Tough Girls

And on the day her daughter found her sobbing on the kitchen floor, she extracted the truth from her.

Rural Florida. The Depression was alive and kicking.

This was a time when folks sat on porches, swatting gnats. Fathers gave out bottle-caps for allowances, mothers canned anything with seeds. Ketchup was six cents a bottle.

She was a striking seventeen-year-old with honey-blonde hair—like her mother. She was dating the son of a wealthy man—an arrogant, rowdy kid.

One night, the boy got half tight and broke into the girl’s house. Only, she was out that night. He forced himself on her young widowed mother. He violated her. He broke her collar bone.

Her mother didn’t tell anyone.

It wasn’t long afterward, her mother started noticing morning nausea, and her clothes got tight.

Her mother decided to end the pregnancy. After working up the courage, she drove to visit the amateur doctor on the edge of town—a man who fixed things.

She sat on a wood table with her skirt off, crying too hard to go through with it. She left. And she hated herself for even considering it.

Months went by, her mother developed a tummy. People in town punished her with words like, “hussy,” and, “whore.”

And on the day her daughter found her sobbing on the kitchen floor, she extracted the truth from her.

They left town for a fresh start, rented a city apartment. Menial jobs paid the bills. Sometimes, chicken soup looked like saltwater—provided they were lucky enough to have salt.

Those were merciless days, and they got worse.

Her mother had complications during labor. She bled to death. And because she was destitute, the county classified her as a, “necessary burial.”

She got a pinewood box. No marker.

With her mother gone, she claimed her newborn brother as her son. She met a man while working in a cotton factory. And with the help of the new husband, she raised the boy everyone believed was hers.

When the economy improved, so did lives.

The boy had an ordinary childhood. Two parents; three-bedroom house. He played jacks, hop-scotch, and learned to shoot bee-bee guns. He became a man. He went to a decent University, made a life, took a wife.

A lifetime later, her honey hair turned white. She fought illness. Before it killed her, the boy she raised sat beside her.

In between crying fits, he asked, “Why is life so unfair, mama?”

She smiled. “Unfair? I didn’t raise you to complain that’a way. Life’s a blessing.”

A blessing.

He disagreed.

So, she told him everything I just told you.


  1. Kirsten Adele G. - October 31, 2016 5:30 am

    It’s always a good cry, reading your words. Who am I kidding? I’m an emotional stage 4 cancer terrorist, and they just resonate; they’re soul
    Salve. Hug.

  2. Michelle Kibodeaux - November 5, 2016 9:06 pm

    You are a blessing, not just to your mama, to the world.


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