The day I was born it was washday, or so I've been told. My grandmother ALWAYS washed on Mondays, and my mother was living with her. Therefore, I always thought I was "Monday's Child--Fair of Face". Imagine my chagrin when I discovered only a few years ago, having looked up the date in an almanac that I was born on a Wednesday? Noooooo; "Wednesday's Child is Full of Woe"---guess it's a good thing I didn't know that although my life now makes more sense. My aunt said it must have rained on Monday and the clothes couldn't be washed until Wednesday so they could be hung out to dry. I have waited too late to ask specific questions. Only two people that I know of are still living that could remember the day I was born, and they are vague on the details. Among the things I wondered specifically was why my mother was living with my grandparents. My aunt, who was 8 at the time has no clue or memory of the day I was born. She was in school.I have made up in my mind that my father was somewhere on manuvers; he was in the army and either was at the time or training to be,a paratrooper.
At any rate, this is what I was told:
It was washday, and my grandmother, Julia Brooks, was putting the clothes in the "automatic" wringer washer. The only thing automatic about it was the rotating tub. You put the clothes in, filled it up with water from a hose that was attached to a faucet in the kitchen, and then the open tub jiggled and swished the clothes. After which, she manually drained the soapy water, filled it again, and it rinsed and jiggled some more. After draining, she would lift each soaking wet piece, put it through the wringer at the top; then slowly with one hand behind the wringer grabbing the end of the piece of clothes, and the other guiding it carefully so as not to get her fingers caught in the wringer, let go of the piece that was threading through, grab the handle on the left, still pulling the cloth from behind with her right hand and turn the handle, the speed determined by the heaviness of the piece.What a dance, and my grandmother, the skilled artiste. The clothes would come out the back stiff as a board, ready to be hung on the line. She routinely told the story of the woman who had an automatic wringer who got her arm caught in the wringer and had to have it amputated. I could only imagine that arm, flat as a board. Urban legend?
Julia had been raised on a farm in Missouri, and this wringer washer was a luxury to her. She later told me many stories of her childhood, among which was the fact that she only had 3 dresses, and that she had to take her brother, Raiford's overalls down to the creek, get them wet, struggle to get the heavy things back out of the cold babbling water, and lay them on a rock, rub soap on them and pound them with another rock just to get the dirt out. A wringer washer work? No, sirree.....
So my 18 year old highly pregnant mother came out into the kitchen, and wrinkled her nose at the savory smell wafting her way. My grandmother, since it was washday, had put a ham in the oven (it didn't have to be watched, so was an easy supper). Later, she would peel potatoes, and shell some peas to go with it. " I've just called the doctor at the base", Helen (my mother, Helen Marguerite Brooks Witt) said, "and he told me I should come over".
In the stories I was told later, I never knew the reason why my mother had called the doctor, other than the obvious one, that she thought she was in labor because no one talked about those things especially to a minor child. When I was about 8, I was in the kitchen with my mother and grandmother, and my grandmother said to my mother, "Sophie is "P.G.".
"Umm", my mother answered. And I have no idea of the rest of the conversation because I was on a quest in my head to solve that riddle. I was astute enough to realize that "P.G." were initials, so I decided that Sophie was "Pea-Green" as you know in, pea-green with envy. Now why she was pea-green I had no idea, but somehow knew I was not supposed to even be curious about that.
Back to the kitchen that Monday, February 24, 1943, the day I was born. "He said I wasn't to eat anything but that ham smells so good!"
"It's almost done", Julia answered, "You should have some, heaven knows when you're going to get to eat." Just what my mother wanted to hear!
Pardon the pun, but she pigged out! She told me she ate so much she was almost sick at home, but definitely sick at the hospital. No joke, I have never been a fan of ham and I don't think it's just the story I was told.
So to soldier on with this saga, my grandfather must have magically appeared to take her to the base hospital as my grandmother didn't drive. Some of these stories reminded me of my dreams, things just happened without explanation and I accepted them; now I wish I had asked more questions. My grandfather, Raymond Alexander Brooks, was a chaplain in the army and also stationed at Camp Wheeler. In fact, that is how my 17 year old mother met my 27 year old father. On the base. Strictly forbidden to see him, thank goodness (meaning that my grandparents thought she was too young for him, and I am glad NOW as a parent that they were looking out for her). But I guess for my sake I should be glad she disobeyed them or I might not be here. My mother explained to me once that only she and my father could have made ME. If she had been married to someone else; I wouldn't be here or at least wouldn't be me. That was intriguing to me as a ten year old, but of course, it is Biology 101. Come to find out, my mother ran away to be with my father in the months before or during the time I was conceived; another subject that was taboo, of course.
My 17 year old quite pretty mother with dark hair and eyes and slender body is on a bus on a rainy night (yes, in Georgia) and on her way to Tennessee to live with my father's mother so she can have an open relationship with my father, and my grandfather who I always remembered as mild mannered (he looked like Perry Mason to me; well not Perry Mason I guess, but Raymond Burr) was chasing the bus to bring his errant daughter home. Please remember that my mother was the daughter of a Methodist minister turned Chaplain. It makes the story more dramatic. At any rate, he caught the bus, brought Helen home, and my mother and father were allowed to marry. Evidently, I was already on the way or that never would have happened!
Either Raymond (Granddaddy) was home, or was called home. Julia, Raymond, Helen (and me, of course) piled into the coupe of the day and drove to the base hospital to meet the doctor. Soon it was confirmed that my baby mother was in labor with her first child, and they put her in a room by herself. She lay there fairly content until she heard a woman moaning and screaming down the hall. Being new at this, she later told me; she decided maybe SHE was taking all this too much in stride; maybe SHE should be moaning and screaming. So she did. A nurse came hurrying into the room, and said, "Now you stop that; there's nothing wrong with you," to my mother's chagrin. Don't forget, this was a military hospital.
Like the good little minister's daughter she was, she shut up, and soon I was born. Now eventually, my mother had 6 children, and I was old enough to remember most of those, but never did I hear her complain or talk about labor....you know, the kind that go like; "oh, my god, I was in labor for seven days and thought it was never going to end", that kind.
Anyway, I was born, weighing 10 lbs. 4 oz and 18 inches long. What a fat wad; must have been all that ham! They say I had dark curly hair and muddy blue eyes that turned brown when I was one. As all colored pictures were colorized then, who could know if the photographer just gave me the wrong color eyes. My mother did say that one picture came back with brown eyes, and she was disappointed as she had wanted to document my blue eyes. Her wish was realized when my brother was born 15 months later; his were true blue and never changed.
There is a very blank spot here; if it weren't for the pictures of my grandfather holding the fat dumpling, I wouldn't know anything about that first year. Mam-Maw (Julia, my grandmother) said that on the first of each month, my mother would get her allotment check, and for some reason I have in my head that it was $100, a magnificent sum back then. Armed with that, me in my stroller, and a diaper bag, Helen would take off to catch the bus to town and shopping. As the sun slowly moved toward it's next shift down under, my mother and I would come strolling up the sidewalk. My grandmother told me that she had spent every penny! Leaving only enough after shopping to pay the 5 cent bus fare, and would be broke until the first of the next month, and it would start all over. My grandmother always told me this story (more than once) with a cat ate the canary grin. I couldn't tell if it was sour grapes or pride that my mother was able to manage so well that she had money for the bus ride home.
Fortunately, I don't remember that I was taken from my mother's breast at 6 months, and weaned to a CUP for heaven's sakes. They were so proud of that. No wonder I have an oral fixation. Nor did I know I was potty trained at 9 months---who was trained? Mam-Maw was quite proud of my accomplishments although I am sure it was her that made sure my little bottom went on the pot in time, and I won't mention what fixation I have from THAT!
Mam-Maw said that when I was six months old, my mother and I went to California to see my dad; my understanding was that it was a type of R and R for my father. While there, a large rat chose to join me in the crib they had for me in wherever we were? Motel? Anyway, I must have whimpered or something as Mother came in to get me, andhad a confrontation with the rat....she won. Then when I was a year old, we moved somewhere my Dad was stationed; another too late question. And Mam-Maw said it broke her heart "when they took you away from me". Forgot to mention that my grandmother was 36 when I was born.
Prior to this my father was leaving to go jump out of plane over France (still training evidently as this was 1944, and the troops hadn't invaded yet) or somewhere, and my mother was pregnant with my brother. She was laying in bed, and my dad was sitting on the other side with his back to her, and she said, "By the way, you probably won't be here when this baby is born (either I would have said, but she probably didn't) and what do you want to name it if it's a boy?" (I can only assume that the naming of the girls fell to her--forgot to mention that she/they named me Mary Helen after her and the Mary just like every other girl baby born that year---Mary Margaret, Mary Jo, Mary Kay, Mary Catherine, Mary Sue---they were all in my class).
My father replied, "Name him Raymond Eugene" (Raymond after my mother's father, and Eugene after my dad's brother). Imagine his surprise when he came home, picked up his infant son, and said, "By the way, what is his name?"
"It's James Knox Polk Witt II, of course." (My dad's full name, named after the President, of course). Birdie Hicks Witt, my father's mother named all of her 5 sons after presidents, Calvin Coolidge Witt remained "C" all his life, and Kimsey Witt was called "Bo", James, John and Eugene were able to use their first names without any nicknames. Do you think she was hoping one of them would be (president)?
James' old head snapped around and with his piercing blue Clark Gable eyes said "Why did you name him that?"
"You told me to," was the answer.
"I told you Raymond Eugene".
"Oh, my, I thought you said, 'Name him after me'."
It was probably providential because on October 20, 1955 the next boy was born, and he WAS named Raymond Eugene, and HE was born on my grandfather Raymond's 53rd birthday. Raymond, my brother, also named his oldest daughter, Julia after my grandmother.
Kind of didn't matter that my brother was named after my dad as we called him "Buddy" all of his life. Of course, I could never remember a time when Buddy wasn't there. I was too young to remember if I felt jealous when he was born, losing some of my mother's attention. No wonder they weaned me and trained me, and of course, I was walking before he was born, at 12 months. I performed on cue.