- Books, Literature, and Writing
Meeting Lizbeth - Chapter Three Part III
Sixteenth Birthday! As Lizbeth stayed awake in her bed she thought of her sixteenth birthday. Really it is seventeen. She knew when you celebrated your first birthday it was at the end of your first year and the beginning of your second year. That thinking led her to the conclusion this was her seventeenth year.
She thought about her family too. She knew her father and Maddy were the salt of the earth, but her mother was an enigma. Louise constantly left questions in Lizbeth's mind. She could be loving and considerate but just when Lizbeth thought they were getting close she could feel Louise pulling away. Why? What made her mother act that way? What happened to put those walls there?
Lizbeth never met her grandmother. She had heard stories about Grandma June but trying to put the pieces together was difficult. She had gathered those pieces over the years from family, friends, and even an enemy or two. Maybe if she knew more about Grandma June she could figure out her mother. Who was Grandma June Porter?
“The most authentic thing about us is our capacity to create, to overcome, to endure, to transform, to love and to be greater than our suffering.”— Ben Okri
The Story of June
The youngest of thirteen children and the only one still with her mother and father. June's father was a lazy, worthless bully. He knew selling his children was an easy way to make money. June's mother never had a say in the matter. If she tried to argue with him he would slap her around until she stopped talking. She suffered numerous broken bones and bruises. Twelve of her children were taken from her. Twelve times she mourned the loss of one of her babies. She prayed they were going to a better home and that was what kept her from losing her mind. There would have been thirteen gone but when June was only two weeks old he got in a bar fight and was fatally stabbed.
June's mother's emotions were all over the place. Relief flooded her body and mind yet there was a tinge of guilt at being happy he was gone. Neighbors she had never spoken to brought her food and left money on the table. She cried, but not for him, for the generosity of these people she didn't know. They knew about her though and their sympathy mixed with their own relief for her.
They streamed in for two days and when they were finished there was enough money to pay all the bills for two months. This would give her time to find a job and hopefully a babysitter for June. One of her neighbors had a baby herself and offered to watch little June while she looked for a job. She didn't realize these neighbors were on her side but stayed away because of her abusive husband. Battered women were still kept secret and unfortunately she was one of them. Her new found freedom scared her but she knew she could make it with her baby to raise.
After two weeks of looking she was hired as a waitress in a nearby diner. She spoke to her neighbor about watching June a little longer for pay and her neighbor agreed. The first day on the job she was terrified. She hadn't really been out of the house on her own in more than thirteen years. What she didn't realize was her new boss was cut from the same cloth as her husband. He was a bully and thought women were his to use as he saw fit. He was a big man with a big mouth and no one wanted to raise his ire. He had a habit of touching the women that worked for him but no one said anything for fear of losing their job. She put up with it just like the rest of the ladies working there, maybe she was more used to it than they were. Finally, one day he cornered her in the freezer and started kissing her. She knew it would only get worse so she somehow managed to escape his grasp and run. She ran out of the diner and never looked back.
She had enough money for one more month but had no idea what she would do next. She had no skills or education, another diner was her only choice. She loved being with June and hoped she could find a job that would give her time with her beautiful little girl. A few days later one of the women in the building stopped by to chat. She was dressed in the finest clothes and her jewelry was stunning. June didn't know her but had seen her in the building. She was very kind and asked June's mother if she would be interested in a job that would make her a lot of money in a little time. She went on to explain that men could be very generous and if you were careful no one would know what you were doing. She said June could go to the babysitter's and things could be good for the both of them. She was frightened at first but felt there was no other way.
June was never home when the men came. Some of them were very kind and some brutal like her husband, but she knew this was the way to make money and get ahead. She was very frugal and saved more than half of what she made. As time went on she saved even more. By the time June was four years old she had saved enough for a down payment on a house. They moved to another town where she was able to buy a small two bedroom house. When they were settled in June's mother started to take in laundry. She washed it, dried it, ironed it, and even sewed when asked to. It was hard work and long hours but it was enough to keep them going.
When I was young I thought that money was the most important thing in life; now that I am old I know that it is.— Oscar Wilde
June grew up in a nice neighborhood, not quite on the wrong side of the tracks. She went to school in clean clothes every day and brought her lunch just like the other kids. Some kids felt sorry for her because her mother had to work so hard and she had no father. That was not what worried her mother. Money was what worried her.
“Junie, its money that makes you safe. No man can give you a good life if he doesn't have money.”
“I suffered for years because there was no money. Don't ever let that happen to you.”
June didn't understand at first but as she got older she did. She saw her mother working her fingers to the bone so they could have a roof over their heads. She knew her father hadn't been a good provider either.
“Junie, always make an honest living. Don't be too proud to take a job where you have to work hard as long as the pay's good. Its all about money.”
June knew about her father and siblings, but her mother never told her about being a prostitute. June thought they had moved away to buy the house. No one in this town knew and her mother wanted to keep it that way. June learned from her mother how important money is. Over and over her mother told her to make sure if she married, the man had money. She learned you can't live without money and the more you have the safer you are. Without money came abuse and even starvation. You had to have money.
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