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Julie The Dreamer
By Joyce Ann Whitlock
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2010 Joyce Ann Whitlock
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe Delivery
It was a bitter cold December morning, and Christmas was fast approaching. Margaret was rushing preparing to bake-pound cake, coconut cake, sweet potato pie, and pecan pie-when suddenly she began to experience such severe abdominal pain that it forced her to sit down. She tried to convince herself that if she sat for a while the pain would dissipate, but in reality she was very familiar with this type of pain. These were labor pains. There was no doubt in her mind; after all, she had had four previous pregnancies. She sighed, discouraged; she didn't want to have to stop everything, go to bed, and prepare for an arduous night of deep breathing and nearly unbearable pain. A midwife delivered all of her children at home, but this particular day, she was alone with her one-year-old; the other three children were at school, and her husband, William, was at work. She wondered if she could phone him, but the nearest phone was at a neighbor's house a block away, and anyway, William worked outside the plant welding broken trains-it would take forever to get him to a phone. She continued to watch the clock; she knew the children would soon be home from school.
When the children arrived, they grew disappointed because Margaret, who was usually there to greet them at the door with a hot meal, was lying in bed. They were also all too familiar with the scene; another baby sister or brother would soon make an appearance. Margaret instructed the eldest to go get his grandmother, who lived about a block away. The other children began preparing their meals and caring for the toddler.
William had had a difficult day; regardless of how hard he worked, he could not seem to meet the foreman's expectations. The foreman loomed over him what felt like the entire day. He had the urge to collect and turn in all of his tools and walking out of the plant, but he couldn't just abandon the highest-paying job anywhere in the South. Five dollars was the average weekly salary, yet he made an incredible $37.50. With four children and a fifth one on the way, William couldn't resign, no matter how stressful the job became.
William drove up the narrow, gravel driveway and made his usual right turn in the turnaround. He grabbed his lunchbox and proceeded to enter the house, but before he could open the door, he was greeted by two of the children. In hysterics, they shrieked and pulled him into the bedroom, where he saw Margaret writhing in bed with her mother sitting by her side. He asked how long had she been in pain, but she was in too much distress to answer; instead, her mother explained that she had already labored the entire day but had made no progress. William remembered how difficult the four previous deliveries had been; the last time, he thought he would lose her. William left to get the midwife, who luckily lived only five minutes away. After a brief examination, the midwife recommended the family wait and let Mother Nature take her course; she knew this pregnancy was complicated and far beyond her limited skill.
Shortly after the midwife's departure, Margaret's condition rapidly grew more serious. Her sister's husband, who had come with his wife hoping to meet the new infant, suggested that William should go get his sister, Minnie. A tall, robust woman who had never married, she had assisted many women in delivering their infants; she was not a licensed midwife nor did she have any formal training, but had a natural gift.
By that point, William would have done almost anything to relieve Margaret's agony. He sped off so fast, rocks flew into the air. Minnie lived four miles away, but because there were no paved roads or streetlights, it was a challenge to reach her house. William had to grip the steering wheel tightly to avoid the potholes and to prevent spinning off into a ditch. As he was driving, he worried: what if Minnie were not at home? Perhaps she would be off assisting another family. After all, she was in great demand those days.
Finally, he turned the winding, rocky driveway, and began leaning on his horn as he sped toward the house at the end. Minnie immediately realized someone needed her assistance-after all, this was a frequent occurrence. She snatched her fur coat from the closet, put on a large pair of black boots, and picked up her delivery bag, and before William could even get out of the car, she was hurrying down the front steps. William exclaimed, "Oh, Minnie, come quick! Margaret needs you; she is in so much pain!" They sped back home as quickly as the car would go.
Margaret had moved to the floor by the time they returned; rolling from side to side seemed to ease the pain in her back. Minnie helped her back to bed so she could examine her. She had barely begun to check when she cried, "This baby must be delivered immediately." She ordered Margaret's mother to boil water for her instruments, then gathered towels and placed them at the foot of the bed. Finally, she ordered everyone to leave the room.
One hour later, the loudest cry any of the family had ever heard echoed through the entire house. Everyone rushed into the bedroom, William was in the lead, gasping, "Is it a boy?" Minnie shook her head, smiling. "No, it's a big beautiful, six-pound girl." She handed the proud father his new daughter.
Margaret kept thanking Minnie over and over for saving her life, because she had truly felt as though she were going to die. Minnie just smiled and shook her head as she proceeded to record the date, time of birth, and the sex of the infant in the family's Bible. Suddenly, she turned to Margaret and asked, "What name did you two choose?" Margaret looked perplexed at William, and replied, "We hadn't thought about a name for a girl; we were so sure this baby would be a boy." William thought they should pay homage to Minnie by naming the child after her, but Minnie, refusing to take any such credit, suggested there were other, more suitable names. Margaret suddenly remembered an actress from one of her favorite soap operas, and shyly murmured, "I like the name 'Julie.'" Minnie nodded soberly as she recorded the name. Afterwards, Margaret fell fast asleep.
It was nearly daylight on a blisteringly cold morning, five days before Christmas. William and Margaret would later laugh about receiving an early Christmas present. William was just as exhausted as Margaret; he had been up all night, and now it was time for him to leave for work to prepare for another long, laborious day. Moreover, he would have to go to personnel to report another child as his dependent. He found it somewhat embarrassing, since he had reported a son twelve months earlier, so he decided to wait until the following year to claim another dependent. He asked Minnie to stay with Margaret until he returned from work. Margaret's mother agreed to remain at the house as well, to make the children's breakfast and see them off to school. She had a full-time job and wouldn't be able to come back later that day to help, but before she left, she prepared enough food to last for the entire week. Margaret was resigned to being confined to bed for a week because that was the custom; however, she wished she could just get out of bed to finish baking her traditional pastries. She knew how much William and the children enjoyed her baking, and how much William disliked her mother's cooking-they would often laugh about her mother's poor culinary skills.
The day following the delivery, Margaret finally had the house to herself except for the two youngest children; Minnie had to leave at last, because other families needed her services, and the neighbor (affectionately known as "Prune Face") wouldn't look in on her until later. With no one to chide her, she decided to bake for Christmas after all. While the ten large sweet potatoes were boiling, she began to gather her flour, butter, pecans, sugar, syrup, and other spices. Six hours later, she had baked six sweet potato pies, two pecan pies, one coconut cake, and one chocolate cake. Suddenly, someone knocked on the back door. Margaret knew it had to be Prune Face-Who else, she thought, would stop by at this hour? She put her robe on over her dress, stacked the used utensils in the sink, and closed the dining room door where the desserts were placed; but, of course, the one thing she could not hide was the aroma of the freshly baked cakes. Prune Face immediately commented on the aroma and asked Margaret if she had been cooking. Margaret could not keep a straight face; she burst out laughing and finally admitted she had completed her Christmas baking. Prune Face was amazed to see the amount of baking she had done, and the old lady shook her head as she cautioned the younger woman to return to bed since her baby was only a day old.
Christmas finally arrived. The children were thrilled with the presents Santa brought them, and Margaret and William looked on and smiled. Julie, only five days old, wanted only one thing-to be nursed every two hours. Margaret went back and forth, meeting the guests instead of remaining confined to bed as was the custom. By and large, Christmas brought great joy to Margaret, William, and their ever-expanding family.
Chapter TwoGrowing-Up/Pre-School Years
Surrounded by her four older siblings, Julie was forced to grow up rather quickly. She began walking at nine months old. Her brother, almost exactly one year older, felt compelled to protect his little sister. In fact, he stayed by her side constantly. One day while Margaret was preparing dinner, Julie began to cry. Margaret decided to finish one more entrée for the evening meal before returning to the other room to tend to the baby. All of a sudden, there was complete silence. Dismayed and concerned, Margaret rushed to the bedroom, where she was greeted by the toddler. He happily explained he had given the baby something to eat. Margaret rushed to the baby, and realized that the boy had managed to grab some peanuts from a tray in the living room and packed the infant's mouth full of them! Luckily, Margaret managed to remove the peanuts without incident.
A typical day for Julie involved playing from sun up to sun down. She loved to run after the older children, but her favorite activity was pedaling back and forth on her tiny blue tricycle. She was confined to the back yard because the front yard was in close proximity to the main road, where motorists would speed by on a detour from the main highway. One day, Julie decided to shake up her usual routine. She rode her tricycle through the front yard and down the long, narrow driveway. From there, she crept out onto the main road! Just then, a speeding car crested the hill, and as it barreled towards her, she began to pedal as fast as her little feet could go. She flew straight across the road where she landed in a drainage ditch just as the car whizzed by behind her. That event frightened her so badly that she never played in the front yard again.
Most children in the nearby city attended kindergarten, but William and Margaret believed there was no value in sending children to preschool. Margaret wanted to work, both to maintain her independence and to help earn money for extra amenities for the household. However, William disapproved of her working; he believed a woman's place was in the home, particularly with six children to raise. Margaret couldn't stand just staying home all day, so without William knowing, she worked just a few hours a day for a family who needed someone part-time to do light housekeeping and to serve as a nanny. She would return home just in time to prepare a hot meal for the family. Julie and her younger brother would go to Margaret's sister house while their mother was out at work. Their aunt had once travelled all over the country singing. She was five feet ten inches tall with a very fair complexion, and she thought children with dark complexions were ugly. Julie and her brother had medium- to dark-brown skin, so this aunt thought of them as servants. They were forbidden from being inside unless there was inclement weather; they played outside the entire time.
Once Margaret left and was out of sight, the aunt demanded that Julie empty the disposable bathroom that had sat overnight in the backyard. She would cry each morning as she walked to the end of the yard, knowing that when she opened the lid, she would have to endure the most awful smell of human waste that she could imagine. She would stand there for several minutes, gazing at a distant oak tree from which she took solace from simply gazing at that oak tree because the tree was located at the end of her backyard that brought her comfort. Also she knew it wouldn't be too long before Margaret would return.
Margaret worked only four hours initially so the time appeared to go by rather quickly. After a few months, however, her employer decided to demand that she work a full day. This time, she had no choice but to discuss with William her desire to work. At first he was reluctant, but eventually agreed, provided she would work for only three months. This meant that Julie and her little brother would have to remain an entire day with their aunt. Sometimes William would come home for lunch to check on them. He would bring them a bag of baked peanuts and assure them they would be all right until Margaret returned. It was heartbreaking for Julie to see her father in the middle of the day and then have to watch him go.
Chapter ThreeFirst Grade/Cry-Baby
Finally, Julie was old enough to attend first grade. Children in her community and in the surrounding communities rode the bus to school. The bus was so crowded that there were not enough seats for all of the students; some students stood the entire time. This was incredibly dangerous, especially when the bus would stop abruptly. Children would fall on top of each other, or get tossed to the front of the bus. If the children were lucky enough to arrive at school in one piece (which, of course, they did more often than not), they went to attend class in a wooden army barrack. The schoolhouse had old wooden floors, and a large wood-burning stove that sat in the center of the room. There were no bathrooms; when students asked to be excused, the teacher would line them up and lead them to the bathrooms inside the high school across the schoolyard. One day, Julie had to go rather urgently. The day was very rainy and cold, so for once, the teacher allowed her to go alone. As she attempted to navigate a wooden plank crossing a big puddle, she fell and scraped her leg so severely that blood began to ooze from the wound. She began to sob, lying in the puddle, covered in mud and her own blood. Suddenly her cousin, who was in high school, walked by; she saw Julie crying and ran to her. She assisted her to her feet, then took her inside the school to get first aid, murmuring, "You poor little thing! Now you know why first graders don't go to the bathroom alone!"
First grade was quite an adjustment for Julie; having never attended pre-school, she lacked interpersonal skills. She had a difficult time making friends, and grew sad as her classmates played together without inviting her to join. Her grades reflected this challenge: she made mostly Cs and Ds because she cried almost the entire year.
Chapter FourSecond Grade/The Relocation
The following year, Julie attended second grade in the brand-new elementary school. It had taken years for construction to be completed; several of her older siblings were jealous that they had never had the chance to attend class in the clean and bright new school. By this time, Julie had become adjusted to socializing with other children, riding the school bus, and learning different subjects. Unbeknownst to her, however, she was about to face another setback.
In November, William, along with his co-workers, attended a special call meeting. The supervisor, accompanied by top executives, explained how the company was not as profitable as other plants throughout the country, and so would be closing within ninety days. The employees were given two choices: relocate to St. Louis, Missouri, or to accept a cash payout based on the number years of service. They were given a week to decide. William returned home that same evening, and asked the entire family to join him to discuss what had transpired at work. He and Margaret realized that a payout would not last long as support for their big family, so they had to decide whether the entire family should move, or if he should go alone, leaving the family behind. The family talked for hours, but the children had to go to bed before the decision was made.
Excerpted from Julie The Dreamer by Joyce Ann Whitlock Copyright © 2010 by Joyce Ann Whitlock. Excerpted by permission.
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Table of Contents
ContentsChapter I The Delivery....................1
Chapter II Growing-Up/Pre-School Years....................7
Chapter III First Grade/Cry-Baby....................11
Chapter IV Second Grade/The Relocation....................13
Chapter V Third Grade/The Reader....................15
Chapter VI Fourth Grade/The Joker....................17
Chapter VII Fifth Grade/Retaliation....................19
Chapter VIII Sixth Grade/ The Singer....................21
Chapter IX Seventh Grade/The Haves and the Have-Nots....................23
Chapter X High School/The Decision....................25
Chapter XI City High School/Era of Transitioning....................29
Chapter XII The Dress Making....................31
Chapter XIII Junior Year City School/Realization....................33
Chapter XIV Twelfth Grade/The Race....................35
Chapter XV Graduation/Farewell....................41
Chapter XVI First Flight/Train Ride....................43
Chapter XVII Nursing School/Early Arrival....................49
Chapter XVIII The Work Force....................53
Chapter XIX Return to School/Nursing....................55
Chapter XX Graduation/Blind Date....................63
Chapter XXI The Funeral/ The Losses....................69
Chapter XXII The Doctor/The Admirer....................71
Chapter XXIII The Proposal/The Marriage....................83
Chapter XXIV The Move /California Dreaming....................85
Chapter XXV The Breakup/The Divorce....................89
Chapter XXVI The Fulfilled Dream/The Miracles....................93