I don’t know if it’s my age, my health or a combination of the two, but I’m obsessed with telling the stories of my childhood and the history of my family.
I’m more than positive those of you reading my little blog have your own precious family stories. I encourage you to write them down, save them for generations to come. Tell them, share them. Don’t let them fade away. Keep them alive.
All of this sentimentality leads me to my story. The story of my parents and their love for each each other.
Buster and Irene
First of all, your should be aware that my parents didn’t view their story as anything particularly special or newsworthy. They lived during a time in history that every broken nail didn’t warrant a 20/20 episode. They didn’t ask for sympathy. They lived with their hardships and moved on.
Daddy lived south of our little town of Myrtle, across the Missouri-Arkansas state line. Because the one room school he attended only went through the 8th grade, Daddy went to the 8th grade twice (always a source of humor for my mother). The only option for Daddy to continue his education was to move away from his home to attend Couch High School where he met my mother. Daddy would laugh when telling us about living with a buddy during those years, high school boys who couldn’t keep the shack warm in the winter or find enough to eat. But they did it….. they survived and graduated. An accomplishment for sure.
Mother often told us that NOBODY had it easy during those days. But I suppose, as with all things, there were degrees of hardship. Daddy’s family, the Wilkersons, were probably at the bottom of that rung. They were poor. Happy, but poor, ha.
Mother’s family, the Smiths, owned land and had a farm. Their lives were just a bit easier. Plenty to eat and a home built from a Sears and Roebuck plan. (Quite the thing, I’m told). The Smiths were a little on the cranky order at times, ha….(I acknowledge that trait in myself quite often….ha)
As fate would have it, mother and daddy met at school and fell in love. My grandpa was not at all happy. Not at all. My Daddy was not in the plan he had for his daughter….
Life continued, and both mother and daddy graduated from high school and took the teacher’s exam. They each passed and began teaching in one room schools (ala Little House on the Prairie). A college degree wasn’t necessary in those days, just a willingness to teach and the passing of the eacher’s test.
They swept the schools in which they worked, they built the fires to keep the students warm, and they often gave away whatever food they had to the students who didn’t have enough. Mother often said she TAUGHT school but she feared Daddy just KEPT school. Not that she would ever be critical of course.
But what about LOVE?
Because mother’s teaching contract prohibited marriage (can you believe that?) mother and Daddy secretly eloped with another couple, getting married in the night and coming back home as if nothing had happened. Their secret. Pretty romantic don’t ya think?
And then Daddy got sick
Contrary to what anti-vaxxers believe, diseases like mumps and measles were often death sentences before vaccinations existed. Daddy managed to get the mumps and it was bad. He was really sick…..Mother wanted to go visit but my grandpa said no. So…… she had no choice but to tell my grandpa that Buster was her husband and she had to go to him. She did and Daddy recovered, but then mother had to convince the school board she should keep her teaching job while being married…… I’m not sure who made that decision, but he did the right thing…ha
The war. The big one. World War II. Daddy was drafted and left for parts unknown. Communication was limited, his telegrams and the few letters that made it from Europe to Missouri, were rare and redacted….. Every communication was believed to be an opportunity for the enemy to spy…all of this to say mother had little idea of his location.
When mother discovered she was pregnant Daddy was long gone and she had no idea where he was or if he was even alive.
She hid her pregnancy as long as she could. Teachers were surely not allowed to be pregnant. On the advice of the school board president she bought compression garments (can you even believe this?) to hide the baby bump as long as possible. When it was evident she was expecting and couldn’t hide it anymore, she moved home with grandma and grandpa and she waited.
Mother would tell this story with tears in her eyes. The story of a pregnant young woman walking to the mailbox every day with desperate hopes of communication coupled with the fear that the communication might be a death notice…..excruciating.
My oldest sister JoKay (Jo Kathryn) was born in June of 1944 and the months passed. Daddy spent those months chasing Nazis in Northern Africa and Italy. He was a country boy who was a good shot, and spent lots of time scouting and crawling on his belly before the Americans would start an attack… And, by the way, Daddy RARELY talked about his experiences. Sharing only a funny story or two about friends or places.
I can’t imagine what he did and what he saw during those months. He just didn’t talk about it.
And then it happened.
Daddy was on his way home. He called mother to say he was in Walnut Ridge and was trying desperately to find a ride home. In those days everything was rationed. Not just food but things like TIRES. Mother started crying during the phone call because her family didn’t have a car with tires that could make the trip…. but the “party line” phone came to the rescue. A woman listening in on the conversation spoke up and said her husband had tires that would make it!
Gotta love a party line…
My oldest sister JoKay was 22 months old at this point. (Again, I can see my mother crying as she told us this part of the story…..) She had given JoKay a picture of Daddy and she (JoKay) carried it around kissing it and saying Daddy. I think about our Camryn who is about the same age… and can’t imagine. Anyway, thank God…..Daddy came home.
Mother would tell the story about Daddy arriving and going quickly into the bedroom where JoKay was sleeping. He stroked her face and gently woke her. She immediately said “Daddy” as he picked her up and embraced the daughter he had never met. TEARS.
Mother and Daddy lived during perilous times. They were strong beyond measure. They relied on their faith and their family to get them through those days, just like many of your parents and grandparents did. No fanfare. Like I said before, no Dateline or 20/20, just a resolve to meet the challenges head on and survive.
I contacted Nicholas Sparks ….. (I’m like that) hoping he would tell my parents story in a fabulous book and I could consult on the movie and pick out my favorite stars, to portray them, but alas, he was not interested. Can you IMAGINE? C’mon Nick.
So while I’m still here, I’ll tell their story.
The love story of Buster and Irene.
The story of ordinary people who lived during an extraordinary time.
A time where love won.
But doesn’t it always?