Neeley suspected Eddie might not ever hold up to the hard work of farming after his accident. It would be a hard row to hoe for a woman and a sick man to farm, but she was determined they would hang on to their rental farm at all costs. She couldn’t expect her brothers to shoulder responsibility for her family. Albert had recently married and had a baby on the way. His eighty acres was working him hard. Willie had to make good on the place his father-in-law had made for him. It wouldn’t do to take time off from his responsibilities there. She did not intend for either of her brothers to have family trouble because of her problems.
Despite their financial situation, Neeley squeezed back enough money for the children’s candy, oranges, and Brazil nuts at Christmas, reasoning their disappointment would last a lifetime, and the little money saved wouldn’t make a long-term difference. Mama Cassie had them over for Christmas dinner. She’d killed a hen and they feared on chicken and dressing and dumplings. There was sweet potato pie, green beans, roasted potatoes, and cabbage. They all ate till they fairly popped. It brought tears to Neeley’s eyes when Mama produced a peppermint stick for each child. Neeley knew it must have been hard to come up with the money. She still had a girl and twin teen-age boys at home. Her husband, John Miller could be a hard man. Neeley hoped she wouldn’t suffer for her generosity, though today, he was very cordial.
After Christmas dinner, the men headed to the barn and the kids ran off to play. Neeley and Mama sat at the table over coffee and Neeley confided. “Mama, I ain’t told Eddie yet but I’m “that way” again. I cain’t have a baby now. Eddie ain’t doin’ right and we cain’t hardly feed the five we got. I got to be able to help Eddie git the plantin’ and harvestin’ done. This one’s due in late April, the worst time. If it would’a just waited till next fall it would’a been okay. What in the world am I gonna do? Seems like the harder I work the more we fall behind.”
A tear slid down Mama’s face as she took Neeley’s hand. “I ain’t always done right by you, but I hate to see you suffer so. One time I was in a fix like you. I don’t know if you remember when I run off from Willie and Albert’s daddy. You was with me an’ I had to send you back to Ma. Cox had done come in drunk and beat me half to death. He didn’t know I was “thataway,” so I slipped the little fellers off to their Granny Cox and went to stay with my cousin Lurleen. She got me some quinine and it got rid of the baby. I shore hated to do it, but I couldn’t take keer o’the ones I had, much less another one. I reckon I can git you some quinine, if you want, but I tell you this. I better come stay a few days. You gonna be so sick you’ll think you’re gonna die. If you want to do that, I’ll need to come take care of you and the younguns a few days.”
Neeley thought a mnute or two, then said. “Well come on over this next week. I guess I better get it done.”