Vol. 10


A Mighty Sweet Girl

c. 1918–1988; Birmingham and Huntsville, Alabama, USA

Growing up, my great-grandmother Mary Ennis Smith wished she could know her biological mother. In 1918, when she was only eight days old, her mother had left her with a woman who lived nearby named Mrs. Wilson. Mary Ennis’s mother told Mrs. Wilson that she could not care for her child. She promised to return in a few days, but Mrs. Wilson never heard from her again.

After five months, Mrs. Wilson put the child up for adoption. She was adopted by John and Mattie Bridges, who had no children of their own. Following the adoption, Mary Ennis’s new parents changed her name to “Jane.” They lived in an inviting home in Birmingham, Alabama, and Jane’s favorite activity was to go for rides in the rumble seat* of her adopted father’s car.

Jane’s life changed again when she was thirteen. John Bridges died, forcing Jane and her mother to sell their home and move in with family in Huntsville, Alabama. Because they lived far away, Jane wrote letters to keep in touch with friends from her old school. Every summer Jane went back to Birmingham to visit. While away, Jane wrote letters to Mattie, telling her of all the fun she was having.

When she was grown, Jane married, returned to Birmingham, and had two daughters, one being my grandmother. After she had daughters of her own, she once again wondered about her biological family. Who was her mother? Why did she give Jane up? Did Jane have brothers and sisters? To try to learn more, Jane wrote letters, visited county courthouses, and visited the state capital. She learned that her biological mother’s name was “Daisy Smith,” and that her father had died before she was born. She told this to her daughters and husband. But she did not tell them everything she knew.

Jane’s daughters grew up and had families of their own. After Jane died in 1988, her grandson, my dad, found a box of old papers tucked away in her closet. In the box he found letters, birthday cards, family photos, and Jane’s adoption papers. One of the letters in the box was written to Mattie from Jane when she was visiting her friends in Birmingham. It is a typical teenage letter, talking about the movies she had seen and the places she had eaten. But some sentences were not typical: “I had lunch at Brittens,” Jane had written, “with Daisy Smith.”

Without realizing it, Jane had known her biological mother, Daisy Smith, all along. But even after she learned this, she never told anyone. And even though I am named for Jane, I will never know the reason she kept the secret of Daisy Smith.

But I think I understand this. In that letter Jane also wrote, “Mrs. Smith said tell you she thought I was a mighty sweet girl.” I think this was Daisy’s way of thanking Mattie for raising the daughter she’d had to give up.

Jane Ann Baggett; Alabama, USA


* A rumble seat is a folding outside seat at the back of some early cars.


This copyrighted story may be copied for limited classroom use or reprinted in an article about The Grannie Annie.


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