in my own words...

Grace DavisYou have no idea how much I look up to my big brother Douglas.  We didn't have the easiest time growing up and I still really don't like to think about it much.  Mom and Dad seemed to always be working so that we could afford a roof over our heads and food on the table.  I was so young at the time that I couldn't understand why Mom couldn't stay at home with us like all the other mothers.  Granted, she really tried to be home when we got finished with school, but sometimes she didn't make it.  There were days it would be just me and Douglas alone together.  Maybe that's why we've always been so close.  He was always around to take care of me when no one else could.

Things started to look up for us the day Daddy came home and announced that he was getting promoted to foreman at the factory where he worked.  We knew that it would mean more money for us, but it would also mean longer hours for him.  At least Mom got to be at home a little more instead of being at work.  The good times really didn't last long, though.  Daddy always had been a little bit of a drinker, but it seemed that once he got the promotion it got even worse.  I remember thinking that Daddy was drunk more than he was sober.  Both Mom and Douglas didn't think I knew a lot of what was going on, but I did.  I saw and knew a lot more than I let on.  I knew Douglas stayed at the library a lot because he couldn't stand to come home.  When I got old enough, he would take me along.  While he buried himself in the stacks of books he liked to read, I looked at the magazines with all the pretty pictures of ladies in gorgeous gowns trying to sell everything from perfume to cars.

It was a really sad day for me when Douglas went off to college.  I had to be happy for him because he was getting out and was going to make something of himself, but I found myself jealous that he was leaving and I wasn't.  I got to see him on the few holidays that he came home, but I knew that I was on my own to deal with all the trouble at home.  Douglas told me that he was going to be a lawyer and was gonna one day make enough money to take care of me so I wouldn't have to worry about Mom and Dad again.

Dad's drinking gradually got worse and I could tell that he wasn't feeling well.  He had lost his job because he had missed work one too many times for being drunk and just didn't seem to have any interest in finding another one.  That left Mom to work even harder to provide for all of us.  I could tell that the pressure was getting to her.  Then, one day, Daddy died.  Mom said his body finally couldn't take all the damage and that he had gone to a better place where he wouldn't hurt anymore.  I knew what she really meant was that he went to a place where he couldn't hurt us anymore.  As much as I loved my Daddy, really I did, I hoped that with him gone we could have a normal life.  It just wasn't to be.

After the funeral, Mom started growing really distant.  She was working even more to support us and I was left a lot with Mrs. Grayson across the hall.  Then Mom started to forget things.  She would forget to cook dinner or she would forget when I was supposed to be at school.  Once she even forgot that I was at Mrs. Grayson's.  Finally, after she forgot to go to work one too many times, she got fired.  After that, there were days she would forget to get out of bed.  I tried to convince her to call Douglas so he could help us, but she refused.  She said that we'd be okay and she didn't want to worry him.  He should have been worried.  I was.  Thankfully the church down the street knew we were in trouble and helped us out with food and a little money for rent.  Even with their help, there were some days when all we had to eat were potatoes.  I got sick of potatoes.  Then Momma started getting angry.  She would get angry with everything.  I was scared to even say anything to her because I might make her mad.  I knew that when I made her mad, she would start to yell and break things.  Then she started to hit me.  I would go to bed at night a cry myself to sleep and pray that Douglas would come to get me, but he never did.

Then finally one day Momma just stopped functioning.  She just sat in her chair by the window in her housecoat and started out the window.  She'd sit there for hours and wouldn't even know I was there.  I felt completely on my own.  When the lady came from social services one day, I was so happy to see someone.  We hadn't been out of the apartment in days.  Momma just didn't want to go and I was kinda scared to leave her alone.  The lady talked to us for a little bit and left, but came back a while later with a doctor who started looking at Momma.  I heard him tell the social worker that Momma wasn't well and had to go to a hospital.  He called it a sanitarium.  A few days later, to my surprise, Douglas was home!  He told me I was going to Albanyville to live with him because Momma had to go away.  I was scared for her, but I was so happy that I was going with Douglas.

Now, I live with Douglas in a nice house and I'm about to finish high school.  I don't like to talk about what happened during the time between Daddy's funeral and when Momma went away.  I just want to think of happy things for once in my life.  I want to know what it's like to have a boyfriend and be just like all the other girls who don't have a drunk father and a crazy mother.  But no matter what I do, I can't help but wonder if I'm gonna turn out just like them.

March, 1935