Life on the farm in Southern Illinois was little more than a foggy memory of lazy days and playing in the dirt. After all, Grace had been only four years old when the country went to war to fight against the evil people trying to destroy the world. The family moved to Chicago so that Daddy could go to work in the defense plant. Seemed that factory work was really important now and everyone had to do his share.The family, good Lord how many were there, moved into a walk-up apartment just blocks from the stop at 63rd and Halstead. Brent and Joe and Cam were already off to the service. Cam and Brent were in the Navy and Joe was an Army Paratrooper. Cam and Joe had never really lived with the family after Grace was born. Mother, Dad, Ila, Donna, Nadine and Grace. It would be yet another couple of years before Pamela was born. So Grace had three older sisters to lord it over her, and a Mother who hadn’t time nor concern to care one way or the other, so long as nobody bothered her. Dad, when he was home, was too tired to notice anything, unless it was something that annoyed him.
Barely had they gotten settled into their new environment than Grace was enrolled in the parish school. They were not Catholic, but the public schools were torn with so much strife and tension at the time that Mother preferred to have the younger girls in the parochial environment. To say that Grace found the adjustment to this new routine unpalatable would be to do an injustice to the reality. The nuns repeatedly shushed the girl in class and insisted that she must be quiet. “But,” she insisted, “I wanna talk!” Her knuckles got intimately acquainted with the teacher’s ruler. One of the nuns even sewed a wide band of lace to the bottom of her new skirt, which not only upset little Grace, but it annoyed Momma, too. The “Penguins” as she would later designate them, became her arch-nemeses.
Summer days and weekends were more bearable. There were impromptu baseball games on the cinder-covered vacant lot nearby, where Grace was designated "Flash" by her brother. And where a fall or a slide into second was sure to draw blood on severely skinned knees.Young as they were, Nadine and Grace had the run of the city and quickly learned the “El” and how to get around. Vacant lots provided playgrounds, as did the utility tunnels beneath the rails. Excitement was too often on the edge of hair-raising fright. Everyone survived. For quiet times on a rainy afternoon, there were paper dolls and macaroni to be dyed and strung for necklaces.
Then before she finished the third grade, there came the day that Grace was told that Mother and Father were getting a divorce. Pammy, the baby would stay with Mother; but Grace and Nadine would be moving back to Mt. Vernon with their father. The mental turmoil that this sparked in the eight-year old girl was almost too much for her to bear. She could not figure out why Momma loved Pammy enough to keep, but she wouldn't keep her. She was convinced that something had to be wrong with her, else her mother would not want so desperately to get rid of her. Grace clung to Mother's legs with both arms, and with tears flowing profusely, begged to stay. But Mother only said, "Hush. I know what is best for you."
Adults will do what they are gonna do. Momma had other fish to fry.
© 2008 David W. Lacy