Photo of my great-grandmother, Sarah Jones Perkin’s, still born baby circa 1900
For some reason, Lucille had always loved washing dishes. After breakfast, she stacked the dishes in the dishpan, added the soap, ran scalding water over them, and brought a glass of milk and a cup of coffee to Jenny where she was nursing the baby on her shady front porch. Jenny had been married seven years and had almost given up on a baby when Lucy surprised her.
“Thanks for the milk, Mama. Did you have trouble getting pregnant like I did?” she asked.
“Lord, no! I had Jimmy only ten months after I married, and me only fifteen.” she laughed.” After that, I think I miscarried twice before I got that way with you. Back then, we didn’t run to the doctor for every little thing, so I never was sure if I lost babies or not. I couldn’t have been too far along, if I was. We was about to starve, so my curse wasn’t real regular. You didn’t come along till five years after Jimmy,” Lucille reminded her.
“I never knew you were that young when you got married. Why, you couldn’t have even finished school. What was your daddy thinking letting you marry that young?” Jenny was feeling protective of her own sweet baby.
“Honey, my daddy was was the reason I needed to git married. He was a mean drunk. My mama died when me and my twin sister Velma was about ten. Seemed like he never got tired of beatin’ on her. He’d come in drunk long after we was asleep in bed like a ragin’ bull. We’d learnt to hide and Mama took the whuppin’. I really think a beatin’ is what finally kilt her. He come in and whipped her and kicked her around real bad one Thursday night. She crept around three or four days till she died with the most awful black blood comin’ from her bowels. Nobody never said nothin’ to him. It was a man’s business if he felt like beatin’ his wife.
Daddy started in on me and Velma after Mama died. We made sure not to get caught off alone with him or he’d a’done us some real dirt. I met your Daddy when I was fourteen, but I let him think I was a lot older. Me and Melba was stayin’ with Aunt Lucy by now. That’s Mama’s sister I was named for. She was so good to us. I slipped out one night and went to the pictures with Russ. I feel bad now about doing Aunt Lucy that way, now, but you know how boy-crazy young girls is. I sat with him a few times at church, and he got to coming to see me at Aunt Lucy’s. We wanted to gut married, but Aunt Lucy said I’d have to git Daddy to sign for me. I wasn’t about to go to Daddy for nothin’. The next Friday morning I skipped school and run off with Russ to Oklahoma. His sister was an old friend of my mama’s. She knowed how bad Daddy done Mama and knew I needed to get away, so she went with us and signed like she was my mama. I always ‘preciated her doin’ that. I left Velma a note tellin’ her I’d run off to got married so they wouldn’t think somethin’ awful had happened. Lordy, I never meant to gab so long. I got to git back to them dishes.” She heaved herself to her feet and headed back to the kitchen.
Jenny caught her by the hand. “Mama, I’m real proud you came to stay awhile.”
“Me, too, Honey. Me, too.”