Wednesday, June 25, 2008


We are very happy to be featuring a story written by our Grams. We are so happy that she won Grand Prize for this short story! Here is a little back ground on Arrora.
This week’s excitement is a writer’s conference in Marshall, TX. I submitted a story and an essay. At lunch Saturday they gave the awards. “Third place for the essay….. second …. First.” Then the story. “Third…, second…., first.” That’s okay. The process taught me a lot.
Then the speaker said. “We have one other award. Our Grand Prize winner is “Arroa” by Anna Russell.” I cried in front of 175 people.

By Anna L. Russell

My head hardly left the pillow when I felt a relentless urge to hurl. I wadded the blanket against my mouth and caught the contents of my stomach in its folds.
No, no, no. This can’t be happening to me. But when I raised my head again a wave of nausea made lying down heaven. I dozed.
“Hey, sleepy head,” Mom called from the doorway.
I dared not raise my head so I just mumbled. After she went down the hall I struggled to my feet, swallowing the impulse to up-chuck. I had to get ready for school.
In a few minutes Mom walked into the room and saw my pale face. “Are you…” She hesitated, gulped and tried again.
“Are you…” Mom's right hand clutched at her stomach while with her left hand she covered her mouth. “Oh, ohhh, awgh!” Her moan came to my ears.
“Arroa, are you….” I dropped my eyes as she closed the door.
The next moment Mom’s hands were thumping my back.
Her fists pounded my shoulders as she cried, “How could you? How COULD you? How?”
Tears silently rolled down my cheeks. Fifteen and pregnant. Me. How could I….
Mom finally stopped hitting me and sank to the bed. “How far along?”“I’ve missed three periods.”
Mom moaned and wrapped her arms around herself, rocking back and forth. But then fury filled her. Again she snapped to her feet and pulled me in front of her, eyes blazing. “Don’t tell your father, do you hear? Don’t tell your father.” I nodded. She hurried from the room.
Dad found out a few days later.
“Arrora!” His harsh tone had a terrifying quality. He pulled his belt off still calling. “Arrora!” He pushed a chair aside and toppled the table that separated me from him.
Mom stepped between us. “No.” She shoved me hard and I stumbled into my room. I shut the door and put my back against it. I heard Dad’s belt. Whap! Whap-whap! Leather smacking against Mom. She only whimpered.
Later when all the lights were out and darkness enveloped me, Mom crept to my bedside. “You are not leave this room, hear?” I could smell fear in her words. “I will bring you meals. You will help me in the house after your father goes to work, but you are not to be seen by him – he has disowned you.” She walked to the door. “Do you understand me?”
Before the door closed she said, “You have disgraced our name. You have brought shame to our family. There is no excuse for you. Just stay out of our way. Stay hidden.”
Suddenly I was in a small cave, my room. I could not talk with, Frank, the baby’s father, or any of my friends. Oh, I wanted to leave town! I wanted to run as far away as possible. But wherever I went the life inside me would be there. Frank could just act like he never knew me. He was the one who ran away.
The routine was the same each day. Sweep, dust, and wash dishes.
Mondays I pushed the clothes up and down on the scrub board. Mom hung the clothes on the outside line because she didn’t want anyone to see me.
Tuesdays I sat up the ironing board next to the cook stove. The iron was hot and heavy. My shoulders hurt by the time Papa’s shirts and pants were pressed. I had to be done before he got home.
Wednesdays I baked: bread, cakes, cookies. Mom made the pies. No one ever said “thank you.” In fact Mom spoke only to give me the barest instruction.
Thursdays all the floors had to be scrubbed. A bucket of hot sudsy water, a scrub brush, and a wooden floor were my companions. I’d pretend I was talking with one of my girlfriends as the floor took on a lighter brown color.
Fridays all the rooms had to be sparkling: I used vinegar water and newspapers to clean the windows. All table tops and the mantle had to be free of dust. Every rug had to be carried to the clothes line – Mom did that.
Always I crept to the kitchen after 7:30 a.m. when Papa was clean out of sight. Always I was back in my room before 4 p.m. I longed for sunshine. I desperately wanted to see my friends. Would they go to the cinema for the Saturday Matinee? All the while my belly grew bigger and bigger.
I thought there wasn’t a spot of my room I hadn’t touched or memorized, but in the closet I found an old Bible tucked in the bottom of a box. It had been my grandmother’s. My mother’s mother.
I pulled my legs Indian style as I sat on the bed near the window. Slowly I fanned the pages and noticed some handwriting on a certain page. John 8:4 was underlined: They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Grandma’s scrawl said, “Me. Only they didn’t bring me to the leaders. They beat me, hoping I would lose my baby.”
I had never been told about Grandma. Was she pregnant with who? Mom? How old was Grandma? How was she treated? Did Grandma love my mother? It took me several minutes to connect the lines and the anger.
Then I read how Jesus knelt and wrote in the sand. After the accusers left, he spoke to the woman caught in sin. “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.”
I clutched the Bible to my swollen breasts. Could it be? I started with verse one of chapter eight and read through verse 11. Again and again.
Right then I knelt. “Lord, I have sinned.” Sobs took my breath but I continued my prayer.
“Forgive me for the shame Papa and Mom has to endure because of me.” Hot tears burned my cheeks. “Forgive me for the wrong I did with my body and how I went against what Papa and Mom wanted.” Over and over I repeated the words.
Gently, like a soft breeze, words filled my mind. “Arroa, I do not condemn you.”
Wonderment seeped throughout my body. My mind lost its gray haze. Out loud, so I could hear the precious words, I said, “I am not condemned.” I must be forgiven – I am forgiven!

I hugged the Bible and danced around the room. When I looked in the box again I found Grandma’s hymnal. I can read music; I’ll sing.
Every day I read pages about Jesus and his love and forgiveness. I sang hymns until the veil over my heart was free of guilt and shame. I decided to become selfless before my parents, to be content, to be joyful -- with Jesus help.
One day I felt pain across my stomach. I found Mom in the kitchen. “Mom.” I bent over clutching my stomach. “Ooooo!” I reached for a chair. In a few minutes Mom put me to bed and ran for the midwife.
Through the blur caused by the pain I saw a black woman beside mother. Then I felt a terrible squeeze inside my body and heard a “slurp” sound.
“Oh, looky,” the midwife cooed. “Here, clean her up.” She handed Mom the baby. “Now, Missy, one more push.”
Mom and Papa were reluctant to express pleasure with my baby. Papa didn’t want me in his sight yet. Mama bathed my baby and dressed her. Only after I asked did she show me how to do it.
One day as I changed Sarah, I looked at Mom. “Do you know about Grandma’s Bible?” Mom’s head jerked up. “You know, her King James Bible?” Mom stared at me.
“She was pregnant?” I paused. “Grandma?” I pinned the cloth diaper and pulled the flannel gown down over Sarah’s legs. “Did you know they beat Grandma?”
Mom sank onto a chair. “I … I knew my mother didn’t hold me often. She didn’t talk to me much, ever. I only heard rumors, like maybe someone had beat her. She hung her head and sobbed. “And I did the same, got pregnant at 16, just like her.” She glanced at me and whispered, “Just like you.” Mom sighed.
I put Sarah in Mom’s arms and disappeared into my bedroom. I pulled the Bible from under my pillow and found John 8 before returning to the kitchen.
“Mom, can I read this to you?” I knelt beside her. “Grandma liked this passage.” My eyes were shiny with moisture when finished the eleven verses,. “Did you hear that, Mom? Jesus didn’t condemn the woman caught in adultery. Jesus didn’t condemn Grandma. He doesn’t condemn me.” I clasped Mom’s hands. “I’m forgiven.” I emphasized by repeating. “I am forgiven.” I waited.
Mom smoothed the page and gently removed the Bible from my hands. “Not condemned.” She hugged the Bible to her breast and turned her eyes toward the ceiling. A new awareness gleamed in her eyes.
“Arroa, is that why you are so different? I’ve noticed something different.” Without waiting for my answer and with a deliberate beat she spoke, “I’m forgiven. For-GIV-en.”
We leaned over Sarah and hugged. Two women forgiven by Christ.

© Anna L. Russell
Anna L. Russell’s articles have appeared in various tabloids, local magazines, and newspapers. She has won two awards in the past year. As the mother of five and grandmother of 18, she writes to them about ancestors as well as spins off of their experiences. In her writing Anna also raises the awareness of Restless Legs Syndrome and the “cheapest medicine,” water aerobics and swimming. Each summer she teaches water safety to 100 or more people.
Because of Christ, I am, Anna L. Russell (903) -566-2192
"Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them." Psalm 127: 3, 5

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