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Rated: E · Chapter · Biographical · #1306211
Sharing views growing up in circuit of dreams, my sisters view of life unfolding
To get the full meaning of this piece please go and read first a Life Unfolds... It leads up to this part of the story.....

          Late November 1960.... winter was well on its way to Clinton, Oklahoma. Thanksgiving had come and gone like any other day. There is not much to be thankful for when you’re hungry, cold and nine months pregnant. Although Edna and Slim were excited about the upcoming birth of their first child, this was not how Edna had always imagined it would be. When she was a young girl, taking care of her baby sister Mary Ann.

          Edna would dream of how it would be when she had her own baby. She would have a small cozy house with a nursery equipped with a big rocking chair, lots of stuffed animals, and the sun would shine through the window in the early mornings, bathing mother and child in warmth as they slowly rocked back and forth breathing the sweet scent of baby powder. Her husband would have already gone to his law office where he would do whatever lawyers do for ten hours a day. After her morning bottle, Edna would dress her daughter in something frilly and pink. The baby would coo happily in her playpen while her mother tidied around the house, picked fresh vegetables from her small garden and prepared supper with pineapple upside down cake for dessert. Her husband would come in the door whistling a familiar tune, anxious to swing his baby girl up in the air just to hear her squeal. Life would be good, they would never be hungry, cold, or dirty, and her little girl would never, ever work in the cotton fields.

          Fate had other things in store. Their home was an eight by ten foot travel trailer with a leaky roof and a big ceramic pot under the bed for the toilet. In such close quarters, there was no room for a crib, or even a bassinet. Her baby would be sleeping in a drawer that pulled out from the wall. The few baby clothes that she had were given to her by a friend whose three children had outgrown them. Her momma had made the baby a quilt out of flour sacks and this would act as a makeshift mattress for the makeshift drawer/bed.

          The cold wind constantly blew through the trailer from around the two oblong windows. Their only source of heat was from an old Coleman camp stove, which doubled up as a cook stove. The kerosene fumes would fill the trailer and make her nauseous and no matter how hard she tried, the fumes would never wash out of their clothes. There was never enough food. Slim earned one dollar a day at the Christmas tree lot, there wasn’t much left after they bought the gallon of kerosene for the stove, they were fortunate enough that some of their friends took pity upon them and would share their commodities with them. Commodities were what the state called the food that was distributed each month to the reservations and the poor. They consisted of a one pound block of cheese, powdered eggs, powdered milk, 5 pounds of flour, and sometimes there was also canned meat that would fill the skillet with grease.

          Clinton was a big city compared to Hollis. People were busy with their everyday lives, the steady flow of cars shuttling those busy people to their daily and nightly activities never stopped, there were even stores that didn’t close until 10:00 at night, bars that men and women staggered out of at midnight, movie theaters that were always packed on Friday and Saturday nights, and two drive inns that had cars parked at every speaker stand after sundown. Some with windows so steamed up that Edna couldn’t understand how in the world the occupants could see the big screen, when she asked Slim about this, he only laughed, almost choking on his coffee that he had been sipping. Most people who are born and raised in a rural area are intimidated by big city life. Not Edna, she and slim had done a lot of traveling in their two years of marriage. They would either follow the rodeo or the carnival circuit from town to town in the Midwest. Slim was a bull rider, but most of the time, they didn’t have money for the entry fees, so he would work as a rodeo clown. He had long legs and was quick on his feet. With the carnivals, he and Edna would take whatever jobs were available. Edna would usually sell tickets and Slim would either be a barker at one of the games, or operate one of the rides. Traveling was a way of life for them, with all of their belongings packed into the back seat of an old Chevy. Slim preferred Chevy’s because he claimed they were easier to work on. They would often stop in Hollis to see momma and daddy, and the kids. On rare occasions that they had extra money, they would bring food or candy. The kids loved horehound candy and Edna knew that it was a rare treat. She missed her family when they were on the road, especially the younger brothers and sisters, but there was nothing in Hollis but red clay and cotton. She wanted more.

          In preparation of the birth of their child, Slim had painted a sign for a business man in Altus in exchange of the trailer. Slim was an excellent artist and could letter and paint a sign as well as any professional. He hooked the old Chevy up to the tiny trailer and drug it to Clinton to be near the state hospital, where they would deliver the baby for free. There, he found work selling pumpkins and then Christmas trees and mistletoe. It seemed that her husband was a jack of all trades and a master of none. This would be his legacy.

          By all accounts, Slim was the black sheep of his family. He was born in Indiana to a family that was well known in the farming community. His father and uncles farmed hundreds of acres that had been in the family for many years, each year they added to their acreage as smaller farming operations were sold off. They had a comfortable life and the entire family was active in the local Baptist church. His mother was always concerned about appearance, there was no such word as “momma”, she was to be called “mother”. He had a younger sister whom he adored when she was little, but as she got older, she became more and more like his mother. She was considered the chosen child who could do no wrong and even when she did, she would blame any wrongdoing on Slim who would be severely punished as his sister looked on with a small, satisfied smile on her angelic face. When Slim was twelve his mother decided that farm life was not what she wanted for her precious daughter. So, Slim, his sister, mother and father moved to Florida where his father found work as a glass blower and later opened a diner. At fourteen, Slim found it impossible to live up to his mother’s standards, and more difficult to live in his younger sister’s shadow. He stuffed a change of clothes into a pillowcase and jumped into an empty train car headed west. His family would not see him again until after the birth of his own daughter, some twenty years later.{/c:}

A Blessing

          By the time Edna went into labor she had gained forty pounds, her ankles were swollen and her back constantly ached. The day before, eh even resorted to drinking castor oil because she had heard that this would bring on labor. All it resulted in was a night spend sitting on the ceramic pot while she could hear Slim chuckling softly from the bed. He tried to muffle his laughs because he knew that a pregnant red head with the binges was not somebody that the devil himself would dare to anger when riled. She could be meaner than any bull that he come up against and he could very well wake up with the ceramic pot and its contents over his head.
          After a sleepless night, Slim was at the Christmas tree lot early the next morning when his boss came to him at ten o’clock to tell him that Edna was at the hospital. This being his first child, he was not familiar with the fact that Mother Nature takes her sweet time with such things. Running the four blocks to the hospital, sometime after six 0’ clocks that evening, Edna gave birth to a baby girl they named Juva Ruth. For the next three days Slim would spend two hours a day staring through the nursery window at the daughter that he couldn’t wait to start a new life with.Edna had packed a faded pink sweater with a matching knitted cap for the baby to wear home, some how just knowing she was going to have a baby girl.
          The first two weeks were both exciting and exhausting for Edna. She found it challenging to keep the baby supplied in clean diapers; they had to be washed in a bucket and then hung around the trailer to dry. It was also difficult to keep the formula from spoiling because they could only afford one block of ice a week. Edna would leave the mixture carnation condensed milk that she diluted with water in the car at night to take advantage of the cold December air. She and Juva would nap together on the small bed and Edna would wish that her little baby would take the breast, because at least they would not have to worry about the cost or the care of the formula. Slim would come home bad take over the care of their daughter, changing diapers, feeding her and singing her to sleep.
          It was a cold December night and the small family was snuggled together in the bed, they had all the blankets and coats they owned piled on top f them and the Coleman camp stove burning a steady flame until it ran out of kerosene in the middle of the night. A strange sound woke Slim and he could see his breath in the air, he rolled over to make sure that the baby was covered and suddenly he realized that he could not see her breath, he shouted to Edna to wake up and in a panic searched for his boots in the dark. Both Slim and Edna felt like they were moving in a fog, yet desperate to get help for their two week old baby. Slim swept the child into his arms and once again ran for the four blocks to the hospital, praying with every step. He rushed through the hospital doors, saw a nurse and out of breath thrusting the baby at her. The nurse looked into the baby’s face and saw her small lips had turned blue. Suddenly nurses and doctors were whisking the baby into a room and telling Slim to wait in the waiting room. Edna arrived at the hospital with tears streaming down her cheeks, screaming for somebody to save her baby. All that the couple could do was cling to each other and cling to the hope that God would allow them more time with the gift that He had sent them.
          After what seemed to be an eternity, the same doctor that delivered Juva came to tell Edna and Slim that the baby had survived, but would need to be in an oxygen tent for a couple of days. The doctor explained to them that the baby had been poisoned by the fumes from the kerosene heater. At that very moment, they felt both relief and guilt. They had been trying to keep their newborn warm and nearly killed her in the process. They had never heard of carbon monoxide. Obviously, they could no longer live in the trailer in the dead of winter.
          The day after Juva was released from the hospital, Slim and Edna packed up everything they owned into the old Chevy, filled up the gas tank with the last bit of Slim’s pay and they headed to Hollis. They were going to stay with Edna’s family until they could get a place of their own. Although eight of Edna’s brothers and sisters were still living with them, she knew that momma and Daddy would somehow make room for them. When they drove into the dusty barren yard, they were warmly greeted by Spot, Edna’s little brother’s hound dog. When the front door opened the family filed out two by two surrounding the car with squeals of excitement. This would be the first time that Momma and Daddy would see their first granddaughter.

          The four room house was bursting at the seams. The boys gave up their bed to Edna, Slim and “Baby Juvy” ( as Juva would be called by Edna’s family). The boys slept in the floor on whatever items they could find to make bedrolls. Edna’s Momma would cook gravy and biscuits for breakfast, there was no such thing as lunch and supper would be either a large pan of oatmeal or a pot of beans. Sometimes there would be salt pork for the beans or sugar for the oatmeal. On rare occasions, Momma would fry up some squirrel that Daddy or the boys had shot. Possum was also a somewhat greasy luxury. Edna’s sisters were always happy to volunteer to wash the dishes, because this would give them the chance to eat any morsels of food that may have been left in the bowls and pots.

          Edna was happy to be able to visit with her momma and sisters, not to mention the chance to have others who were eager to change, bathe and feed the baby. Her sisters thought of Baby Juvy as a doll and would argue over who was going to hold and feed her. Edna was enjoying the reprieve.

          Things had not changed much in Hollis, Slim could not find work. Even the cotton fields are bare in December. He sold the Chevy to a man in Hollis and bought Grey Hound tickets. After six weeks in Hollis, the small family was on a bus going to Tampa where Slim’s family lived.

          Slims father had arranged employment for him at a shipyard building boats. His sister was married with two children of her own. Slim, his wife and child would stay temporarily with his mother and father. Things were much better in Tampa. They lived in a modest, but comfortable home, they ate three meals a day and within a month, they had saved enough money to rent a one bedroom house of their own. Edna missed her family, but she enjoyed having running water and plenty of food for the first time in her life. Their future was looking brighter. However, she had married a man who had often been described as having “itchy feet.” Before long, Slim had bought a car and was relocating them halfway across the country again. By this time, Juva was six months old and was still young enough to sleep most of the time while the car was in motion, but the minute they would stop, she was ready to play and test her new crawling skills. Edna had never learned to drive, so she would catch cat naps while Slim drove, then keep Juva occupied while he slept.

          They returned to the carnival circuit, from time to time they would stop in Hollis to spend some time with Edna’s family. They traveled this way for the next two years, sometimes with the carnival, sometimes with the rodeo and spend winters either in Hollis or some small town in Texas where Slim could find some off season work.

          In early November 1963, they had made a trip to New Mexico to visit Edna’s older brother, his wife and two children. They stayed for a week, visiting and catching up on each other’s lives. Edna and her sister in law had been best friends back in Hollis. When they left New Mexico, they were going back to Hollis. Things were not going well between Slim and Edna by this time. She was tired of living in a car and knew that her childhood dreams were not in the cards with this man who was twenty years her senior. He was content not to be tied down to one place and not have to live a life of drudgery that he thought every other working stiff lived, he couldn’t see himself going to the same old job day after day, year after year. When they neared Amarillo, they had been arguing for hours, their child had grown accustomed to the squabbles and slept in the back seat, oblivious to the turn of events that would soon take place and change her life forever.

          Just East of Amarillo, Slim pulled the car into a rest area to use the bathroom. As if on cue, once the car stopped moving, Juva awoke and crawled into the front seat beside her mother. Ten minutes later when Slim returned, Juva was still sitting in the front seat, smiling up at him, but Edna was nowhere to be seen. Thinking that she had gone to the bathroom as well, they waited. After twenty minutes had passed slim became concerned and asked a woman who had been standing on the sidewalk to check the ladies room to see if his wife had fallen ill. The woman was happy to oblige, when she returned she told him that the ladies room was empty. He became more than a little concerned and barged into the ladies room himself, certain that the woman hadn’t checked each stall. There was no sign of his wife. Maybe she had decided to stretch her legs, although he knew that she would probably have taken Juva with her if she had simply gone for a walk. He looked behind the small building that housed the restrooms and began calling her name. His fellow travelers heard the urgency in his voice and assisted in the search. After two hours had passed, Juva was hungry, so Slim reached in the back seat for some crackers which was the only food that they had. While rummaging for the food, he discovered that a pillowcase was missing from a pillow and so were some of Edna’s clothes and her purse. It was obvious that she had left intentionally. He thought that maybe she would return once she had calmed down and thought things over. After all, how far could she get on foot and he figured that she would never leave her baby girl. He settled into the car after dark with his daughters head in his lap and waited throughout the long night.

          As the sun rose in the Eastern sky, Slim was startled from his sleep by Juva’s cries for her mommy. The world was moving on around them as if nothing had changed. Cars filled with people came and went. There was still no sign of Edna. Slim was hungry and knew that Juva was as well. He had no choice but to continue the journey to Hollis, hoping that Edna had gotten a ride and would be waiting for them at her family’s home. When they drove into the dusty yard once more, Spot greeted them and just as dozens of times before, the family filed out of the house to take them into their fold. There was no Edna, nobody had heard from her and had assumed that she was with her husband and toddler. Slim got Juva out of the car and wiped the tears that were streaming down her face, between hiccups, she was still asking for her mommy. Edna was gone. {c:}
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