Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Tuesday Morning Writing-The Family From Next Door

The little girl watched the family gather for a photograph wishing she could be part of the picture.
The picture is the property of Elizabeth Harper

I remember when the Tatum's moved in next door, it was about a year ago.  Their apartment had been bombed in one of the blitzes.  The family consisted of John and Mamie Jo Tatum, the parents of Richard Tatum who was serving in the Royal Air Force, Richard's pregnant wife Frances and John's mother Elizabeth Tatum.  They weren't wealthy, but definitely had more money than me and my mom.  My dad had been killed when the German's attacked London's East End on 7 September 1940.  He had been working at the docks all day and was walking home when the bombs were dropped.  It took two days of going through the rubble before they found him.  After his death, my mom and I had to move in with Grandmother Lilian, my mom's mother. It was mostly older women who lived in the apartments.  There weren't any children my age living near.

It was summer when they moved in, I was outside playing and watched as their furniture was unloaded.  A grandfather clock, a rocking chair, a piano and even a gramophone. Sometimes I would sit out on the front porch swing and listen to them laugh and sing as Frances played the piano or hear the music from the gramophone.  When Richard was home, I would watch through their front parlor window as he and Frances danced, sometimes they would talk his grandmother into dancing a few steps, even though she was eighty-nine, she could still move about pretty well.

They were a friendly group, always asking me in for cookies and milk or coming over to see if my mom and grandmother needed anything from the store.

My favorite times though were when they baby sat me if my mom had to work or grandmother had to run errands.  I would sit and listen to their conversations or wonder about their comments when the prime minister was giving a speech.  It was always a somber time after the names of the missing or killed in action were read.  I know they were praying they wouldn't hear Richard's name. They always made me feel welcomed, and I sometimes wished they were my family.  Since they didn't have any small children around, they doted on me and treated me as though I might be their granddaughter.

Then four months after they had moved in, Jameson Van Buren Tatum was born. He was born on 7 September 1941.  Everything changed after they brought him home.  His grandparents spent a lot of time with him, like they use to do with me.  When Richard was home he spent all his time with Jameson,  "giving Frances free time to rest and relax".  She did look tired, Jameson wasn't a happy baby.  He was crying all the time, I heard the women say something about "a cow licking him", at the time I thought what did that have to do with anything and how in the world did a cow lick him anyway.  As far as I know, they never traveled to the country to see any cows, and I know they never brought one around the apartment.

Today is the Tatum's big day.  It's Grandmother Elizabeth's birthday, plus Jameson is being christened. I watch as Richard positions everyone so he can take their picture.  Frances keeps telling him to hurry up before Jameson becomes fussy.  I edge closer to their porch, wishing I could be in the picture, hoping Richard will ask me to "come and stand next to Grandmother Elizabeth, after all, you're just like one of the family".  Richard says "okay, now smile, and just before he clicks the camera, I take a step closer, imagining myself as part of the family picture.


You might want to check out Elizabeth Harper's website.  She graciously sponspors the Tuesday Morning Writings...........Tuesday's Tell Me A Story

You might also check out this story, it's good!........Adventures in Writing


gaelikaa said...

That's lovely, Judy. You've captured the child's voice. Snap! We chose the same picture again.

Anonymous said...

fabulous! great short story!

Anonymous said...

Really well done Judy! Nice detail, great imagery and l liked the tighter writing. It's interesting how both you and Gaelikaa chose the same photograph and chose to place your stories in the UK. Well, part of G's appears to have roots on southern Ireland, but my point is you both saw a photo from 1943 and used it in similar ways, but one that was really different for you. I like how you stretched outside the familar boundries of America to create a different family. Very nice.

Sorry it took so long to get my comment in. I'm looking forward to reading your story tomorrow.

BTW...the oldest woman in the photograph really is named Elizabeth and was John's great grandmother. They called her Lizzie.