This is a story I wrote about my darling mother's first marriage. This marriage ended about eight years later when her husband died in a car accident, leaving her with two little girls, my sisters. Most of this story is true. Part of it is made up--the little details--because Mom is no longer here to tell me those details and what's a story without a few interesting details?
Fred was a railroad worker but not the soot covered kind. He wore fresh clothes and dressed like a gentleman. I could hardly breathe when he came into the drug store. All the girls in the drugstore where I worked had a crush on Fred. He flirted with me—me, a little country girl.
When he asked me out I didn’t know what to say and when he kept taking me places, week after week, month after month, I was dumbfounded. Then, one night he asked me to marry him. I was over the moon. All the girls I worked with were jealous.
The justice of the Peace married us. I wore a pale pink suit and Fred brought me a corsage of fresh flowers. He gave me the most beautiful rings I had ever seen. The engagement ring was of silver with lacy filigree with a huge diamond. He gave me a wedding band that matched, silver lace with four perfect diamonds. He spent every bit of his money on those rings and payed for them for a long time afterward, too. I wore them all my life, through all the husbands after him, after he died and Reed died, too. I wore them always. I don’t think it bothered my other husbands because they could never afford rings like that.
I guess I never got over my first love, Fred . I wonder if any woman ever gets over her first love.
We were poor and it made no sense to get married when we were that poor but we did it anyway. We were so in love. Fred worked for the railroad and so he asked if we could use an abandoned railroad car that was just off the tracks. That was our first home. It was tiny but we didn’t care. The train rumbling by woke us up for the first couple of weeks but after that we slept right through. The train whistle didn’t wake us either.
I fixed the boxcar up cute. I made curtains for the windows and we had a little stove in there. We stoked the fire up good at night but by morning it was so cold that our bucket of water was frozen. We would make a fire and put the bucket on to thaw and when it was warm Fred would strip down and wash all over. I never looked at him totally naked. He laughed and tried to get me to but I just couldn’t.
I never saw a man totally naked until I was in my seventies even though I had been married to four different men by then. My daughter told me that men were funny looking and so I finally got up my courage and looked at my husband. The next time I saw my daughter I told her I had finally seen a man naked and that she was right. We laughed until we had to sit down and wipe our eyes. I think we laughed as much that it took me all those years to look at a man as about the fact that men are funny looking.
That first morning after Fred and I were married I got up and put on two pair of socks and all the petticoats I had and some pants under them and my sweater and my coat. I thawed the water and made breakfast for my brand new husband. It was the breakfast I grew up having. Biscuits and gravy. I loved biscuits and gravy. While I was fixing it Fred got ready for the day and when he was all ready I had him sit down and I proudly put the plate in front of him.
He took one look at it and said, “What in the 'blank' is this?”
I didn’t think a man should swear at his brand new bride and I tried not to show I had my feelings hurt.
“It’s biscuits and gravy.”
“Well, I’m not eating it. Good grief. Who eats this stuff? I’ll eat at the hotel.”
He got up and put the plate in the dishpan, buttoned his coat and left. He forgot to kiss me.
I stood there, with a fork in my hand. “I eat stuff like this,” I said in a tiny voice. “My dad and mom and all us kids ate stuff like this all our lives.” And then I threw myself on the bed and bawled like some kind of a baby. I reached out and pulled the covers all the way over me and burrowed down and sobbed. “You didn’t even kiss me goodbye.” I said into the emptiness of the boxcar.
I fell asleep. When I woke up I was nearly late for work and I still had the fork in my hand. I threw it as hard as I could and one of the tines bent. I bent it back but it always had a little wave it. We only had two forks and from then on I made sure I always ate with that one. I didn’t want Fred to ask what had happened to it. I didn’t want to tell him I had thrown a fork at him after he was gone, that he made me angry, that I felt stupid and like a little country girl when he was sophisticated.
I dumped the biscuits and gravy in the weeds at the side of the tracks where I knew a stray cat or dog would find it. I never made that for breakfast again, not once in my whole life. I kept the fork all these years and I still have it in my sock drawer. When I die my girls will find it and wonder if I ate secretly while choosing nylons and socks. I take it out sometimes and run my fingers up and down the wavy part where it was bent. I don’t know why I’ve kept it all these years. I just have.