Sunday, November 6, 2016

Gramma Lu's Babies - 4

This week we come to the era of the picture I've been using for illustration -- with baby Gracie being born.

Just a note about names: when Lula wrote her memoirs (and so far I've found over 500 pages of it, densely handwritten) she generally changed the names slightly.  "Dougie" of course, is Dudley.  She generally called Gracie "Greta." And her husband Fred was usually called "Fritz."  In this memoir she didn't go further: surnames are the same, and I have found many of the people she mentions in the census for 1900 or 1910.  However, in her much longer memoir that covers her whole life, she changes much more. Still obvious if you know the real names, though, (LaGuire becomes LaGrawn, Wanamaker becomes Shoemaker, etc.)

(Previous chapters: Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3)

The Babies God Gave Me

Handwritten manuscript by Lula J. Wanamaker LaGuire 

Chapter 4

An Adventist Church stood between our house (one belonging to the Wynkoops) and the store.  And when  I could get ready, the children and I attended church services.  The Adventists proved to be real friends.

When I discovered I was to have another child, I was just plain angry, it seemed to me that I needed a little respite. I had more than I could do to keep up my work, and was far from well.  It just did not seem fair to me nor my babies I already had, and it surely kept Fred's nose on the grindstone!

I did not cry as I did before my second one, but became rather cross at night when I lay on my back and tried to turn over. It felt as if my back was spiked to the bed and I was tearing myself loose.  The ordeal of turning over was fierce!  But I had to do it. I didn't even see a doctor.  None was handy and I supposed this was just another facet of pregnancy.

So I endured.  My lungs felt compressed and I knew I needed more fresh air and that's when I sent for a remedy to sell.  Mother's Salve and other remedies.  And when Fred could stay with our little boys an hour or so, I went  out peddling.  I did not make much money but I did get a release from baby tending and earned a few prizes.

I was very strict with my boys, too much so. But when I told one to do or not do something I expected immediate obedience -- if not they got what "paddy gone the drum".  I guess I was getting to be a scold, and one day one of those nice Advent women told  me, as I was telling how hard it was to make the youngsters mind -- how they would run away and what a great worry it all was to me -- she said gently but firmly,

"You can be too severe with children."

I said, "One has to make them obey."

And she repeated: "You can be too severe with children."

Perhaps she'd heard me yelling at them.

Well, I considered what she said and it helped me to be more lenient. I was obsessed with the idea that if I didn't exact implicit obedience they would get into a great deal of trouble as temptations and dangers were everywhere.  The best way I knew was to demand obedience. I know I was too strict, but I really didn't know any other way.  I prayed that God would help me to rule my children with love rather than a rod.

But each day brought more cares and burdens, it seemed.

Fred got a man to build a small coop and I thought I'd raise chickens and help that way, although we got quite a number of eggs, my chicken venture petered out eventually.

Fortunately Mrs. Noris was a midwife and we engaged her to care for my three, in my next confinement.  We all wanted a girl this time, and had to have a hired girl for a while.  Fred hired a horse and cutter and went about six miles and brought her back. she was a pretty dark-haired young woman but crippled as she had a dislocated hip. She was a good worker.  Her name was Ada, and little Dougie, who was talking now, liked her.  That was a help.

He called her Lady, as he thought that was what we meant when we said "Ada."  Some would have said the name Lady didn't fit her, as she was rather wild when she went to dances and even got drunk sometimes.

She behaved while at our house however. Even when Fred offered her a drink once, she refused it. I sure appreciated that. Though I certainly was angry at Fred for offering her a drink and tempting her.  But I guess she knew her limits.

Mrs. Noris came on the coldest night in that very cold winter of 1904 and delivered a lovely baby girl for me.  A good neighbor, Mrs. Crane cared for -- washed and dressed -- our first girl.

I was awfully sick for a while, but it didn't last too long, and Mrs.  Noris was competent.

We were all glad we had a girl.  How little Ralph hopped over to the store and Post Office the next day and announced gaily and happily:

"We've got a sister!"

He used to jump like a little kangaroo when he wanted to tell good news. Orvie did his share of informing neighbors, tho I suppose the news had gotten around before our little men were awake.

I know I made little Gracie Genevieve's clothes, but it is a strange fact that I can only remember one little dress of percale, with narrow stripes and beads in a delicate blue that my mother had sent cloth for.  Though I'm sure she wore the white launsdale cambric ones I had made for Orvie, and all three boys had worn. Baby dresses were still long, but not as long as formerly, thank goodness.

How we did used to swaddle our poor kids up in long skirts, dressed and pinning blankets. And when baby wet, unless it was well padded with two or three diapers, all it's clothes were wet!

Rubber pants had not come into use at that time -- what a boon they have been since.  Altho I think it is cruel to keep them on babies all the time, when one travels with an infant -- these rubber diapers are a blessing.  I never had any for my youngsters.  Nor any such thing as a rubber sheet. We got along as best we could in those days and if I did not have conveniences like play pens and high cribs, plastic bottles and many modern helps, neither did my friends and neighbors. But mothers could keep their babies clean and sweet smelling if they really cared, and many did too.

Orvie had reached the manly age of six and he was a manly little fellow too.  He had a playmate that altho he was only about eight years old, he smoked a pipe.  Had been taught to by his father and uncles. He would not let my boys have any of his tobacco, but Orvie thought that if he could smoke, why couldn't he!  Fred was an inveterate smoker. Tobacco was always around the house.  I really don't know where Orvie obtained the weed, but as I missed him and started looking for him one day, I discovered him out behind the chicken coop.  He was leaning against it as he could hardly stand and was sick as any little boy ever was who tried his first smoke.

I believe he thought he was dying!  When he was thru vomiting he came to the house and for a wonder his mother had sense enough not to spank him.  I knew  he had been punished a great plenty.  I think he didn't try again for many years.
He has learned to smoke and broken off many times since, but at this writing he does not use the filthy weed.

I wish I could remember more of my children's smart or cute sayings. But only  a few still linger in my memory.

When Ralphie learned that his brother Dougie had his father's middle name and Orvie had his daddy's first name as his middle name, he felt sort of slighted -- so I told him about the Great explorer, Henry M. Stanley, and he was pleased, little Ralph, as his first name is "Stanley."

Looking elated he said, "Well, I'm glad someone is named after me!"

At one time when the two boys were yet little, a window by the head of the bed where dad and Orvie slept became broken, letting in too much fresh air.  As we couldn't get a glass at once to repair it, Orvie and his daddy turned and slept with their heads at the foot of the bed for a night or two.  When I asked them if they would be warm enough that way, Orvie, about 2 1/2 then, spoke up and said:

"I'll be alright, won't I papa, if I leep with my head to yours and my heels -- wrong side out!"

No doubt thinking he had made a very good choice of words.

As I recall other cute things I'll try to record them.

Our girl had dark hair and big  blue eyes, as all the boys had at first.  Orvie was now a real light-haired blond while Ralphie's hair was slightly darker, almost a red -- not quite.  Dougie also was a golden haired blond -- Greta's hair always remained dark.  All beautiful children and not just to my eyes, either! 

If I had only had time to play with them and talk to them, I would have enjoyed them more.  But with a very demanding husband and three meals to get on time, and four little huskies to care for, I did not seem to have time for my children as I should have had.  Between worrying about my work which never seemed to be caught up and Fred's queer ways and the boys running off every chance they got, I was in a fair way to lose my mind, I thought.

Once said to a neighbor that I was almost frantic with so many worries and health not half good.

She said, "You can be thankful they are little and you can keep track of them most of the time. When they are grown up and you don't know where they are or what they are doing then, you will know what worry really is."

It did not seem possible to me that I could have any more troubles than at the time I was carrying, and I must say after many years that woman was mistaken as far as my youngsters were concerned, altho I have found many different kinds of hectic situations with their many and varied heart aches and suspense.  My children did not cause me more worries when they became young men and women. They were thoughtful, smart and quite well-behaved, not even committing the minimum of depredations. Tho, of course they did some things that I did not approve of, being natural human beings.

So perhaps those spankings did some good after all.  However I would be more satisfied and at peace with my conscience if I had skipped the whippings.  A good spank on the place where it did the most good on their little bottoms, was permissible and did help to keep them tractable, and the act of crying keeps things clear, nad perhaps moms are excusable.

I hope so anyway.  

Continue Reading - Chapter 5 (Next week)

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