This is the third in the "Little Jo" series. It first appeared October 5, 2009 on Little Jo's birthday. It is repeated here by popular request, three of my five regular readers, and that's good enough for this old post to be rejuvenated.
Lying in the bed of a broken-down two-wheeled utility trailer one beautiful, but much too hot, summer afternoon a month or so after she had finished sixth grade, Jo Ann got to thinking about her family. Not just her mother, whom she still yearned for but couldn’t figure out, and her father who spent more time and money and concern on Lola and her daughters than he did with Jo Ann. In an epiphany that struck her as she watched a cloud break up after painting an elephant in the sky she realized “Great Honk! My brothers are my sisters’ cousins!”
This is a little convoluted, especially for anyone raised in the proverbial American family with a mother, a father and two and one third kids playing in the yard surrounded with the white picket fence. Jo Ann’s mother and father had both been married to other people before they married each other. Grant, that was Dad, was married to Lois, and they had two boys, Joe and Cam. Lois died at a young age. Orpha, that was Mom, was married to Clem and they had Donna, Brent and Ila before they divorced. Here’s the thing. Lois was Clem’s sister. You figure it out. After they married each other, Orpha and Grant became the parents of Nadine, Jo Ann and Pammy.
“Gracie!” It was Dad calling her. Why can’t he call me Jo Ann? Everyone else does now. “Hey, Girl,” he said as he walked up to the side of the trailer. “Jack and I are going to run the trotlines. Do you wanna tag along?”
“You bet,” she replied as she jumped to the ground. This was a special thing for Jo, not only because it was time with Daddy, but because she knew that there would be plenty crawdads left after the baiting and, with the fish, would be thrown into a big old pot of oil on the fire. Yumm!
They made their way across the field carefully skirting the blackberry thicket where in a week or two there would be plenty of luscious berries for her and Grandma to pick. Dusk was settling as they arrived at river’s edge. Gotta be careful when you fish this way. Step in the wrong spot and a dousing was a certainty. The men worked the lines carefully, taking the catch and rebaiting. The girl watched the procedure with interest, but she wasn’t about to be touching the creepy creatures. She’d be more than happy to eat them later.
Lying near the fire as the pot boiled, Jo Ann watched the crescent moon, listened to the crickets and frogs and thought that this could almost have been a perfect evening, except for the hole in her heart. While they were munching on the crawdads and eating fish and corndodger, Jo Ann said, “Daddy, tell me about your Mom and Dad.”
“Oh,” he replied, “there really isn’t that much to tell. Your Grandma was the oldest of a very large family. I think she had sixteen brothers and sisters. Of course, I never knew them all. They all had the same father, but he had three different wives. Not at the same time, Silly. He just outlived them, that’s all.
"Your Grandfather was an orphan, or so I’ve been told. I think really that his father died and his mother remarried. Perhaps he didn’t get along well with his step-father, so he says he was an orphan. His Dad was a riverboat gambler, you know.”
“What about Mom’s family?”
“That’s a story I don’t know that well. Her parents were singing evangelists. Went around holdin' revival meetings and such stuff. Don’t know what happened, but they divorced and your Grandmother married a dandy from over in St. Louis, I believe.”
© 2008 David W. Lacy
Happy Birthday to Beloved Beautiful Better Half, a.k.a. JoAnn (without whom these tales could not be told).