Tuesday, February 11, 2020

UNDERSTANDING SASSIE, Ch. 29, Valerie's Story

Understanding Sassie: A Novel of Dog and Human Communication
ane was in her office working on the unending pile of paperwork. I’m so glad that Mike sent
Donald to me! she thought. He has not only been able to do many of the repairs but has been a kind and compassionate dog walker as well.

Jane noticed that Ruth had begun to work with Donald in ways that made the shelter tasks easier for all the volunteers. Donald and Ruth were constantly in and out of her office bringing updates, as well as laughter. Jane also noticed that a lot of the expenses had decreased since Donald started volunteering. I don’t know how they do it, but I am glad that they are working together here, Ruth thought.

At the farm, Mary had found one of the old family photo albums and was enjoying the memories of times gone by. “Mom, what did you think when you first held me when I was born? I was a first-born child; did you count my toes and have any special thoughts?” Mary asked as she looked at her baby photos.

“You were not my first child,” Mom replied.

Surprised, Mary looked up at her mother and asked, “What did you say?”
Mom was no longer paying any attention to Mary and refused to answer any more questions. “I’m reading” was the only response Mom would give.

Mary looked from the photo album to her mother. Not understanding what she thought her mother had said, she put the album aside and decided to go to the kitchen to prepare a cup of tea. Ruth will be home soon. Maybe she can explain what I thought I heard, Mary decided.

As soon as Ruth came in the door, she was greeted with a happy dance from Sassie and a sister who wanted answers to a confusing question. Ruth was petting Sassie and only half listening to Mary; 

Mary asked, “Did Mom have a baby before me?”

Ruth looked at Mary in disbelief and said, “What did you just say?”

Mary again explained what their mom had said to her. Ruth thought for a minute and said, “Mom has never talked about her early life in New York City.”

Mary replied, “Maybe now is a good time to have her tell us about that time.” Ruth, Sassie, and Mary entered the living room and gently removed the book from her hands.

“Mom, you never told us about your life in New York City. We know you traveled from Europe to America, but why did you come? Who did you meet here? When you married Pop, we know you came to Upper New York State, but why have you never told us your New York City story?” After asking all these questions, Mary sat at Mom’s feet and continued to encourage her to explain.

“It was a painful time,” Mom began, “I wanted to forget all that had happened right after I got to this country. My name on the travel ticket was Valerie. The boat had just landed at Ellis Island.

“It had been arranged that I was to meet a man who would become my husband. I had gotten very sick and was hospitalized as soon as I got off the boat. That man never came to see me but did send word that he had met another woman and was going to marry her. I was too sick to care.

“When I recovered, I had no interest in going back across that ocean. I decided to make a new life for myself here. I became a Nana for a wealthy family. I did enjoy playing with and caring for their children.

“One night I was attacked and raped.

“I never knew who attacked me, but the rape resulted in a pregnancy. Back then it was considered the woman’s fault if she was having a baby without being married.”

Valerie began to cry as she remembered the day the baby was born. “All I knew was that the baby was a boy. I was told that if I told no one about the baby or about the attack, my medical bills would be paid. I had no choice but to agree. They took my baby that day, and I never saw him again. I’ve often wondered about him but was afraid to say anything to anyone.”

Mary and Ruth hugged their mom and tried to comfort her. Mary went to the kitchen and made tea for everyone. When she brought out the tray, there was a batch of sugar-free cookies along with the tea.

“You’re just like Mom!” Ruth announced as she laughed at Mary. “You both always want to use food to soothe away our problems.” They talked for hours, but the result was more questions than answers.


With her permission, I am serializing a chapter a week, on this blog, near-final material from this instructive novel by dog trainer Helen A. Bemis, published by Outskirts Press and available through amazon.com:  UNDERSTANDING SASSIE  

Connect with all Helen A. Bemis books on Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/s?k=helen+a.+bemis&ref=nb_sb_noss

I coached and edited for Helen through my Write Your Book with Me endeavor.

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