddy leaves the scene. Now the letters on her sign are so big and bold there is only room for one word: REPENT. In her eyes for a woman to parade, when the parading is for the satisfaction of a man, is a sin.

Miss Lilly and her parasol are a most familiar sight to Nellie.

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Every Sunday without fail after Church, she does some parading of her own. She comes to the farm dressed in all her finery with her parasol in hand and invites herself to supper, never offering to help Ma. Instead, while Ma silently rushes around fixing the supper, Miss Lilly sits out on the front porch in Ma’s rocker with Pa, talking and spinning her parasol.

Nellie overheard one church woman say one Sunday morning, “I do declare, Lilly Beacon has her eye on the Preacher, making her claim on him before Katie, as sickly as she is, has a chance to meet her maker.”

If Ma has similar feelings about what Miss Lilly is doing on the porch with Pa, she keeps her silence, acting like there is nothing to all the gossip.

Hearing the sound of Molly’s voice brings Nellie back into the present.

“No wonder she be an old maid,” Molly whispers.

Nellie drops her eyes, pretending not to hear and ponders, “Maybe I ought not—she’d sure tell—Pa will sure be–,” when Molly, pushing her forward, interrupts her musing.

“Your turn—smile and remember what I shows you!”

Nellie seeing Terry in the front row watching her every move and glaring at her with his big dreamy eyes, steps onto the stage, walking just as Molly shows her, and smiles. Whistles fill the air along with several loud wolf howls and the screeching voice of Miss Beacon, wailing, “Repent ye sinners!”

At mid-stage, Nellie Mae turns to face the Judges, smiling; then she swings around and finishes walking across the stage, as the whistling and howling continue, to where the other women who went before line up. She never before felt the way she did now, fearing discovery, yet all glowing inside. She justifies her feelings by questioning, “How can this be a sin?”

Molly came next. When she gets to the other side of the stage, she finds her place next to Nellie. The three Judges put their heads together to decide the winner while the women stand, giggling among themselves, anxiously waiting. “You’re going to win, Nellie,” Molly whispers.

Mr. Peabody, the official representative for the Judges, steps to the center stage, clearing his throat”. Attention! Attention!” He exclaims loudly. “We have a winner! With his tongue, half hanging out and panting like Pa’s hound dog just before he pounces on a downed opossum, he says, “Prepare you–”.

Fumbling and retrieving a slip of paper from his pocket, he regains his composure. “First the measurements,” he says, straightening his jacket and calming himself. Imitating the doleful howl of a wolf, he begins to build suspense by drawing out and lingering on each syllable. giving a few extra ones for emphasis, “Thir—ir—ir—ty–,” he howls before connecting the last digit, “Six”.

Pausing for a moment, he waits for the whistling to die down, occasionally motioning with his hands in a downward direction signifying the response he expects of them. “Twenty-six!” He exclaims with excited emphasis, clinching his fist raising it in the air as the echoing wolf howl coming from some crowd member drowns out all attempts of the others to whistle.

The final measurement, “Thirty-six,” races off his tongue like thunder, explodes, and shoots like a bolt of lightning through the crowd as he swings his arm out toward the young participants and opens his hand to introduce the winner, “Miss Perfect—“

The screeching voice of Miss Beacon cuts through his announcement like a knife at the very instant he pauses, gasping for air. “Pray for redemption,” she shrieks.

Taking a deep breath, he fills his lungs with air, expanding his chest like a balloon. His words, when released, reach every tone on the musical scale like a bouncing ball out of control, “—Miss Nellie Mae, gentlemen, your Miss Perfect! Your girl!”

Nellie Mae stands motionless, not knowing whether to run and hide or to jump with joy. Running and hiding seems to her the most logical. She wants desperately to do both.

“Get yourself over there—you wins–you silly girl,” Molly says encouragingly as she shoves her forward. “Didn’t I tell you so?”

Just the thrill of being in the contest is enough for Nellie—winning really did not matter and was the farthest thing from her mind. Yet, here she is, blushing and smiling, and there is the crowd going wild; they are still whistling and hollering as one Judge delivers a bouquet of yellow roses to Nellie.

Accepting the flowers, she wonders, “How am I going to keep them from Pa?” She walks over to the other contestants who appear about to cry. Wanting to comfort them, she gives them each a token rose, leaving herself without.

“Ain’t she something”, Peabody says. “Sharing all those roses with the others.”

There is a picnic after the festivities. However, Nellie and Molly excuse themselves. Instead of joining in, they start back up the road toward home, giggling as girls do, until they reach the edge of the Mc Guire farm. There they say their goodbyes, and they hug each other. Molly asks, “Be seeing more of you now?”

Nellie nods. Molly turns to walk away. As Nellie waves and watches her cross the field, she wonders if the rumors she hears are true. “How could they be?” She questions. “She chased all the men away. She didn’t chase them.” Nellie overheard Miss Beacon tell Pa about another matter last summer. “Surely,” Nellie thinks, “ Her mama wouldn’t – couldn’t consents to such a thing. Enough of such thoughts”, she tells herself, “I am late.”

Knowing Ma will already be starting supper and wondering and worrying about her, she speeds up her pace. Behind her, she can hear one of those motor cars coming up close. She steps to the side of the road, allowing it to pass by. However, the vehicle slows and the horn toots, drawing her attention.

“Want a ride?” Terry asks.

Nellie shakes her head no as she continues walking, ignoring her inner desire to answer affirmatively.

“Come on, I won’t bite,” he says, attempting to convince her he is not as bad as Molly might have told her.

After looking his way, she quickly turns her head back and shakes it no again.

“I know you want to; I can tell by the look in your eye. Why,” he says, showing his large white teeth when he grins. “You’re even biting your lip to keep from smiling. Come on”, he pleads, attempting to coerce her into changing her mind, adding convincingly, “I’ll be a perfect gentleman. If you want me to stop,” he says, revving the motor of his vehicle. “You need only put your hand on mine.”

Contemplating, “What harm will be done by it?” She spontaneously, releases the tooth hold on her lip, smiles, and nods her head.

Bubbling over with joy because his persuasive tactic manipulates the moment, Terry halts the vehicle and gets out. He is on his best behavior. He opens the door for her and helps her to step onto the runner board. He returns to the driver’s seat only after she is secure in the passenger seat and he has shut the door. Triumphantly, he accelerates. “Do you ever talk?”

She shakes her head no—then nods.

“What kind of an answer is that?” He asks, “No? On the other hand, could she mean yes? Which is it?” Searching, he seeks a sign that will give him his answer. He steals a glance at her now and then.

Nellie Mae sits motionlessly, wanting to answer but unable to gather enough courage to attempt such a feat. Consequently, silence prevails as they traverse up the road toward the farm.

After a short while, the stillness breaks. “Oh I get it—it’s like Molly said”, He says, “You choose whom you talk to.” Then he asks, “Do you only talk to those you trust?”

Nellie nods her head, hesitantly. She finds herself praying for the courage to break the vow of silence she placed upon herself so many years ago.

“What will it take for you to trust in me?” He asks.

She shrugs her shoulders, not knowing what it will take.

“Well, pretty lady,” he says proudly“; this here man is going to do everything he can to earn your trust.”

 

My Aunt Peg

“My Aunt Peg”

By Trudy A. Martinez

How do I describe my Aunt Peg? I have difficulty finding enough adjectives. She once told me, “God broke that mold when I was born.” She was born on April 19, 1917 to her parents: Blanche Jones and David Smith. I think she was right–the mold was broken–because the Aunt Peg I knew was one of a kind.

Of course, she was always right! She said, “It’s my parents fault!” And when I asked her what she meant she said, “Anytime you put a blank-ka-de-blank Smith with a blank-ka-de-blank Jones–you’re bound to get something unusual!” And unusual she was! She made a lasting impression on everyone she met and I know she did on me.

In preparation, I was going to share a few moments with a collage of pictures. I needed something to put the pictures on. At first, I thought I’d use one of Peg’s quilts–but I didn’t want to take a chance of messing up one of her masterpieces. So I got into this box Aunt Peg had shown me that had some sample patterns she had fixed so I’d be able to figure out how to put them together. Beautiful Patterns–but they were put together where everything fit together perfectly–uniform like–you know what I mean?

But as Aunt Peg always said, “You can’t put a square PEG into a round hole.” The perfect patterns were Aunt Peg’s creations–Aunt Peg was not perfect. So I certainly couldn’t fit MY AUNT PEG on a uniform pattern–She’d look out-of-place!

So I dug to the bottom of this box, there I found–I found these unusual little squares that Peg made–they didn’t match–yet they did–what I mean–is the squares didn’t match each other–but when I sewed them all together–they matched my Aunt Peg! –as a result I had a peculiar quilt! I think she’d be proud–that the first quilt I attempted represents her life.

Those bunch of squares looked like they were put together without rhyme or reason! There are still rough edges on the quilt. But I think you’ll agree: My Aunt Peg had a lot of rough edges! The lines go every which way—in all directions. Her life did the same. I was asked what my Aunt’s occupation was. I couldn’t answer that question with one answer. Because in her life time, she had many occupations:

She told me once–she drove a one of those big trucks. The owner of the truck wired four by four’s to pedals, so her short legs could reach them. Texas had both wet and dry counties. She attempted to make them all wet by running bootleg in that truck over those county lines. I didn’t believe her. But her dad, my granddad, confirmed it.

She worked on the assembly lines during world-war II, making radios.

She drove a greyhound bus across the United States.

She sang in a Nightclub. Her favorite song was “Peg of my heart I LOVE YOU!”

She was a hairdresser.

It was 1936 when my mother and Aunt Peg’s life were thrown together. As my mom tells it, Peg thumbed (hitchhiked) her way back to Texas. When she got to Texas, she got Don Mac Kennzie’s (her second husband) Open Top T Model Ford, one of those one-seat-jobs with the rumble seat in the back and NO TOP, picked up my mom, and headed for California. To make a long story short, the highlight of their trip took place somewhere outside of San Diego on a hill or mountain with an elevation of 6,000 ft. It was freezing cold. And it was Middle-of-the-night. The brakes on the car went out. Peg, as stubborn as she was, was determined to make it down that hill, brakes or not. So she took my mom’s quilts and threw them over mom’s head, telling her to keep her head down and then she took off down the mountain without any brakes. That was only the beginning. Aunt Peg ran without brakes ever since.

The diagonal pattern that extends top right corner of the quilt to the bottom left corner represents her travel through life.

Very few of her occupations were rewarded with money. And very few squares in the quilt have the money green color. However, the PEA GREEN color (as she called it) can be seen through out the quilt. This color represents the occupations she took on without reward and the outward-stretched lines of the diagonal pattern represent her giving nature:

1. She was a Nurse. She cared for her sick mother, My Granny Blanche, for years–until she died in 1957 at the age of 63.

2. She was a relief mother to my mother, Nellie De Juan. The only vacation my mother ever got was when My Aunt Peg hauled all four of us monsters off with her for the experiences of our lifetimes.

The experiences we had on those trips could fill a book. Once, (and only once that I can recall) I gave her some problems. It all started with her sticking up for me and being protective of me like a mother hen. But My Aunt Peg, with her colorful speech and fiery eyes, got herself arrested for being drunk and disorderly when all she had had to drink was coke-a-cola–and it was my fault! My granddad let her sit in jail for a day to cool off, for fear she might kill me. On the way home that same trip, she stopped at a greyhound bus station, bought a ticket, and put me on it, thinking I was headed for home. However, that didn’t happen. The bus broke down, leaving me stranded in Las Vegas for eight hours. And when I finally got home–my mom had moved. It took me two days to find her. And then the feathers flew–I’m not going to go into what happened to me and My Aunt Peg when my mother got wind of it.

3. She was a seamstress and dressmaker. Every year a few weeks before school started, we all went to Aunt Peg’s and Granny’s. There Aunt Peg, cut and sewed our entire wardrobe for the coming school year. On one of those trips Granny told me, “Your Aunt Peg is all bark and no bite! She yells and hollers to keep control.” She said it had something to do with her being so short. Her brother, my dad, was 6′ 4″ and yelling and screaming kept him at arm’s length. And we were getting so big she was scared we’d clobber her someday the way he did. Granny, without Aunt Peg’s knowledge, egged me on to get her down in a hammer hold and make her say uncle. When I did, my Granny laughed so hard–I thought she was going to keel over and die laughing. However, now that I had her pinned, what was I going to do? I couldn’t get up for fear of death. You would have thought I had pinned a sailor who had been out to sea too long. Aunt Peg’s voice got hoarse before she said UNCLE–I still didn’t let her up until she promised she wasn’t going to kill me and I didn’t EVEN then –until she started laughing.

4. She was a teacher. My Aunt Peg and Granny had their own chickens in her backyard in Los Angeles. It was quite a sight to see her chase the chickens around the yard. I didn’t watch the rest. Then she brought the chicken in the house, minus its head, plopped it in a pan of boiling water, and told me it was my job to clean it. I plucked the feathers. I managed that feat and I thought I was through. However, Aunt Peg said I wasn’t. I had to clean it too. All my excuses: “I’m only nine (9)” “Get my brother–he loves to do gory stuff”, failed. She stood behind me–I cried–but I cleaned the chicken, pulling out an egg I quenched and said, “There’s an egg in here,” and Aunt Peg replied in her colorful manner: “Where did you think a blank-ka-de-blank egg comes from?” With this experience and many, many others, she instilled in me this feeling that there wasn’t anything I couldn’t do if I set my mind to it. 

The words “I can’t” were not in her vocabulary. Even though she only completed the eighth grade, she was not handicapped because of her lack of education. She was her own teacher. She taught herself through trial an error. She could repair a car better than most men–if she wanted to. My Granddad use to call her “His little grease monkey”. Her brother relied on her to fix his car when it broke down. She had said, “I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth, I was born with a wrench in my hand.”

5. She was a gardener and farmer. She loved flowers and plants of all kinds. Her favorite flower was the “Poor Man’s Orchid” (Iris). She was never rich with material wealth. When she lived in the country side of Guadeloupe, California, we located her house for the first time by her fence of “Poor Man’s Orchid’s”. Pete said, “We’re here–this is got to be your Aunt’s!” He was right!

6. She Leather tooled. She made wallets, purses, belts, watch bands, and the like. You had to be special to receive a gift made by her. She did beautiful work. She was an Artist.

7. She was a Quilt maker, self-taught at the age of 55. Her quilts were as unique, as she.

8. She was my Aunt.

Her life went in all directions, just as the lines of the unfinished quilt. She had a zest for life. She learned to ride a motorcycle along with my Uncle Chris late in life after she moved to Ridgecrest because of her health in 1974.

 As you can see by one of the pictures on the quilt, she also attempted riding a Go-cart.

She’d try anything once. Those that knew her knew how generous she was: She would give you the shirt off her if you needed it.

The gingham checks represent–the little bit of country that will always remind me of her. The bright colors and flowers represent the way she lived her life and her colorful and flowery speech she shared with those who didn’t want to do things her way. The red represents her fiery temper.

Even in her death, my Aunt helped me. I was having problems describing her, until I put her little block pieces together and let the pieces she left for me, unknowingly, do it for me. The quilt describes her best–it is unique, just as she was.

In the hospital, when she was stripped of her speech because her vocal cords had been paralyzed from the respiratory tube down her throat, I had an opportunity to communicate her needs for her. I told her to mouth her words and I would read her lips. I told her to go slow because I was rusty. She did. I repeated her words, she nodded. Then I asked her a question–I don’t remember the question, but I’ll never forget the answer. I was speaking her words out loud to ensure what she said was what I was reading from her lips. I asked the question. And she mouthed “Hello”. I said, “Hello”. Her facial expression expressed a question mark. And my sister-in-law, Emily Marquez started laughing and told me she did not say “Hello”–She said, “Hell No!” I turned to My Aunt Peg and said, “That’s not fair, you have to use words that are in my vocabulary.” And Aunt Peg nearly choked to death from trying to laugh.