HERE ARE THREE LITTLE STORIES FROM MY MOM'S CHILDHOOD.
There were streetcars in those days and tracks ran in the middle of the roads. On one trip with the little family of three – Nana, Baba and my Mom – the car wheels got caught somehow on the tracks and the car jerked to a halt. The door on the right hand side flew open and my Mom was thrown from the car and landed with a thud. Nana flew out after her and as soon as she hit the ground she was up and grabbing her little girl, limp as a rag doll. Mom is sure she would have died then – all the air was knocked out of her and she couldn’t inhale – if Nana had not grabbed her up.
One car adventure took place in Hamtramck, Michigan. Baba and my Mom (still little) stopped at the street light, and when the light changed, the car would not start. As they sat helpless in the car four big men came out of a nearby house, picked up the car with the two passengers in it, and carried the car to the curb. They then disappeared back into the house. No words spoken.
The last car adventure has my grandfather driving a fellow minister somewhere while my Mom (still little) sat in the rumble seat of their coupe. When his passenger left the car, Baba had Mom hop out of the rumble seat to sit in the front with him, but when he slammed the rumble seat closed he didn’t see that her hand was still resting on the car. He slammed it shut on her little hand. She says when he lifted the cover her hand puffed up.
Poor Baba! He got her in the car and started driving like a maniac while Mom screamed non-stop. He didn’t fly through traffic signals, but he flew past two hospitals on his way home. Nana could hear them coming, with the car windows up – Mom’s screaming – a block away.
Baba carried her into the house, and here is the strange thing. Nana cut a lemon in half, loosened the membrane, stuck my mother’s little fingers in it and wrapped her hand with a tea towel while Baba held her on his lap. Then they put her to bed and, all cried out, she plopped off to sleep as Baba prayed over her.
Next morning when she awoke, there was nothing amiss with her hand – no bruises, no missing fingernails, no broken bones. And to her dying day, Nana never knew why she stuck my mother’s fingers in half a lemon. Also strange, though holding a pencil would sometimes irritate her middle finger, my mom has lived into her nineties and it is just now that her middle finger is in constant pain, as if her body held the pain at bay all these years, and it was never expressed until now.
In those days my grandparents believed in faith healing; they had no truck with hospitals. They did not have a medicine cabinet full of prescription drugs, nor even aspirin. They only had quinine, my mother recalls, and blessed olive oil.