Vol. 14



c. 1950; St. Louis, Missouri, USA

One day in 1950, when I was eight, I was playing softball outside with my friend Donna when my mom called me in for dinner. The bright orange sunset blinded me as Donna threw the pitch. I glared at the ball soaring straight at me and hit with all my might like it was the championship game. The ball went into the empty lot across the street, down the hill, and into the creek. As we ran to retrieve it, my mom yelled sternly, “Jane, come for dinner!”

When I went in, I heard a familiar slam of the car door. It was my oldest stepbrother. He came in and dashed up the stairs, where I always longed to be. He had his own room, while I slept on a cot in my parents’ room. My parents had barely any extra money. Building an extra room, or even just getting a real bed, was out of the question. My stepfather was strict, we were always on a budget, and that’s just the way it was.

I heard repetitive footsteps coming down the dark, gloomy hall to the kitchen. The footsteps grew louder and louder, and whoever was walking was very angry. I knew my stepfather was always angry or grumpy, but today he seemed extra angry. We usually just stayed out of his way when he stormed into a room. My stepfather — a big, strong man — filled the doorway, pausing to survey the room to see if everything was how he wanted it. He took a seat in his usual chair.

“Boys, come down for dinner!” my mom announced. Then, like it was on cue, the phone rang! My heart sank as I prayed it wouldn’t be for me.

My stepfather got up out of his chair, rushed over to the phone, ripped it off its hook, and said, “Hello,” in a deep, scary voice. At that point, it was so quiet that you could have heard a pin drop! My brothers and I prayed it wouldn’t be for us! I was petrified. I could hear my own teeth grinding! “Jane!” he grumbled. He dropped the phone and gestured to it. “For you,” he said.

I got up and wanted to move quickly, but my feet dragged like cement. “Hello, who is it?” I said frantically.

“Hi, Jane. It’s Donna. I was wondering if you wanted to come back out?”

“Donna, not now! You know what time it is!”

I sat there for a second after Donna had hung up. The phone buzzed, like a gazillion bees swarming for dear life. I discreetly snuck back over to the table. Everyone pretended not to notice. I sat down, waiting to get yelled at.

“GO TO YOUR ROOM!” my stepfather screamed. My left ear felt as if lightning struck through it! I got up, trudged to my room, and tried not to cry.

Life in the 1950s was different for me. There were strict parents and strict rules. This taught me to be extra kind and to value family.

Gracie Luedde, granddaughter of Jane; Missouri, USA



This copyrighted story may be copied and/or printed for limited classroom or personal use. To reprint this story in an article about The Grannie Annie, please contact The Grannie Annie Family Story Celebration for permission.


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