Tales of Mom 13


Babies Bring Families Together


After the birth of his son, George Richard, Terry grows up some. He takes notice of his responsibility. He rents a larger apartment at street level. He surprises Nellie with the news; she is overjoyed. No more stairs to climb up and down with the baby. What a relief. Family members visit them to see the new addition to the family.


Peg visits nearly daily either before or after work, helping out when and where she can. Peg is so proud of her nephew, George Richard. (Nellie names him after her Pa, George) “Such a formal name for such a little guy,” Peg tells him. “I think I am going to call you Dickie, she continues. “Your granddad’s name is David; everyone calls him Dick. He’ll be here tomorrow. It will thrill him to know at least his nickname is being carried on. “ (There is an obvious unspoken resentment rising up here because the first born is named after Nellie’s Pa instead of Terry’s Dad) She holds Dickie (George) up so he can see her and says, “I am your Auntie! My name is Aunt Peg,” she hesitates momentarily, “Well,” she continues, “You can call me Aunt or Auntie Peggy, little man. But I am going to call you Dickie.”

Nellie remains quiet. Nellie believes,  “There is no sense in stirring up a hornet’s nest.”


“Nellie,” Peg says changing the subject abruptly, “Don and I are thinking of going our separate ways. He wants to settle down. I don’t. He wants kids. I can’t. He says we can adopt, but I don’t want to.” She says. “Don’s got his bags packed. He will be heading back to Texas and if his old girl friend is still single.” She continues, “He is going to hook up with her when our divorce is final. That is okay by me. We will still remain friends forever.”


(Don is packed and ready to return to Texas)


“Nellie, I figure you can have the kids for both of us. I get them on holidays and vacations. You get them the rest of the time. How does that sound?”


Nellie remains quiet.


“Someone’s at the door, Nellie. I bet it is my dad; he is always early. Don’t bother to get up. I’ll answer it for you,” Peg says.


Peg goes to the door. Sure enough, it is her Dad.


“I hear I am a Grandfather,” he says as soon as the door opens. “It is about time. I was beginning to wonder if I’d be getting any of those. Good work, Nellie. Where is my grandson?”



(Nellie Mae, Peg, George Richard (Dickie), David (Dick) and Betty)



Nellie wonders, “What kind of family have I married into?”

Thinking to herself, “Ma and Pa only be married to each other. When they marry, it is till death do them part.” She wonders why it is not the same for everyone else. “When I marry, I say vows. I mean what I say. I expect my husband mean what he say – in sickness, in health, till death do us part.”

Peg now be losing her second husband, willingly. Her Dad and her Ma both go their separate ways. Betty is her Dad’s girlfriend. Peg’s Ma is going to marry again. What am I to think of this? Perhaps, it is not my place to wonder. I can hear my children someday asking: ‘Why do I have so many grandmas and grandpas?’”

“I don’t want to have to answer that question.” She says.


“I am home.” Ted announces when he comes in the door. “I’ve got good news,” he says as he tosses his hat over the hat rack; it spins on the hook, but stays.  “Nellie, I got a new job.”


“You do?” She asks.


“I do.” He answers. “You’ll be proud to know I’ll be driving the line.”


“The Line?” She asks.


“The streetcar line,” he adds. “It pays better than I am getting laying bricks. And it is much easier on my back.” He stands back a ways so Nellie can get a full view and then asks, “How you like my uniform?”


“You’re looking good,” Peg answers.


“Not bad at all,” Betty adds.


“Be proud, son,” his Dad says.


“The uniform looks good on ya. Ya gots ya own change handler too. I likes ya cap ya throws over there,” Nellie says. “You’re a handsome man, Terry,” She adds. “Just don’t let dat comment go to ya head.”


This job has promise. It is steady; that is very important, especially if you have children. There are too many layoffs in other jobs. You don’t see so many layoffs in public transportation. People rely on public transportation when they cannot afford to keep up a car and its expenses.


Other things are weighing heavy on Nellie’s mind right now. She thinks she is again pregnant. George (Dickie) is going on seven months; having another baby so soon after his birth is not the best thing for Nellie; her body has yet to heal from the first.  As a family, they are just getting their feet on the ground. Terry’s new job will help a lot with the upcoming extra expenses, if her suspicions turn out to be correct. She can’t share her thoughts until she is for sure.


Nellie cooks dinner for everyone; they share a meal. And then the company excuse themselves. Granddad and Betty stay at Peg and Don’s for the night; they will be back on the road in the morning. They are heading in the same direction as Don; they decide to caravan their trip to help each other out if need be. They leave to go to Peg and Don’s first . Peg says, “I will follow shortly. First, I have some news I must share with Nellie and Terry.”







Peg says, ”I’ll be breaking up housekeeping for a while. I’ll be bringing over some things I can’t carry with me”. She says, “I’ll be getting down to one or two suitcases. I took a job with Greyhound.” She explains, “I pass the driving test. I’ll be driving their big Greyhound bus across the U.S.A. I am so excited.” 




“When I am on this side of the country, I will be dropping in to visit,” she says. “I’ll bring over what furniture we have. You can use some,” she adds. “I’ll send some pictures of me in my uniform when I am on the road.” She reaches over and gives Nellie a hug and kisses Dickie on the cheek, “See you brother,’’ she says to Terry. “Goodbye.”


Peg spends a day moving over her excess for Nellie to use. She makes it down to the two suitcases. She will be taking those with her on the bus. She leaves her car at their house. Peg hands Nellie the keys telling her, “You can use my car at your discretion, but I get it back when I come to visit.”


“Okay.” Nellie answers.


A few weeks pass. The mailman drops a letter through the letter slot on the front door. It is from Peg. Nellie rushes to open it. She didn’t send a letter, just a few pictures.




(Peg on the road with Greyhound)



(Peg on the road with Greyhound)

She is looking good.


In the meantime, Terry starts a spending spree. Instead of buying groceries and paying some household expenses with his first new paycheck, he splurges and rewards himself with a complete set of expensive golf clubs, bag, and all the little extra things that look good but you don’t really need.


The game itself is expensive to play if you do not earn that much. And the expense of the game takes away from the family expenses which by all rights should take priority. Terry doesn’t think that way. In Terry’s mind, he comes first. Nellies must make do and do her best with what is left. Golfing is his avenue of escape; his only pleasure. After all, he stops drinking. He leaves other women alone. He likes to let Nellie believe he is doing this on his own. But in actuality, he doesn’t want to go to jail as the Judge promises him he will do if he does not straighten up and fly straight (if you know what I mean). He figures if he spends one day a week on golfing that will be okay. Nellie knows how to pinch the pennies. She can make do with what she is given; she always has. Now is no different. That is what Terry tells himself. That is the way Terry thinks.


A letter came from Don. He makes it back to Texas okay. He finds his old girlfriend. He sends his love and a picture of him and his girl.

He says to be sure and tells Peg, “As soon as the divorce is final, I am marrying her and we are going to start making us a family. If Peg’s Greyhound bus ever comes up this way and lays over, tell her to be sure and stop and visit, if she can.”





(Don and his soon to be wife)

Tales of Mom (12): Nellie and Terry Move to Los Angeles

By Trudy A. Martinez

The Judge gives Nellie his card. “Nellie,” he says, “Your husband doesn’t deserve a woman like you. I mean it. I want you to call me day or night if need be if Terry does not tow the line.”

Nellie nods and says, “Yes, I will.”

Peg and Don leave Peg’s automobile with Nellie so her and Terry will have transportation. Terry is freed into Nellie’s custody. He immediately tries to intimidate Nellie into doing what he wants to do. “We’ll be going back to the C.C.C.,” he says.

Nellie looks up at him, shaking her head she says, “No, Terry, we not be going back to the C.C.C… I be with child.” Pointing at him she adds, “ Ya be going to find a job, Terry.” Nudging him with her finger, she continues, “Ya be going to support us. We be leaving San Diego. We be going to Los Angeles.” She says.

“Los Angeles?” He asks. “Why Los Angeles?”

“Ya works there before, Terry.” She says. “Ya cans do it again.” She continues, “It’s been five years, but ya gots a good chance of getting back in good with the same company. And ya be going to try or I be calling the Judge and telling him ya not be cooperating.” She looks him straight in the eye and asks, “Ya wants me be calling the Judge, Terry?”

“No.” He answers. “But the Judge said . . .”

“The Judge gives me more instructions, Terry. I’ be doing what he says, not what ya say, “She adds. He says, “Terry needs to grow up. And he needs to take responsibility.”

“Dat whats ya be going to do. Just as the Judge says.” Nellie tells Terry. “Peg and Don finds us an apartment in Los Angeles. They stocks it with food and our belongings. Don gots ya job back for ya. Ya just gots to show up and work every day. Ya boss be reporting to the Judge, Terry.” She says. “If ya miss work, the Judge says a warrant be issued for ya arrest. He means business, Terry. He means business.”

They set up in the small apartment. Terry behaves and goes to work every day.

Six months pass.

Nellie gets closer and closer to her time. Labor starts with a bang one morning after Terry leaves for work. As the day progresses and the labor along with it, Nellie realizes she is in trouble. She falls. She can’t get up. She calls out, but no one hears her. “Help, somebody, please help me!” No one answers. Her neighbors are not home. She is alone. She continues to call out, “Help, please help me,” she cries. They do not have a telephone so she cannot call anyone.

When Terry arrives home from work, Nellie is on the floor moaning too weak to do much else; both Nellie and the baby are in distress. He runs to a neighbor, who just arrived home moments before, to ask them to call an ambulance.

He pounds on the door. When they answer he says, “Please call an ambulance. My wife is on the floor; she is in bad shape, the baby is coming; she is in a pool of blood,” he begs. “Call an ambulance. We are in apartment C,” he says. “Tell them to hurry.”

Terry goes back to the apartment to wait for the ambulance and to be with Nellie, who is in distress. “Hold on there Nellie, the ambulance is on its way.”

In the distance, the sound of the sirens can be heard. “They are coming, Nellie; they are coming.” The sirens stop. A few minutes later, a bang, bang, bang, is heard at the door.

Terry opens the door and points to direct the attendants to Nellie, “We got a problem here,” they say before entering. “There is no way we can get the stretcher in here and her out through this here door.” He says as he looks around for another exit. “We may need to take her out the window over there.”

The fireman, who arrives about the same time, goes to the window and with the help of another, they remove the window from the frame; and check to see if the stretcher will make it through. It will but just barely. “Okay, this way is clear for you. Bring her out.”

The firemen have exited through the window and are waiting for the attendants to bring Nellie on the stretcher through it for them to grab. They strap Nellie on the stretcher. It is a slow process as the stretcher barely fits and must be turned slightly with Nellie on it to make it through the sharp turn on the other side of the window. The only way she can make it through the front door is in a standing position. And that is out of the question in her current condition. It is a struggle getting the stretcher with Nellie on it through the window opening, but they make it. Now it is down the stairs and into the ambulance.

The traffic is heavy. It is that time of day. They leave with the sirens blaring. Traffic moves to the side of the road and lets the ambulance pass. The hospital personnel are waiting when they arrive at Los Angeles County General Hospital that hot August day.

The emergency room doctors access the situation and inform Terry. “All efforts will be made to save the baby,” the doctor says.

“What about Nellie?” Terry asks.

“She is not our concern at the moment. The baby is. Say your prayers. She is going to need them. Until the baby is safe, our efforts will not be on her. She may not make it in her condition.” The doctor points to the waiting room and asks Terry to wait there.

Terry finds a pay phone and calls Peg and Don, informing them of what is happening. They tell Terry, “We are on our way there.” They stop at a flower shop to pick up some flowers for Nellie on their way in.

Hours pass. Terry paces the hall and waiting room, waiting for word on the baby and word on Nellie’s condition. The doctor comes out to the waiting room. “Mr. Smith, you are the proud daddy of a healthy Nine pound baby boy,” he announces.

“How is Nellie?” Terry immediately asks.

“She is still with us. The next twenty-four hours will be crucial for her, if she makes it,” he says.  “She lost a lot of blood.”

“May we see her? May we see the baby?” Peg and Don ask in unison.

“Yes, you may see them both. I’ll have the nurse bring the baby to her room,” he replies.

They all walk together to Nellie’s room. Currently, she is in a private room. They will be moving her to the ward tomorrow. She is not expected to leave the hospital for a few days. Peg enters the room alone; the guys are just outside the door. Peg asks, “How are you feeling, Nellie?”

“I needs to talk to ya alone, Peg” She says, “Can you ask the boys to stay outside for a minute.”



“Sure.” Peg answers. She catches the guys just before they enter and tells them to wait just a minute because she needs to talk to Nellie about women stuff.

They nod, and continue walking down the hall toward the babies.

Meanwhile back in the room with Nellie, Peg asks, “What’s bothering you, Nellie?”

“I wants out of here,” she cries. “They treat me like a slab of beef.” She explains. “When the baby be coming,” she hesitates momentarily, “They slice me open half way down my leg!” she exclaims. “It still be open. They never stitch me up.”

Peg goes over to her. She pulls back the covers and looks at the cut that extends down Nellies leg on one side. She takes a deep breathe. She says, “Nellie, I will be right back. I will take care of this right now.”

I must remind you, reader, Peg is 5’2” (if that), but she has a voice that carries for miles. And when she is mad, you might think she just got off a boat with a bunch of sailors who have been out to sea too long. The words that come out of that woman’s mouth will make a sailor blush.

The nurse did not know what to say to her after Peg let loose.  Cutting Nellie’s leg is uncalled for.  What did they expect to do? Give birth via her leg?  The nurse excuses herself to get the doctor. That is who Peg wants to talk to anyways. She lays it on him. I am not going to repeat what is said. I think you can imagine that part for yourself.

One thing the doctor did right away was apologize. And he shot off some orders to the nurse to meet him down at Nellie’s room with the medical things he needs to finish what he should have done immediately after the baby is born. His excuse for not doing it immediately is because he did not think she is going to make it. And his main concern then is for the baby, not Nellie.


The main thing now is: it is being done. “Nellie,” the doctor says, “I am truly sorry to have neglected to care for you the way I should have. Please forgive me,” he pleads. “I was in such a hurry to deliver your baby alive, my knife cuts more than need be.  I am truly sorry.”

Nellie nods; and wipes her tears away. She looks over at Peg and says, “Thank you, sis.”

The baby is brought to the room as soon as the doctor finishes stitching Nellie’s wound.

Tales of Mom 9


Nellie Plans to Leave

Tales of Mom 9

Nellie Plans to Leave

The depression deepens, leaving Nellie wondering about Terry.

“Pa, I got to finds ‘em,” she says. “It be two years since I sees ‘em.”

The few years they are together before the country sinks into a deep depression, Terry does as he says he will: He teaches Nellie Mae to speak. He said, “All she needs is self-confidence, instruction, and practice, lots of practice.”

Although Nellie practices both day and night, she never meets Terry’s perfective expectation.

Nevertheless, the doctor says, “It is a miracle. I did not expect her to perform as well as she does. Terry has truly done wonders with her.”

Now looking at Pa, Nellie feels he is about to mention Terry is not bothering to write. It does not matter to Pa that he writes his mother, telling her he is ashamed to write Nellie because he feels he cannot provide for her, as he should.

Pa says,”A man’s primary duty is to care for his wife. When you marry, you become as one.” Then he gives me this silly grin and adds, “Would you cut off your right arm and leave it at home while you explore the universe?”

Well, when Pa puts it that way, Nellie has to contemplate what is going on here? But right now, she is not in a mood for a lecture, so she spurts out quickly before he has a chance to say a word, “I know ya don’ts wants me followin’ after ‘em, buts I got to.”

Trying hard to prevent her Pa from starting one of his lectures, she answers his questions before he gets a chance to voice them. “Peg (Terry’s sister) says I cans go wit’ ‘er. ‘Er hubby sent fer ‘er. He tells ‘er, ‘Terry is ‘ere at da C.C.C. (Cylde Citizen’s Training Corp School).’”

Before Nellie gets a chance to catch her breath and continue, Pa asks, “Why doesn’t he send for you himself?”

“Ya knows how proud ‘em is!” She exclaims, attempting to provide an honorable explanation for his neglect in face of her uneasiness with the circumstances herself.



(The C.C.C. uniforms the students wear)

“Women should not be traipsing around the countryside by themselves”, Pa begins to lecture with his remark.

“Peg got a car,” Nellies quickly replies. “Her daddy teaches her how to fix da car if dar be trouble,” she explains.

Pa already knew of Peg’s ability; she helped him fix his car when he broke down in town just last week.


(Pa’s car is next to the station with its hood up)

So at this point, Pa keeps his silence even though Nellie pauses for a moment giving him a chance to speak.

“’Besides, I needs be wit ‘em,” she says. Deciding to change her tactic somewhat, she quotes, “’For bett’r or worse,’” and then asks“, ain’t dat wats ya tells someone when ya marries dem, Pa?” Not waiting for an answer, she immediately initiates another quote, “’Lets no man . . .”

Interrupting her before she has a chance to finish, he says, “You made your point”. Being a preacher and believing a man should be with his wife, he feels he has no alternative but to say, “Better pack, young lady”.

“I already packed—never unpacked, ‘cept my clothes,” she says excitedly as she moves around the room.

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.


(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.

Grama’s Birthday

By Trudy A. Martinez

Today is not my birthday: that day passed weeks ago but here stood Elijah and Charity, wishing me happy birthday, handing me a present, asking me to open it, gleaming with joy from anticipation.

The package handed me was a work of art:  personality spilled from its hand painted design; each stroke told a story, filling my heart with joy; each color depicted a mood, an emotion sprang from it, leaping at my heartstrings.

There is a cake waiting to be eaten so I had better get along with my story.

“I painted this.”  Elijah exclaimed, smiling as he pointed to his design.  “Charity painted this,” he continued as his words sprang to life in the ears of his little sister standing next to him, waiting her turn to speak.

“Open it Grama”, her words rang out, sprinkling the air with the soft tones of her voice.

“Do you know what it is?”  Elijah queried.

“No,” I replied, “Can you tell me?”

“Can’t tell Grama, Elijah!”  Charity’s reprimanding voice rang out.

“No-O-O-O-O-O.”  Elijah answered, dragging out the one syllable word, lingering it in the air momentarily before he added, “You have to open it, Grama”.

My fingers had already begun to carefully undue the paper from one of the packages.  The paper was unique as it was homemade; the designs were drawings made by Elijah and Charity.  The pictures would make a perfect addition to my refrigerator door that was adorned with such treasures.

My two-prized possession hang from a looped chain that is attached to a magnet on that door:  pacifiers, one blue one and one pink one.  The blue one was given to me by Elijah a few years back.  The pink one was reluctantly given up on Charity’s second birthday.  She was not forced to give it up; she did it willingly but it was difficult decision for her to make.  I remember.  She stood at a distance from me, covering her eyes.  She knew it was her birthday; she knew she was going to give up her infancy with the passing of her prized possession to my refrigerator door and thereafter, ‘patsy’ was to become my prized possession.  My thoughts were suddenly brought back to the present with the sounds of voices:

“Come on, Grama, hurry up–Open it”, Elijah said.

“Open it,” repeated Charity.

“Here,” Elijah added, reaching for the other end of the package, ripping the paper quickly off.  Charity in the meantime, picked up the other package and quickly opened it for me.

“Here, Grama, here’s your present.”

Thanks honey that is a pretty cup.  Why it even has my name on it:  Grama.  It’s a Grama cup.  Elijah just finishing the unwrapping of the other present, proudly held it up for me to admire.

“Do you know what it is, Grama?”

I looked it over.  It looked like a milk carton, but windows had been cut out of each side.  There were also two small holes in each side.  In addition, it had been painted all over with paint, different colors of paint.  There was a stick that was separate but that went with it.  On the top of the structure, a rope like twine was attached to it on both sides.  “Hm mm,” I thought,” I wonder what this beautiful creation is?”  Elijah and Charity eagerly waited for a reply.  I was taking too long to guess and they were extremely anxious to tell me.

“It’s a bird feeder, Grama!”  Charity exclaimed.

“You put seed in here,” Elijah explained“, and then you put the stick through here,” he continued, “And the birds come and eat the seed”.

“They come and eat the seed.”  Charity echoed, smiling.

“It is beautiful”, I said, “I know just the place to hang it.”  We went to the patio, hung the bird feeder, and then, came back inside to watch and wait, but no birds came.

“They’ll come”, Elijah and Charity assured me.  Nevertheless, the birds did not come and Elijah and Charity went home.

A few days later, Kit, my cat, started jumping, running, and acting real crazy.  She would sit at the patio door, swinging her tail back and forth, faster and faster her tail went back and forth.  She was trying to get my attention so I would let her outside.  I opened the blinds and saw that there was a bunch of little visitors in my backyard:  birds were perched on the bird feeder on the little stick that stuck out from the side.  Birds were walking on the ground, picking up the seed that their friends up above were dropping on the ground from the pretty bird feeder that Elijah and Charity made for me.

I immediately called Elijah and Charity on the telephone to tell them about the little visitors.  They were not home.  I left a message.  Here is what I said:

“That beautiful bird feeder you gave me for my birthday has brought joy.  I have lots of birds in my backyard where before there was none.  The birds have been eating the seed and I keep filling it up with more seed because they are very, very, hungry.  Have to go now–just wanted you to know–love you.

Oh yeah, Kit likes it too.  She jumps, runs, and acts real crazy.  She wants to go outside with the birds.  She wants to catch them, but they fly away when they see she is coming out.  Love you–Bye.”

Love Grama Trudy

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