Sunday, October 23, 2016

Gramma Lu's Babies - 2

Here's the second section of Gramma Lula Wanamaker LaGuire's memoirs about the birth and raising of her children in northwestern lower Michigan at the beginning of the last century.  This chapter takes place between the birth of Ralph Stanley  in 1899, and the birth of  Dudley Linwood at the end of 1901.  (Chapter 1 appears here.)

The Babies God Gave Me

Handwritten manuscript by Lula J. Wanamaker LaGuire


The two little boys were company for each other, and when I nursed Ralphie to sleep, as I rocked him, I also held Orvie on my other arm and he went to sleep too.  Then I would walk to the bed with them both in my arms and drop the older one on the bed and then I had both arms free so I could lay the littlest one down carefully and they both would have a good nap while I dove into my work with a vengence, fairly flying from one job to another to get all Icould done before they awaken -- no play pens then. 

We did have a second-hand buggy and crib however.  About the only protection they had was a two foot high board across the door to keep them from falling out. This board I had to step over whenever I went thru the door. Talk about exercise!

There were so many reasons to step outdoors for I those days; to throw out the dish water and the potato peelings if we did not have a pig, to bring in wood and hang out clothes, diapers.  Seven times a day more or less one must step over that board. A convenience we could not have gotten along without.

When the boys overcame that hurdle they began to run away and that kept mama running ever and anon.  One could look out doors most any time a day to see a mother chasing an adventerous little tot.  We'd get them home and spank them, very likely, and they'd light out the next chance they had.

When the 2 little fellows both were able to trot off they went to the store about a block away. They had gone with me to get groceries. They bought cookies and raisins and the man charged them of course -- thinking I had sent the boys.  When I started out to hunt for them they were on their way home, but coming thru the neighbor's gate instead of our own as, no doubt, Orvie had a feeling he was doing wrong.

I met them and had to laugh at their audacity and that time they escaped a spanking.  But I adminished them they must not do that again.  Orvie at least uderstood.

In those days we bought our flour in cotton 25# sacks -- or larger -- those sacks were a boon to busy mothers.  We made many things from them, such as pillow cases, children's clothes, diapers, etc.  My nearest neighbor intented to make a quilt lining from some. She had saved over the months. She had a tub of rain water on her front porch which was seldom used, and had put several sacks to soak the letters out before dying them for comfort covers.

When Orvie was about 15 months old, I missed him one day and started frantically searching for him. I knew he was not far away as I'd seen him a few minutes before in our yard.  I called and ran around our house and then the next one... and there was that industrious little tyke sitting in with Mrs.C's flour sacks, having the time of his life splashing sacks and water all over the porch!  I gave them their baths in a tub and he figured no doubt that was what that tub of water was for with somany pretty wash clothes in it!

I got him home and into dry clothes as quickly as possible and really had a good laugh at his antics.

This running after youngsters interfered with my work a good deal and sometimes I became desperate and the boys got a good "tanning."  If one thinks this is not exasperating -- leaving what ever one is doing  and lighting out at a trot every few hours -- let them try it. 

We had a fence but not adequate to keeping youngsters inclosed.  I know now I did not use the right tactics at all. But it seemed then I didn't have time to play with them and take walks, etc.  I took them with me everywhere I went however; once I took some boards (this was before No. 2 could walk) and made a fence for him to play in, two boards high, but it was separate from our house.

When other children were there to play with him he was OK, but alone it did not work.  He would just stand and howl at the top of his voice until I took him into the house.  If I had connected it with the house so he could come in and out at will I believe it would have accomplished its purpose.  But as I didn't have foresight enough to do that, I just went and tore the fence down and piled up the boards. 

Once little Ralphie went and took a long walk away and I went after him and when I caught up with him I switched his little legs with a small switch I picked up.  He ran screaming for the house and I after him. (Poor little fellow, I caught him again upstairs and gave him a little more switching.  This was cruel and not warranted but I was desperate at the way those boys ran away at every chance.) The child cried pitifully and as far as I know didn't run away again for a long time.

I will state here that we (my brothers and sisters and I) received our whippings when we were growing up and plenty of them -- but my parents had nine children.  They were spread out perhaps, so none of us girls, at least, got too many, so as I was brought up, so I reared my own. 

Years have taught me that I was wrong.  People used to say "Spare the rod and spoil the child," quoting from the Bible, so most Christians and many others beat their offspring for all wrongdoing and some things that were not wrong.  I inherited my father's disposition, so was very much like him when younger. 

If I told my husband, "I don't kow what I shall do with these kids. They run away all the time," he would reply:

"Knock hell out of them," and think he had done h is duty.

One woman told me take a little switch and whip them all the way back home and that's what I tried to do with little R. But I have never forgiven myself and never will.  The only good I can see in spanking and thrashing is that the child cries a great deal and that clears out his lungs.  But usually a child finds plenty to cry about without his parents beating upon him.

Fred took a hand at it now and then also.  When I think of what these two had to endure and many others also, I wish that folks would interpret that scripture as meaning, "Be sparing of the rod and spoil the child a little." 

I have asked  God many times to forgive me for whipping my youngsers and I hope he does for I can never forgive myself and Ralphie has suffered so severely since -- why did I have to add to his suffering?  And the others also.
They have all grown up to be fine however. 

When Orvie was about 3 years old, I missed him one day and ran out to hunt for him. I was expecting my third at that time.  When about half way to Fred's brother Jim's home, I could see little Helen about half way up to the peak of the very steep roof of that house, an as I saw 2 older girls emerge from the front door I called,

"Run in the house and tell your mother that Helen is up on the roof!"

They disappeared like a shot into the house and then I saw Nora and Jim come runing out a side door. Helen had reached the very peak by then and was looking over the other side as unconcerned as you please.

And my little son was as high as the eaves at the top of a ladder.  He was afraid, or thought it best not to go farther.  When I arrived all out of breath and said Orvie come down here this instant, he climbed down slowly, and when Helen's mama yelled at her she climbed down backwards on some slats that were nailed to the roof as if she had been in the habit of doing it every day.  I bet she remembered the spanking her mama gave her all her life. I think Orvie escaped with a good scolding that time.  I was so glad they were down and safe.  I took him home where I'd left little Ralphie.

A year before this we were living in my brother-in-law's home as my sister was in hospital for mental cases and my mother was caring for her two little girls, so we went there to see how it would work out.  My brother-in-law lived in the kitchen and cooked his own meals, while we had our kitchen in the diningroom. 

This arrangement was okay but we finally tired of it. While there my brother Scott came to take me and my two out to Mother's and Father's place a couple of miles out, and while on the way brother crossed a level field on on the snow -- we were in a cutter -- instead of using the road, I don't know why. 

But as there were no tracks acros the field the cutter tipped over, throwing little Orvie out on the ground.  I held on to the littlest one, then about a year old and we fell out together while Scott held the reins and quieted the horse.

I was frightened a lot as I thought the sleigh had tipped over on Orvie, as I couldn't see him anywhere.  He had fallen out behind and was alright.  We finished our ride, and it was a pleasant one after that.  Mother had a nice dinner for us and Scott took us home later.

But the scare and tumble had accomplished their work!  The next day I had a miscarriage.  We had a doctor and when I asked "will the baby come away?" he answered not if we an help it.

But it did and I didn't seem any worse for the experience. Believe it or not I was glad -- and I am not a heartless person and I love my babies very much.  I felt as if God had intervened.  We were homeless as Fred had sold our own home so there would be no likelihood of his dieing and leaving it to me.  He was ill quite often with bronchitis, rheumatism, etc., so he nearly gave the house away.  We lived whereever we could get a footing.  His work was then intermittent so why in the named all that is sacred should we want another one! 

I escaped that time but soon was "expecting" again. We were living at this time in Fred's brother Pete's home as they were away working (Pete and Emeline) -- we had lived in four different places since selling our home and living in it and paying rent for a while.  The incident of being corralled by a bull I have written elsewhere. That was when we lived on the Charley Thompkins place.

Now we were looking forward to our own third child and hoped, naturally, this one would be a girl.  As I now had a good Singer machine I proceeded to make some rather nice baby things.  I recall at this late date; three kimonos buttoning up front and feathers, stitched a small square blanket with pink crochets and silk lace about two inches wide which faded out after a few washings...

Which was as well as our third was also a boy!

I knitted three pair stockings -- white, pink and blue -- one white skirt hand crochet lace about two inches wide, and plenty other things which I don't recall now.

On the 10th of Dec, we got word to Mother that she was needed again.  Poor Mother! Between my brother Elmer's wife, Bertha, and myself, we certainly did run her ragged. Then Fred called the doctor from Freesoil and proceeded to get sister-in-law Nora again, and as if that was not enough he went and called our next door neighbor Mrs. Cap.  He considered it a sort of festival I think.  He was always glad when another arrived not thinking how we were going to care for it.
Well, thank God!  I was not in labor very long, altho I had been having small pains all day, but kept at my work as long as I could which was good for me.  Mother was competant as always.

After three real hard pains the baby came!  I remember saying I'm so glad it wasn't any longer.  I hoped it wouldn't be long, but I didn't dare to hope.

Fred, of course, went out to lay in the boys bed in the kitchen and cried.  He would with all those women to witness it. That sounds like a heartless remark but I know Fred.

The boy was a nice healthy-appearing little bundle.  The doctor came late as he had at Ralphie's birth; made examinations and took his leave and $3.00. He left some morphine pills for me as I was having hard after pains -- they lasted most of the night and mother put cloths wrung out of hot water on my abdomen. 

We were doing well and three days afterwards the new baby had scarletina and we thought it was measles. Orvie was quite ill. No, I am getting this wrong.  Ralphie did not have scarletina.  Only Orvie was ill and we learned later that the children three houses away had it. That's where he had gotten it.  Several years later the children again had scarlet fever and as Ralph had it this time -- I knew that was what Orvie and little Dudley Linwood had had. 

You see we did not get a doctor for every thing in those day, as he was so far away, we did not like to call him unless really necessary.  All came thru with flying colors and as I went to hang out clothes when deep snow covered the ground -- I got rheumetism in my knees.  (I used to think clothes must be hung outdoors to dry, even in freezing weather and a thousand times I have hung them on the line when they would freeze during the process then go in and plunge my hands into cold water to take the frost out of them so they would not ache so terribly.) 

Well some red flannel drawers overcame the rheumatism.  I remember what a time the boys had trying to remember the baby's name. They thought hard a while then came up with "Woody Study."  (Dudley Linwood.)

Continue Reading with CHAPTER 3

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