Mettie and Eddie Swain and three of their seven children.
was abandoned by her mother as an infant, leaving her with her own mother. Though divorce was almost unheard of at that time, she was twice-divorced. Her father went on to remarry and took no responsibility for her. He only visited her once, when she was the widowed mother of seven. Late one night, Mawmaw told this tale of her early years, the only time I ever heard this.
“I jist turned nine years old, ‘bout the age you are now. Me and Ma had picked some beans in the cool a’the mornin’ an’ I was a’helpin’ ‘er git ‘em ready fer canning. Ma set down in her rocker to rest jist a minute an’ I was a’playin’ with my kitten. I was glad she was a’sleepin’ a while since I didn’ want’a mess with them beans no how. After a spell, I saw Ma’s head was kinda hung to one side an’ spit was a’runnin’ out’a her mouth kinda foamy. She wouldn’ wake up. I got up to run over to git Miz Jone’s an’ seen there was a fire between our place an’ hearn. There warn’t nothin’ to do but run through it the best I could. Them flames was a’lickin’ at my feet an’ I was jist a’cryin’. I got Miz Jones, but it ain’t made no difference. When they got over to see ‘bout Ma, she was dead. They sent for Uncle Jeb to git’er buried.
I had to go to Uncle Jeb’s, then. He was awful good to me, but Aunt Lottie was jist hard down. She whooped on me ever chancet she got, an’ they was plenty. She made shore I ain’t done no sittin’ aroun’. I married soon’s I could, jist to git outta her way.
I never really had no home after Ma died. I knowed Aunt Lottie didn’t want me around ‘lessen they was work to be done. She’d put me out to help a woman that was having a baby, help with the canning, or help with the sick. I never seen no pay, just worked for my keep. Sometimes my mama would get settled and send for me, but I had to stay of her husband, so back I’d go to Uncle Jep and Aunt Lettie, till she could put me off on somebody else. It was hard times for sure.