Ellen Pendergrass led a charmed life till the day her daughter, Charlotte, was born in 1938. At Ellen’s birth, her parents celebrated the long hoped-for arrival of a perfect daughter born ten years after the last of their six sons. Ellen was all any parent could have imagined, dainty, feminine, and delightful. She was all the more welcome, since her mother had despaired of ever having a daughter. Both parents doted on her and were well-able to indulge her since her father was from a long line of bankers.
A high-minded young woman, well-aware of her importance, Ellen studied music and art at a notable Southern Women’s College, though she’d never need to earn her own way. No one was surprised when she accepted the proposal of a wealthy plantation owner’s son. It was the wedding of the decade. The father of the bride built the young couple a Victorian mansion in the finest part of town and Ellen’s husband, a doctor, spent his time between his practice and his father’s plantation. His practice grew so quickly, he had to hire a farm manager when he inherited upon his father’s death. Ellen, like her mother before her, gave birth to boys, though she yearned for a daughter to follow her in society.
At thirty-nine, Ellen feared she was entering menopause, when to her great joy, she realized she was pregnant. Surely, she’d have a daughter this time. Her husband attended the home birth, of course. Ellen was relieved to hear a healthy squall at delivery, but Charles didn’t meet her eyes as he handed the swaddled infant to Cora, the maid. “It looks like a healthy girl.” In minutes, Cora diapered and swaddled the babe and passed her to Ellen to nurse.
Ellen counted all the little fingers and toes as she admired her little one. “I do believe this is the prettiest one yet.”
Charles answered, “You always say that,” then whisked the infant away immediately instead of leaving her with her mother, as he had at all the other births. “Get some rest.”
Ellen was glad to rest, but was a little concerned that Charles had taken the baby.
“Cora, was everything alright with the baby?” she quizzed Cora.
“That baby looked plenty healthy to me,” Cora turned her back as she tidied things up. “Shore had a fine set of lungs on her. You ain’t as young as you was. Git you some rest while you can.”
Miffed at the reference to her age, Ellen snapped at Cora. “I am plenty young enough to tend my baby, thank you. I have the finest skin of any of my friends.”
“Yes’m,” Cora answered.
To be continued.