I must give you a bit of background. My Mom, Ann was a Cherokee orphan. She could not speak or read Cherokee but could speak Yiddish and read Hebrew. After her Dad died and maternal politics exploded, Mom lived with a wonderful Jewish family as a nanny for their two school age boys. She attended school near by the residence a “Colored” school and learned to design, cut and sew in preparation for in-service jobs.
For her the worst became the best for her life’s path. She was a designer of sports wear for ladies.
Later she met my Dad and I came along. My Dad made Clark Gable look ugly. That
was his problem. Mom gave him a set of legal papers in any language meant, “Get
lost.” He’d pop up any place at any time. Before he died, he was super.
We were happy in Boston away from family aggravations from any side. God gave us another wonderful family: grandparents! They too kept a Kosher home and honored the Sabbath. I did not know any other life for us.
Mom was happy to be at home. She could not understand why I always wanted to
be on the go. I was Nana’s “baby” and pampered, not spoiled. Mom gave up and
let me go. Nana, Grandperé and I attended concerts; museum exhibits; theatre,
whatever Boston had to offer, I’m sure I saw it or heard it.
Nana taught me to shop, big time. Mom was a great shopper too. [My Darling husband
went shopping with me once for groceries; once for clothes; and twice for furniture. I
asked too many questions for him.] Grandperé kept me up on all my school assignments and homework and his word governed my play time.
Attending all girls’ schools we made our own family units. I was always invited to
spend a few hours to a weekend with one or two of my sorors. Believe me all
parents and grandparents knew each other.
As I aged the tight rein eased a bit. I became interested in Mom’s Cherokee
family and heard her stories that made rocks cry. I knew Mom had an Aunt in
New York City. Mom would not leave the Commonwealth! Nosy me, I made
it my business to meet Mom’s Cousin Odessa first. We met under the big
clock at Grand Central Station. I was returning to Boston from visiting with
my Dad’s relatives
We had arranged what we’d wear so we would recognize each other. We
sat and talked about three hours. I was so excited. She had told me the
same story of how the Cherokees were put on The Trail of Tears to Oklahoma
by U. S. President Andrew Jackson. Odessa and Ann’s Grandfather took
his family and fled to the hills of West Virginia.
I hated to leave Odessa. However, we agreed to chat weekly. That made
the parting easier.
Mom was anxious to hear about our meeting. Chatting over time, Mom and
Odessa became close over the telephone.
I went to the New York World’s Fair in October, 1964 and made arrangements
with Odessa to meet her Mom, Lucy. I had been prepared to see a grown
woman with the behavior of a four year old. Now the ailment is called Alzheimer’s.
Grandaunt Lucy lived alone. Odessa lived alone to keep her sanity and her job.
Twice a day she’d check on Aunt Lucy. The weekends were spent shopping for groceries, cleaning, doing laundry and cooking large meals for the refrigerator.
Odessa was older than Mom and looked almost as old as her Mom.
Aunt Lucy was just beautiful as one would expect a Native Person to look. Her
hair was naturally shades of grey and it was a braid long enough to sit on.
Visiting Aunt Lucy, Odessa told me I’d be at her apartment before she arrived to
fix her supper. I used the words Odessa gave me, Aunt Lucy opened the door,
asked me in and realized I was not Odessa.
She wanted to know who I was. I told her I was George’s Granddaughter. She threw
her head back in a hearty laugh. “Oh, you are teasing me, George is only five years
old”. I asked her how old she was and she became bewildered. Quickly I asked where
her Dad was. I was told he was working with the horses at the blacksmith shop. I asked, “What is his name?” “Daddy”
I asked her where her Mother was. “I do not know.”
“Where are your other brothers and sisters?” “Three of them died, I don’t know their names. It is only George and me and he is outside playing”.
Odessa soon arrived and queried her Mom about her visitor. “She says she is George’s
Granddaughter.” Again she threw her head back in laughter. As Odessa talked she
was preparing her Mom dinner. I’d tasted so much World’s Fair food, I really did not
want to see anything to eat. As Lucy ate, Odessa cleaned the kitchen and we got caught up with the latest news. We needed to get Ann out of Boston to meet her Aunt.
After a while I left Odessa dog tired and I was off to the hotel after bidding Aunt Lucy adieu.
Yes, I could get around New York City as if I lived there because we precocious girls
could easily get to Logan Airport; take the forty minute flight to LaGuardia; roam around
and catch a plane back. None of us told of our adventures for fear our parents or grandparents would ground us forever!
At home, Mom was thrilled I got to meet her Aunt. Now, how to get Mom out of Boston? Nana could not get her to budge.
Thanksgiving night Aunt Lucy died. I flew into New York with Mom’s blessing for the
funeral. Aunt Lucy left only three relatives. The funeral was at night and small. Odessa and I sat together. The burial was the next day. I took a flight back to Boston after a
quick burial. The procession was at sixty miles per hour. No slow processions in New York.
With the job I had I could call Odessa and talk for free. We did this weekly for less than
five minutes each call. I told her I had a plan to get Ann into the City. She agreed to meet me wherever.
In Boston, the second Saturday, every December, a special train “for women only” was
the idea of a co-worker of one of my sorors in an insurance company. I’d gone for
a number of years. We’d leave South Station at seven in the morning and non-stop to
New York City. We’d arrive before noon.
I’d schemed with Mom’s friends and bought tickets for all of them and Mom. That Friday night the telephone rang for Mom. I went into her room and took her purse
from its hiding place. The phone rang again. It was for her and that was my cue to
slip her purse out the door to another friend. I had the wallet Another call and one of the friends asked her what she was going to do while all of us are heading to New York City.
I heard Mom slam the telephone onto the cradle and started yelling at me. “Where
is my purse?” I really did not lie when I told her I did not know where it was. The
phone rang again, furious her best friend told her that when she gets on the train
in the morning for New York she’d get her purse and wallet. She had a choice ride
the train or stay home with no money.
Mom, was up, fixed breakfast, ready to take the first bus to the train station to
take us to South Station. What a crowd. Two of my sorors, their Moms, Aunts,
Cousins and Mom spots her pals and their daughters and friends.
Her first question was who has my purse? No one said a word all just stared at
each other. I did give her a ticket as I passed out my set to her friends.
We boarded the train. The train started to roll toward Rhode Island and just before
crossing into that State, I reached across the aisle and handed Mom her wallet and
I got the “I’ll get your butt later” look. Then her purse came forward. To the day
Mom died about five months later, just weeks after her forty-first birthday she never
knew how we “skunked” her.
In New York, I told Mom, I was hungry and wanted to go to a nearby automat before
we went roaming. Yes, Odessa was there as we had planned. I can still feel the
electricity between the first cousins. They had about everyone crying as the
word passed. People in New York don’t pay attention or care about much. Maybe
it was the Season of Love.
Odessa had to leave and I took Mom to see a friend in Brooklyn she had not seen
in maybe twenty-five years. She wanted to know how I knew the subway system
so well. I lied. I told her friends told me how to get around. Heck, we precocious
brats’ fun ride was to sneak out of Boston for the day and back.
We could not do that today. As adults we don’t want to fly because of the rude
TSA checkers. Now they would not let us imps on the airplanes no matter how
much money we had in our purses. They probably call our parents too.
From the Cherokee side, I am the last of George and his sister Lucy’s family.
I look forward to the adventure of breaking gravity one day and The Great Spirit
lets me dance across the sky and draw flowers and hearts as I leave this earth
for the Big Powwow.
Causes Patricia Barbee Supports
Gold Star Wives of America, Inc.
Any effort to aid the elderly, children and enslaved women.