Almost a hundred years ago a little girl was born to two mountain people.  He was educated and loved to teach, she was once his pupil.He married the beautiful girl with the dark curls and bright blue eyes, in her sixteenth year.  Not acceptable now, but okay then.

They had a baby every other year after this little girl was born, for eight years.  Then the strong red-haired father was killed in an accident.  His young wife took to her bed with depression, and the little girl became the parent of all her siblings.  She got a job! She hoed sugar beets alongside other desperate people.  She learned from the world around her. She peeled potatoes and boiled them, and fed her brothers and sisters.

Then she learned from another little girl field laborer that every night her family had beans, so they worked a trade.  Then she traded another for salt.  Their menu improved.

People in their town gave them used clothing.  She became an excellent seamstress by altering coats, pants, and dresses.

She learned to read and educated herself.  Her father would have been proud of her choices. Later in life she could converse on most any subject.

She never smiled or had time for play.  Life was serious.  She determined that she would never have children of her own.  Raising her siblings was far too much.

As a teenager she signed on as cook’s helper with a wheat-harvesting crew.  She could afford a new dress for her two younger sisters now and then.  She learned to cook from a master.(Everyone remembers her table to this day.)

Then one day when she came home exhausted there was a very tall man at their house.  He was wearing his old WWI khakis and laced up boots.  He took his pipe from his mouth and said “Little Minnie, your working days are over, I’m going to take care of your family from now on.”  Her mother was smiling.

The next day she went to high school.  She was sixteen.  Her self-education placed her in the sophomore class.  She was ashamed of her appearance, and went home and altered some clothes for herself.

She loved learning, but could not socialize.  Summer came and she went back to the fields. Her cousin, Carl, determined that she should have some fun, took her to a Saturday night dance at the Grange Hall.

He was teaching her to fox trot when a smiling teenager cut in on them.  This handsome young man was very popular with the local girls and they watched jealously as he danced with this shabby country girl.

For him it was love at first sight.  She could never say the same.  He was nineteen and dreamed of sunny California where oranges grew on trees.  He saw her every day for the next six weeks, always dreaming aloud of California.  Then with a big smile, he proposed:  “Let’s get married and hitch hike out there.”

The next day they were in Grand Junction and were married, Minnie’s cousin and his girlfriend stood up with them.   And they were off to California.  Seventeen and nineteen.

Ben’s father who’d left the family years before lived in Needles.  So they made that their destination, not anybody’s dream-place.

And that’s how I came to be.  A red-haired baby girl born nine months later. Next year, another red-head, David.  The year after that another red-head, Bruce.

Minnie, who was 4’10” weighed 80 pounds  was hit by appendicitis.  The surgeon was appalled at her poor health.  He removed her appendix and told her she would not have to worry about babies anymore he’d fixed that too!  She didn’t understand, but was happy about it.  He’d tied her tubes.

Ben went away to war in WWII, and Minnie fell into depression just as her mother had.  Life did not get a lot better for her when Ben returned four years later.  She suspected him of infidelity.  Their life was thorny through the years.  But Ben never quit expressing his love for his little wife.

Dad died on his 72nd birthday and Mother came to live with me.  I understood her and gave her privacy and a few luxuries that she protested, but deserved.  She went blind, became crippled with arthritis, had a colostomy as a result of cancer, and lived on.  She died at 87.

One day in my backyard I remembered Mama and her love of a garden. If you look up the expression “green thumb” in any dictionary you’ll find her picture.

That’s when I decided to plant a memory garden and dedicate it to my little mother.

One thing it had to have was succulents that she called hens and chicks.  I plunked one down and told it to grow for my mother.  The rest of the garden is in gorgeous bloom this spring.

Then I saw it for what it was. I am awestruck.  My cup runneth over.

Planted in the memory of a mother who could not hug, who could not say “I love you”.  There it was.

A valentine from my mother, or mine to her?


~ by dottiedoright on May 2, 2010.

2 Responses to “LITTLE BRAVE HEART”

  1. Wonderful history; thank you.

  2. I lost my Mom in June. She was 92 and, like your Mom, never hugged and never professed her love. Her Mother was a Native American while her Father was a German Immigrant, both introverts, honest, hardworking but not loving people. Their 13 children were fed, clothed and well educated. With that background, I determined to express my love for my children every chance I got. Now that my kids are adults they always tell me – “Mom, you love us – Lots!” I get tickled every time!!!

    Thanks for the history which reminded me of my history…..

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