Photos of Brady

Saturday, January 31, 2004


This has been the most amazing experience of my entire life. Each day from the hotel suite we watch the sunrise over Diamond Head. Once the sun is up, the mists in the mountains can be seen. As the sun rises further in the sky and shines against the mist in the high country, rainbows form. Usually there are double rainbows, and always beautiful. At home we don't get to see these incredible blues and violet colors, and for sure we don't see the complete arch of the rainbow like you see here. The colors are so vivid it almost looks artificial, almost like someone painted it to be so bright. The rain is so soft, that it really is just a mist that caresses your skin as you walk. I brought 2 umbrellas, but we are yet to use them. It doesn't really seem necessary. It is so much more natural just to walk in it.

The trip to the Arizona memorial in Pearl Harbor was so moving. There is a hush there--everyone knows that they are walking on hallowed ground. Every nation of the world is represented in the visitors who visit the site, and is the same for every culture. Some things transcend language barriers and borders. After that we had a tour of the island coastline, with stops at the various points of interest. I know I am running out of words to describe the beauty here, and most of it I will take home with me to Smalltown to cherish later. One can only absorb so much at a time, and I know that as time passes I will be pulled to write of this trip many times.

Today we went to the International flea market. The goods are as exotic as the land and her people. Of course we shopped for things to take home, and bought something I have never had before- apple bananas. It will be a treat to have some. I bought one beautiful shell, so unique in shape and color that I simply couldn't put it down. It is the color of the beautiful waters of Hanauma Bay, where we went snorkeling. The particular shell I got is a rare one, and is found at depths over 100 feet. I love listening to the ocean waves in it, and it will be a lovely memory of my time here with Matt.

Tomorrow we will be doing the parasailing that we couldn't do the other day due to the Trade Winds. They have been blowing so strong that trees and poles have blown over. It is a unique experience, to be sure. I have read about them all of my life, so now I know the danger they would pose to sailing vessels. Tomorrow evening, should I survive the parasailing, we go on the dinner/sunset cruise. No matter what people are doing , everyone stops at the beach to watch the sunset. Last night as we were watching the sun set, a native dance troupe was strolling by on their way down the beach. It was so thrilling to hear the conch shell horn blow, calling everyone to the gathering place on the beach for the evening show. Oahu means gathering place, and as I watched the man blowing the conch shell, he looked timeless. It is a picture we have all seen in books and on TV many times. A loin cloth, bead bracelets on wrists and ankles, and a wreath of leaves on his head. He was a sight to behold, and not a woman present failed to watch him make his way down the beach.

It has been wonderful to share this trip with all of you who have become like my extended family. It is my wish that someday you can be here where I have been, and will be anxious to see it through your eyes.

Becky Strain


Friday, January 30, 2004


Yesterday was the most fantastic, awesome day! We went to Haunauma Bay snorkeling. The reefs are so beautiful, and the water- well it simply takes your breath away it is so many shades of blue. I had been dreading the snorkeling thing, as I had never done it before, and didn't want to do it wrong. Matt gave me the short course, and I got the hang of it on the very first try. I swam for a long time just gliding over the reefs, enjoying the many shades of the coral, and the many brightly colored fish. They don't seem bothered by man invading their space, and swim right up to you. It was my first dip in the ocean, and the experience was worth the wait! When we returned, we were sitting out on the lanai talking about the day when it began what they call 'pineapple juice'. It is a very fine light mist. The end result was first one rainbow, then as we were enjoying the beauty of that, another formed. Two complete vivid rainbows all the way to the ground on each side. Simply amazing. It lingered there over 30 minutes, shimmering in the late afternoon sun. I had just been telling Matt about the signifigance of the rainbow when the second one appeared. What a gift!

We have booked all of the tours and activities we settled on. Now we just go with the flow. Today is the Pearl Harbor/Arizona memorial, and a 'half circle' tour of the island. Then, to the beach, pool, and hot tub. Drinks on the lanai, and then back to the beach to watch the sunset. Dinner is very late here, so it is always after dark-makes it so much more romantic. I am getting lots of walking in, as you walk everywhere you go unless on a tour.

I think of you all so often, and will catch up on your blogs when I get back to Smalltown, I promise. The time is going by so fast- but I am trying not to think about that. I am going to enjoy the days as they come, and hold the memories close to my heart.....

From the beach at Waikiki,
Becky Strain


Wednesday, January 28, 2004


Good morning from Waikiki Beach! I am going to write a bit about my trip while Matt is in meetings. I am sitting in his internet cafe, and it is so great to be able to reach out and talk to all of you while I am here. Yesterday we had a very laid back day. Late lunch, swimming at the pool and hot tub, then watched the sun set on the ocean horizon. Basically Matt is treating me like a queen, and I have to pinch myself several times a day in order to make sure it is really happening.

The sunrise we watched this morning was particularly beautiful, and with Diamond Head right there it is simply amazing. It stretches even my descriptive ability to relate the sights, for all in all it just keeps getting more beautiful. This morning we took a long walk and as we passed the park, there were many groups of people doing their tai chi exercise. Everyone is so nice, and the slow pace is wonderful. Today is a free day, so I can get used to the time difference before we begin doing the touristy thing. Tomorrow evening we are going on a dinner cruise that stays out while the sun sets. We will also be attending a luau, snorkeling, parasailing, and going to Pearl Harbor to see the Arizona. Thank goodness I am getting lots of exercise! You walk everywhere you go, so the good food is guilt free.

I will try to write as often as I can, and so appreciate all of the good wishes. Aloha!

Becky Strain
Down My Waikiki Beachfront


Two Photos of My Sister

Becky in Drill Team Uniform
Becky enjoys a cigar

With Becky in Hawaii, I thought I would fill the void some by sharing two photos of my sister. The first pic is from 1973 or so. She is wearing her high school drill team uniform. I played the drums for them at a few practices. She was on the drill team from junior high school through high school.

The cigar photo is from her visit to Covington May 2003 to celebrate my son's HS graduation. Her son in law is in the background. When Becky comes to Louisiana, she leaves nothing on the party table. I thought I knew how to party, but she puts me to shame. She loves a good time and an occasional cigar.

I know she is having the time of her life in Hawaii as I speak and I am very happy for her. Smalltown and her country road have their allure, but to go to Hawaii in the dead of winter must be like traveling to Shangri-La.

John Strain


Tuesday, January 27, 2004


Monday dawned in KC complete with the remnants of the Sunday ice storm and new snow falling. The morning newscasts were reporting accidents due to slick roads, but Matt and I loaded my bags, said goodbye to my brother and drove north to KCI airport. We were relieved to see that there were no flight delays that would keep our flight from departing. All went well until I put my carry on bag on the conveyor. A very efficient attendant asked me to step aside so that she could check my bag. She asked me if I had scissors in my bag, and when I tried to show her she wouldn’t let me touch it to show her where. I had packed that bag several days ago, so I knew I had indeed put them in there, but remembering where proved to be difficult without looking myself. We eventually found them, a small pair of Wiss embroidery scissors given to me by my mother and coworkers one Christmas. I have had them for almost 20 years, and I wasn’t about to leave them there. I had to go back to the baggage check and check the bag before they would give me my scissors back. A valuable lesson learned.

We boarded right away, and fifteen minutes later we took off for Dallas/Fort Worth. We made our connecting flight with no further problems, and in no time we started the eight and a half hour flight to Hawaii. I was concerned about the long flight, but it was not the problem I was afraid it would be. We arrived in Oahu in late afternoon, and the pilot did and excellent job of flying around the island so that we could see Diamond Head, Waikiki Beach and the waterfront. The ocean is so blue, and the island a beautiful verdant green against the backdrop of white clouds and azure sky. It is breathtaking.

After taking a cab to the hotel, which is right on the beach, Matt and I changed into cooler clothes and went for a walk. We caught the last stages of a beautiful sunset standing on Waikiki Beach, the sails of sailboats and catamarans silhouetted against the horizon. The lights of a cruise ship twinkled like jewels across the water, and surfers were catching the last waves before night fell. We stood under an ancient banyon tree and watched hula dancers before walking on to dinner. We ate at the International Marketplace, and enjoyed dinner and cold beer before walking back to the hotel. Lights glittered from the mountains surrounding the island, and as we sat on the lanai reflecting on the day, my heart was so full.

I woke at one o’clock am Hawaiian time, which is about the same time that I get up to write my blog in Smalltown. I finally gave up, got up and made a pot of coffee and read the morning paper. Matt and I watched the sunrise over Diamond Head together, and as I write this, the sun is bright and the day beckons……..

Off to the beach,
Becky Strain
I'll check back in a few days!


Monday, January 26, 2004


Yesterday I woke to ice hitting the windows. The weather forecasts were filled with gloom and despair, and the ice storm was to continue all through the day and evening. Another storm sweeping in on the heels of the ice was to bring 3-5 inches of snow. I decided to make a pot of coffee, give myself a pedicure and watch HGTV. Design and decorating heaven. I was pleased that the ice storm came to an end around lunch time, and the temperatures began to warm a bit. By mid afternoon the ice began to melt. My hope was that the snow wouldn’t come either.

This morning, I only have to dress and lock my bags. Matt will be arriving to take us to the airport in an hour and a half. Thirty five years of waiting are coming to and end, and all of the ‘what if’s’ are over. I take with me all the good wishes, hopes and prayers of my family, friends and blog family. I am going into uncharted territory. My posts to this point have been based on events of the past. Today begins a new journey…….Aloha….

Until tomorrow,
from Oahu, Hawaii,
Becky Strain


Sunday, January 25, 2004


The years passed. Somehow I managed to get Jennifer and Jonathan raised. Jonathan went to live with Hank across town, which was very hard for me, but I knew that he wanted to hunt and fish. When my Grandmother went to the nursing home, Jennifer and I moved into her trailer next to Mom’s. Once again I had come home to our country road.

I got part time work with the highway patrol in 1987. To supplement my income I cleaned houses for women at church. Jennifer was working very hard to secure a scholarship for college and had definite goals and dreams. In 1990 I applied for a full time driver examiner position with the patrol, and was happy to get the job. The increase in salary and the security of insurance and retirement lifted a heavy load from my shoulders. Jennifer graduated from high school with several scholarships and grants, and left for college the following fall. The school was 6 hours away, and when I drove her down our country road the day she left for college, I knew she would never be back to Smalltown. She got married her senior year, and graduated in May of 1994. Her husband was in the Navy, and had gone on to Florida, and she joined him there.

My life was suddenly different. I worked and gardened, the latter more to heal my heart than anything else. I wanted my hands in the dirt, to create a beautiful flower garden where my soul could grow and find peace. I spent many hours there, reflecting on my life as the garden emerged. The beautiful flowers fed my heart and lifted my spirits as I came to terms with my life. Hank and I remained friends, and I saw him at family events. Jonathan found a good job and a nice local country girl to date. They were very happy, but after a five year battle, we lost her to cancer. He went through a very difficult year, but found love again with a very nice girl. They were married last September. Jennifer and her husband came for the wedding, and we had a wonderful time. With both of my kids settled, I am very blessed.

I have been alone now since 1985. Having learned much from past mistakes, and having suffered enough heartache, I am content. I have kept up with Matt as best I could through my best friend Diane in Kansas. He lost his wife several years ago to a sudden illness. Hank married a country girl and they have a farm out in the country. I still live in Grandma’s trailer here on my country road. My life is a peaceful one.

Last June I was at work, having just returned from lunch. I heard footsteps coming down the stairway and turn into our office. Turning in my chair, I looked up into the most incredible blue eyes…..

Matt and I visited the whole afternoon. I couldn’t have been more shocked had the Queen of England walked through the door. He had been traveling though the area, and remembered that I lived in Smalltown. He stopped at patrol headquarters and they told him where I was working that day. I know how incredible it is, have dreamed of it happening so many times in my heart and my mind, and wasn’t sure but what I was indeed asleep and would wake up at any moment. He invited me to dinner that evening, and the years fell away. We had a wonderful time, and it was so good to reconnect with him after so long. We exchanged email addresses when he left for Kansas.

He wrote the next day. We have been writing nearly every day since, and it has been a dream come true to hear about his life and to share thoughts and dreams again on a daily basis. We ‘see’ each other each sunrise and sunset. When I began writing my blog in August, he was among my most ardent supporters. He reads my posts every day without fail.

Yesterday I drove down my country road, out of Smalltown and to Shawnee to stay with my brother. In the morning, Matt and I leave for ten days in Hawaii….

until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Saturday, January 24, 2004


For a minute I thought I was dreaming and had wished Matt there. Tears welled up in my eyes and trickled down the side of my face and onto the pillow. He was still holding my hand in his, and tears gathered in his eyes and fell freely down his face. “Hi there,” he said. “I heard you were in town. I called your Dad and he told me you were here. What happened?” As Matt sat there holding my hand, I explained why I had been admitted. “They are still running tests, and the doctors should know something in a day or two.”

We talked for a long time. Matt was a good listener, and never judged what I told him. I told him Hank and I were divorced, and that dad had called him to come up and get the kids while I was sick. The years of hurt, frustration and failure tumbled out. “It is the overwhelming feeling of failure that I deal with now. At every turn, I have failed. Nothing turned out the way I hoped. For the first time in my life I really don’t know what on earth I will do.” Matt’s eyes held no condemnation. “The important thing now is for you to get well. Everything else comes after that.”

I was under the doctor’s care for three months for ulcerative colitis and spastic colon. Matt called occasionally and stopped by to see me, but he was married now. I missed my children, and in the early days of fall, I returned to Smalltown. Rawlings had moved the factory to Haiti, so I secured a job at a convenience store. Slowly I began to rebuild my tattered life. Again. The kids and I rented a small apartment across from the store, and life fell once again into the realms of normal.

The following year I received news from my brother George in Shawnee that our step mother had died. I arranged for the kids to stay with their dad and made the trip to Kansas. I was standing with my dad next to the casket the night of family visitation when a tingling of awareness danced across my skin and through my mind. There was a change in the room. My pulse jumped and the edges of my vision blurred as I scanned the room. The world stopped and the room tilted. Matt stood quietly at the rear of the room, his eyes focused on my face as if willing me to look in his direction…..

I went to Kansas several times over the few months, short weekend trips to make sure that dad was doing okay. I saw Matt on each trip. The last night I saw him there he had just come from the hospital where his wife had given birth to twins. I felt a door close in my mind. He was just starting a journey, and I needed to return to Smalltown to finish raising my kids. I left the next morning for Smalltown…..

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Friday, January 23, 2004

LIFE 101 

Jennifer and I were rocking in her bedroom. I had been telling her about all of the things in her new room, and about the new life we were going to have now. Before I knew it I was pouring my heart out to her. This wasn’t unusual, I often talked to her when my heart was troubled. She couldn’t talk, but somehow it lightened my heart and lifted my burden. Hank had gone to cut wood, so we were alone. I was concerned that if I had so much trouble fitting in because I was deemed different, that she also would fight the same battles and experience the same disappointments. I was in the middle of telling Jennifer about the fight Hank and I had had the previous day when she drifted off to sleep. Tucking her little head under my chin, I continued rocking and telling the story…..

“Are you so unhappy?”
“Hank! You scared the life out of me.” Jennifer stirred in my arms, and I stood to lay her in the crib. Covering her up, I turned out the light and walked to the kitchen to make some coffee. Hank followed.
“You didn’t answer me. Are you so unhappy?”
“This is not the way I had envisioned our life together, Hank. This is not what I chose to marry you for. We talked many times about how our married life would be. What has happened?”
“I thought about it today while I was cutting wood. I can see why you are upset. It is hard for me, too. I have been trying to juggle everything, and now nobody is happy.”
“Hank, if we don’t talk, everything will fall apart. We have to be able to communicate and understand each other. My relationship with Matt fell apart because I was hurt, and my pride kept me from talking things out with him. My first marriage never had a chance, because everything he told me was lies. I have a trusting nature, and I believed him. Now I have committed myself to marriage with you. I want this to work, Hank. You didn’t care that I had been married before and have a baby. You love Jennifer and me. Before we were married, we knew each other. We had the same desire to make a home and a family together. Marriage is equal partnership. We come from very different backgrounds. We knew that before we married. What is different now?”
He seemed to be gathering his thoughts. I kept silent while he did so, and poured coffee for us. Handing him a cup, I walked to the table and sat down.
“In the first place, I am just a country boy Becky. I may not know about a lot of things or been a lot of places like you, but I do want our life to be happy. I only know how things are here. My family isn’t as close as yours is. My friends have always looked to me as the leader, and they drop by here because they don’t know where else to go. I have been trying all day to figure out how to make everybody happy.”
“It isn’t your job to make everybody happy, Hank. They have to do that for themselves and make their own way just like we did. Your life is with Jennifer and me now. You can still do things with them, but we need to talk these things out before you make plans. Family comes first.”

Later that night I was awake long after Hank had fallen asleep. It was true that I would always love Matt, but I had let go of him before I married Hank. My first marriage had been just plain bad. I didn’t even count it except as a dismal mistake. All of my hopes and dreams were focused on making a family with Hank. At the beginning I had thought that no other man would want me because I was divorced with a baby. Steve’s mother had deemed me ‘damaged goods’, and I suppose I thought that the same opinion was shared by others in Smalltown. Hank was a steady man. I was only 19 years old. Where my wisdom was limited, I had made the best choice for Jennifer and myself. I always teased Hank that he fell in love with Jennifer first and took me as part of the package. In time, things would work out…..

Hank and I had a difficult life together. Trying to eke out a living with factory work was not easy, and the shoe factory eventually closed. I had a miscarriage two years after we were married, but we had a little boy the following spring. Jonathan Hank completed our family, and was Hank’s pride and joy. The following year, Hank and I began working at the Rawlings sporting goods factory. It was hard work, but the hours were steady. We had many of the normal problems most marriages have, but the recurring problem of our different backgrounds took their toll. We lived in a dilapidated old farm house where Hank was content to stay. I had two children to look after now, and wanted them to have better. I wanted them to be able to go to college, and make something of themselves so that they didn’t have to settle for working in a factory in Smalltown. Hank wanted no part of college for the kids.

When Jennifer was 9 and Jonathan was 6, Hank went to work driving a truck. He was gone long stretches of time, which was hard on all of us. I was ill and needed surgery. Mom took care of the kids while I was in Springfield. Hank did not make it before they took me to surgery. They had found a mass thought to be cancerous, and performed a radical hysterectomy. Hank had deemed my illness as ‘all in my head’. I faced being ill alone. The biopsy was negative, and a week later I was released to go home. I stayed with my Grandma to be close to the kids who were with my Mom. One day the phone rang, and Grandma passed the phone to me. Hank had been in an accident. He had been hurt, but was alive. The other driver had been killed.

The years passed. Hank withdrew from all of us. The wreck had deeply affected him. He wouldn’t accept help or seek it. When the kids were 11 and 8, I had come to a decision. Hank wouldn’t talk to me, nor did he seem to care when I tried. He wanted to be left alone, and I don’t think it was all the wreck. We had drifted so far apart that I felt more alone with him than I had ever felt in my life. He didn’t attend church or school functions with the kids and I, and stopped going to family get togethers unless I made an issue of it. The kids and I walked on eggshells while at the house. When I told Hank that we needed to work things out or I was going to leave, he just let go….

We were divorced later that year. I was visiting my dad in Kansas City with the kids when the final papers were delivered. In our entire marriage Hank had only brought me to KC once to visit my dad, and resolved never to return. While I was there, I got sick and was put into the hospital. Dad couldn’t watch the kids and work, so Hank came to take them home to Smalltown. One day after undergoing a difficult test, I was resting in the hospital bed when I felt someone sit down on the edge of it and take my hand. When I opened my eyes, Matt smiled at me….

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Thursday, January 22, 2004


Adjusting to married life was definitely a challenge with Hank. I thought I had come to know him very well, but the reality of living with him was something else again. The only example he had of marriage was his family. His dad worked with the hogs, his mother working along side of him. Once leaving the chores of the outside and entering the house, the responsibility lay totally with Hank’s mom. I never saw his dad get out of his chair to help her with anything. If he wanted a cup of coffee or piece of pie she fetched it for him. She waited on him hand and foot, and I never heard him say please or thank you. My mom and dad shared chores, and he didn’t expect her to wait on him like a king.

The disappointments and frustrations I felt in the first few days of marriage were coupled with the constant presence of his friends dropping by unannounced. If they happened to drop in at the supper hour Hank invited them to stay without asking me. While I was preparing a meal for two, he would poke his head in the kitchen to say we would be having two more. Not only was it hard to stretch meals to feed two or three more hungry men, it put a definite strain on our budget and many times I had to give up my meal to feed someone else. After having drop in guests for dinner three nights out of the first five we were married, I lost patience. It was obvious that Hank had no knowledge of what married life should be, his friends had no training of social graces, and I had had it. I had hoped to avoid an argument by retreating to silence and fuming there, but Hank was oblivious of my feelings. This only added fuel to my anger. I decided to broach the subject after supper on the sixth night. It was Friday night, our work week was done, and the weekend lay before us. I set the table with candles left from our wedding, and called Hank in to eat. I had made a nice casserole- one of Mom’s specialties. It came out of the oven perfect, and I proudly carried it to the table. The light was on. I got up to turn it off so we could eat by candle light, but Hank said immediately that he couldn’t see his plate. Ignoring that, I asked for his plate so that I could serve him his dinner. Looking around the table he asked where the rest of the meal was. I looked at him dumbfounded, but explained I had made a casserole which had the meat, noodles and vegetables in it. Obviously he had never eaten a casserole before. My enthusiasm plummeted when he once again got up to turn on the light. He ate his meal, but went into the kitchen looking for something else to round out his supper. Hurt warred with the anger I felt about his friends. Taking his ham sandwich into the living room to watch TV, I was left alone in the silence of the kitchen.

The saying ‘Begin as you mean to go on’ ran through my mind as I cleaned the kitchen. Determined, I called to Hank and asked him to clear the table for me. Silence. Puzzled, I went in to see why he didn’t answer me. He was out front talking with one of his friends. When he came in the work was done. Memories of dad and mom visiting while they did the evening dishes together gave me hope that I could explain to Hank what my expectations of marriage were.
With a deep breath, I asked Hank if I could talk to him about something. Looking at me expectantly, he nodded. While he lit a cigarette I gathered my thoughts. He sat quietly while I told him how marriage worked where I came from, and that friends never dropped in at the supper hour without calling first as it was considered rude. We only had a couple of days left alone before we brought Jennifer home from Mom’s and began family life, and it was important to me that we got things settled before that. Hank sat quietly before looking at me. He said that telling his friends not to come over would be an insult to them, and that country life was different than where I had come from. As to my asking for help around the house, he suggested that maybe I talk to his mom about how she handled her chores- which he called women’s work. Whatever I was expecting from him, it wasn’t that. Rather than vent the hurt and anger I was feeling, I sat in silence. A short time later Hank went on to bed, leaving me alone in the living room at eight-thirty in the evening wondering what on earth I had gotten myself into.

It was dark, but the headlights of several pickup trucks illuminated our bedroom. Hank was already up, and grabbing my robe, I went out to see what was going on. He was coming from the kitchen with a thermos of coffee in his hand. When I asked him what was going on, he said that he was going on a float trip. Shocked, I said, “Hank you never told me you were going on a float trip. Good grief, this is the last day we have before we bring Jennifer home. We just got married for heavens sake!”
“We have had this float trip planned for weeks. I’ll be back by supper. We can visit then.”
“You were going to help me paint Jennifer’s bedroom today! If this trip has been planned for weeks why didn’t you say anything about it?”
The sharp sound of a pickup horn blared through the silence. Tears were stinging my eyes and threatening to spill over, and only sheer willpower kept them in place.
“I don’t know what the big deal is, Becky. I have to go.” With that, he was gone. My heart sank, and the tears broke free and slipped down my face. Numbly I went to the kitchen to get a cup of coffee. Everything was still out on the counter where Hank had left it and the pot was empty. Something close to despair settled next to my heart….

I worked through the day, going to the Laundromat, the grocery store, cleaning the house and making a nice supper. Country meat and potatoes. I put the candles away. With Hank gone, I had to bring wood in to keep the fire going. By seven o’clock Hank still wasn’t home. Dinner was ruined, so I put everything away and was cleaning the dishes when I heard a pickup in the drive. A short time later, Hank came into the kitchen, and unloaded his things on the table.
“Hi. Where’s supper?” he asked.
That did it. No honey how was your day, no I’ve been thinking and I was a thoughtless clod, no I missed you today, no kiss. No sorry I’m late. I had decided to try harder with Hank while we were getting settled into marriage, but anger rose quickly. Rounding on him, I poured all of the frustration I felt into my response.
“Hank it’s 7:30. Supper was an hour and a half ago. I have worked hard all day long to get everything done so that we could spend a nice evening together ironing out some things, but I can see that isn’t going to happen. I am your wife. Your WIFE! Not the hired help, but your partner. Marriage is sharing your life with someone, sharing the responsibilities, the work, the fun. This is OUR house. Your friends have their own lives, and they need to realize that you are married now. When you have plans we need to talk about it. Maybe we were planning something together, or with our families, or just being around the house together. I married you, not your friends. If they insist on dropping by, they can do it after the supper hour. This is our honeymoon, and I have spent it waiting on you and your friends hand and foot. You refuse to see my side of things, which is a slap in the face. I would never think of making plans or having company without checking with you first, and all I am asking for is the same consideration.”
He stood looking at me for a long time before answering. “It will take you a while to learn how things are here. It will be okay.”
“No, Hank. It will not be okay. I don’t need to learn how things are here, you need to remember that you are a married man. You have responsibilities. A wife. A baby. You wanted us, to spend your life with us. We are a team, and we will do things as a family. You should have wanted to be here today helping me get the house ready for Jennifer to come home tomorrow. You should want to spend time with me. I am not saying you can’t spend time with your friends, only that it would be nice if we talked about it first. If they come for supper it should be because we asked them and planned for it. You never even noticed that I had to give up my supper to feed your friends. My family shared chores and spent time together. I married you to have a family and a home. Not to be alone. And certainly not to be a workhorse for you and your buddies.”
He was looking at me as if I had two heads. “I didn’t realize you were so unhappy. I thought you would settle in.”
“I have settled in, Hank. But I wanted a partner. Someone to share my life with on every level. I should be your friend, too. Today I felt left out and alone. You gave me no consideration at all. All I am asking for is that you think before assuming that I know what is going on. You and your friends need to realize that Jennifer and I are your first priority now, not them.”
When met with silence, I swept out of the room with as much dignity as I could muster, leaving Hank to fix his own supper….

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Wednesday, January 21, 2004


Our first day of marriage began with sunshine. When my eyes opened and I got my bearings, I could see that the sun was already up. Today I would move to the little four room house that Hank and I had rented for our first home. I wanted to get an early start as we both had to return to work the following day. When I came out from the shower, Hank was gone. I dressed in my going away outfit, and was straightening the room when he returned with coffee and danish. We shared our meal talking about all that we wanted to do before we had to go back to work.

Half an hour later we were on our way back to Smalltown. We were at the south junction outside of town when we heard a terrible sound emanating from the right front side of the car. Hank’s car was his baby, so he pulled over and disappeared under it. A few minutes later we were on our way into Smalltown. We were just a couple of miles from the dealership. They loaned us a car to use while they worked on ours. Half an hour later we pulled up in front of our little home. I remember the day we rented it. I had walked through every room looking for the thermostat, only to find it didn’t have one. Hank and the landlady were laughing by the time I came back into the living room. Hank looked at Mrs. Honeycutt and declared, “City girl.” Nodding, Mrs. Honeycutt announced that our home had wood heat. Puzzled, I looked at Hank. “It is warmer than propane or electric. I have a good woodstove,” he said. My heart sank. I had never heard of such a thing before meeting Hank and his family. His Mom cooked on a wood stove, and they heated with wood also. The next several weeks Hank spent weekends cutting wood and building a little woodpile behind the house…..

Hank and I stood on the front porch while he worked the key in the old door lock. We had moved our furniture into the house already, and I had everything ready to begin married life. The kitchen was stocked, and the cupboards were full of canned goods and other staples. Once the door was open Hank stepped into the house, leaving me waiting expectantly on the front stoop. Evidently he didn’t know he was supposed to carry me over the threshold. It would be bad luck….finally I stepped into the house and shut the door. Hank was busy starting a fire in the stove to warm the house. Oddly, my suitcase was sitting inside the bedroom. As I turned to go out to tell Hank someone had been in the house, I saw an empty Morton’s salt box laying on the floor by the bed. As I walked over to pick it up the floor was gritty with salt. Looking at the bed, I could see that it wasn’t made like I had left it. Calling for Hank, I stood there with the empty salt box in my hand, but my heart had begun to sink. The minute he saw the blue box in my hand, a grim look came over his face. “I told them not to do this, that you would not find it at all funny.”
“What are you talking about?” I asked.
“Chivaree.” He walked over to the bed, pulling down the spread. The blanket was covered with salt. Pulling the blanket down as well, every layer of bedding was covered with salt.
“Chivaree? Isn’t that Dan and Velma were telling me about? After they were married they were taken to main street and Velma was put in a wheelbarrow and Don had to push her up and down the street, then they took Don out to a pond and tossed him in. It took Velma hours to find him. What does that have to do with this?” I asked.
“I told everyone you would not appreciate being chivareed, and I see they found a way around that.” I watched as he opened up every dresser drawer, and dumped out the contents into a heap on the floor. Salt followed. My puzzlement immediately turned to anger. I had worked so hard to get the house ready to move right into following the wedding. Everything had been washed, cleaned and scrubbed. I followed Hank from room to room. They had sprinkled flour and sugar on the living room furniture and under all the cushions. The dining room was covered with flour, even Jennifer’s crib was full of salt, flour and sugar. The kitchen was a disaster. Hours of stacking the canned goods and organizing the cupboards were for naught. Paper canned goods labels littered the floor. Stacks of silver cans without their labels filled the cabinets. The dishes were in the bathtub, and the towels and washcloths were strewn everywhere. Hank was very angry. I was crying. He came over to me and gave me a hug while I cried, but he was angrier than I had ever seen him. This was not the way I had intended to begin married life.

We spent the rest of the day sweeping the floors, and loading the car with all of the clothes, towels, and bedding. We didn’t have a washer and dryer, so would have to go to the town Laundromat to wash everything. By the time we got back, I was exhausted. Dusk was falling by the time everything was back in it’s rightful place. Hank had gone out to bring in some wood for the fire while I was making supper. I decided to make bacon and eggs since I could not tell what was what with my canned goods. When Hank still hadn’t returned with the wood and dinner was ready, I walked to the front of the house to see where he was. I could see him out front talking to a carload of his friends. They looked grim. I walked back into the kitchen. Supper would be ruined. Wearily I sat down at the table, and cried. Sometime later I heard the car leave. Hank came in with the wood and stoked the fire. He knelt down in front of me and said simply, “I’m, sorry.” Nodding, I got up from the table and went into the kitchen. Supper was past salvaging. Taking my hand, Hank pulled my to the front door. “Where are we going?” I asked.
“I’m going to take my wife to A & W for supper,” he said. “Come on.”
A short time later, we were sitting at A & W eating hamburgers, French fries and frosty mugs of root beer. Talking about the events of the day seemed surreal. But we decided that in twenty years we would laugh about it, and have something to tell our grandchildren…..

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Tuesday, January 20, 2004


As Hank and I posed for our relatives to take pictures following the ceremony I had time to look out at the assembled guests. My family and Hank’s family were now mingling and visiting together, albeit shyly. They had never met before tonight, but everyone looked happy. Hank’s dad had bought a new pair of bibbed overalls for the occasion, and was wearing a tie and jacket. It was the most dressed up I had ever seen him, and was pleased that he had made an effort to look special. It seemed to take forever, but finally the flash bulbs ceased, and we went on to the basement of the church for the reception.

My Grandmother had made the wedding cake, and it was perfection. She had done a beautiful job, and I was so proud of it. Mom and I had done all of the decorations, and what flowers I had been able to buy filled the table with fragrance. As Hank and I cut the cake, I was reminded that I hadn’t eaten since morning. After the requisite sharing of the first bite, we greeted the guests. An hour later, I was fading. I needed a meal, I was tired, and bless Hank that he recognized that. As I went to change I had a few minutes to myself. After Mom helped me out of my dress, she went out to attend to the reception.

My bridal bouquet was laying on the little table that preschoolers sat at for Sunday school classes. One day Jennifer would sit there listening to the teacher tell stories about Bible characters. Picking up the bouquet, I smiled at the delicate folds of the carnations and roses. Every corsage Matt had given me for high school dances had been carnations. The magic that Matt and I had shared was not present in my feelings for Hank, but my feelings for him had grown slowly. I had come to love him, but felt it wouldn’t be fair to accept his proposal without telling him about Matt. He accepted my feelings for Matt with relief. He knew I had been troubled over the months we had dated, and was glad to finally know the reason. I told Hank that Matt had chosen a different path for his life, and that I would accept his proposal not because of that but because I had closed that chapter of my life. He assured me that all would be well, and that he had enough love for both of us. I had locked my feelings for Matt away in my heart, and hoped that the ache I felt there would fade with time. I finished dressing, picked up my bouquet and walked out to join Hank.

An hour later Hank and I were sitting on the bed in a motel room twenty five miles away from Smalltown watching Mannix and eating Mr. Swiss burgers, French fries, and fried mushrooms. We had coke instead of champagne, but it was the most wonderful meal I had ever eaten. I had been so hungry, and we were both tired from the wedding and reception. The best man had failed to get my suitcase into Hank’s car, as Hank had told them we were taking another car. He had hoped to keep his friends from putting shaving cream, tin cans and toilet paper on his car. Although my suitcase had been left behind, they had decorated Hank’s car anyway. And so it was that on my wedding night I had to wear one of Hank’s T-shirts instead of my negligee…..

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Monday, January 19, 2004


It was a typical November day. It had dawned dismal, gray, and foggy, and drizzle had been falling off and on. I was restless and had spent the entire day with Mom and Jennifer. I was constantly amazed at how Jennifer was growing so fast, and seemed to change every day. She was close to walking now that the casts had been removed from her feet and legs. She was sporting a new pair of corrective shoes, but it would be many years before she would be able to wear the cute shoes that I sewed everyday at work.

Mid afternoon after I put Jennifer down for her nap, I left Mom’s and drove uptown to the church. Quietly I slipped inside and sat down in a pew near the rear of the church. I don’t know how long I sat there, thinking about the way my life had changed and the direction it was taking. Jennifer was thriving and healthy. I had been given a second chance at life, and was moving forward….

I was standing in front of the mirror putting on my lipstick when Mom came into the room with Grandpa. He looked so handsome.
“I brought your date, honey,” Mom said.
“I think that we make quite a striking pair, don’t you?” Grandpa said.
“There is no doubt about it. Ready to go Grandpa?”
Nodding, he took my arm. We made our way up the stairs and stood quietly while the soloist was singing “I’ll Walk with God”. The lyrics spoke to my heart.....
I'll walk with God, From this day on,
His helping hand, I'll lean upon.....
Suddenly the majestic sounds of organ music filled the room. I turned and looked at Grandpa, who seemed to be waiting for some sign from me.
“Let’s take a walk, Grandpa”.
Nodding, we stepped into the room. Dear faces were smiling, and the room was filled with love. Candlelight cast an intimate golden glow from the dais. As we reached the front of the sanctuary, the pastor asked solemnly, “Who giveth this woman?”
Proudly, Grandpa said, “I do.”
He stepped back to take his seat, and my future husband stepped in to flank my right side. When he reached out his hand, I placed my hand firmly in his. He gripped my hand, and together we spoke our vows in a simple but traditional ceremony surrounded by the people we loved. My groom was dressed in a rented black suit and tie, and I was wearing a beautiful column of pale blue satin and lace made for me by my mother.

As the pastor pronounced that we were husband and wife, I turned with my husband to face our family and friends. As the organ music filled the room with the bridal recessional, I stepped off the dais and into a new life with Hank......

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Sunday, January 18, 2004


…..I was standing at a crossroad. Ever since the visit to meet Hank’s parents I had been torn. Because of his feelings for me, Hank was blind to his family’s opinion of me. I knew that they had wanted him to marry a country girl, and I thought that over time he would also come to realize as I did the vast differences in our raising and backgrounds. I had Jennifer to think of. Whatever I decided would not only affect her but the rest of my family. I had to make sure that I made the right choices for the right reasons, but at the end of the day I had to look within my heart for my own feelings.

I kept my own counsel, and if Hank noticed any change in me he didn’t say. Over the next several weeks he took me out on ‘dates‘. I suppose he wanted to show me a good time, introduce me to his friends and allow us to get to know each other better. We had picnics at the creek, went to the county fair, and talked a lot. On one particular date we went fishing at the local lake with his best friend and wife. The fishing was not something I enjoyed, but I tried it. I hated looking at the worm struggling for it’s life as it was put on the hook, and sincerely hoped that no fish would bite it. I was more than happy to go back to the picnic area and cook dinner. That was something I excelled and felt comfortable with. As I fried potatoes and onions, I dug in the cooler for the meat. I finally located what I thought was meat and unrolled it. Legs came from everywhere, and startled, I dropped the package, legs and all. I had no idea what on earth I was looking at, but finally decided it was frog legs. Big frog legs. Not wanting to let the others see my horror over the situation, I scooped them up and rinsed them off. Locating the flour and cornmeal, I rolled them and placed them in the frying pan. Obviously I wouldn’t be able to fry more than two pair at a time. While supper cooked I set the picnic table and went in search of some wildflowers for the table. There were some daisies along the edge of the picnic area and I gathered those and was on my way back to the table to check dinner when I saw the frog legs jumping in the skillet. Running back to the cook stove, I grabbed the meat fork and yelled at the top of my lungs for Hank….

Hank and his friends came running up the path into the picnic area to see what the commotion was. When they realized what had happened, they all started laughing. They couldn’t believe that I had never cooked frog legs before and had not known to cut the nerve in the legs to keep them from jumping. Numbly I dropped the daisies on the ground and finished the preparations for supper. Hank had cleaned the fish they had caught, and wanted them cooked as well. I had seen my Grandma do this many times, so made it through that with little problem. No one noticed my silence. I really did like his friends Don and Velma and could tell that they were all very close. If I decided to go forward with Hank, we would be spending a lot of time with them. The rest of the evening passed without incident.

Wearily I went to bed, and in spite of the disaster of the evening, fell asleep….

I was standing in front of two doors. The first one looked like the front door from our house in Kansas. It was dear and familiar, and if I walked through it I would be surrounded by all of the things I knew. A place where I belonged and would be welcomed and loved. I was also aware that things were different than when I left, and that if I did go back nothing would be the same. There were many unknowns. The second door resembled the front doors common to houses in Smalltown. Simple and sturdy. I didn’t belong with these people. I was a curiosity to them, and rather than accept the differences in our backgrounds I was held as the outsider. Most of them had not finished high school, needing to work to survive. I wondered what I would talk to Hank and his family about as the future unfolded.

I thought of Matt and the many things that were unresolved. I had talked to him the day before at college. He was on his way to class and didn’t have much time to talk. He was happy to hear from me, and invited me to Homecoming there, as many of our friends would be attending. He would have time to visit then. His fiancée would also be there and I told him I wouldn’t be able to go. Whatever future I chose for Jennifer and myself would have to be decided without resolution with Matt. There was an ache behind my heart that I would carry with me as long as I lived.

Thoughts of Hank filled my mind. He loved me, I was sure of it. He loved Jennifer. Although our backgrounds were vastly different, and our upbringing so opposite, I had hope that someday his family and friends would accept me. The many unknowns that yawned before me held me back from a decision. Looking at both doors, I felt as if I was standing atop a huge precipice. Time was fleeting, and as the doors began to shimmer in the fading light I stepped forward, took hold of the handle, and turned it…..

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Saturday, January 17, 2004


My first visit to meet Hank’s parents was a nightmare. It was like stepping into another world, and my first concern that I didn’t belong there. Hank had been born and raised way out in the country at Twin Bridges. They had a river for their back yard and a house surrounded by woods. It was so far out from Smalltown, 28 miles to be exact, that they attended a one room country school until the kids went to high school. I imagine that is why the family is so shy and backward. They moved into ‘town‘, as they called it, and set up a hog farm. Their ‘town’ house was located miles out in the country on the west side of Smalltown, which to me was traveling to another country. At least to another time….

The house was a two story house that looked as if two large boxes had been set up one on top of the other. A large screened porch went the whole length of the front of the house. The house was set in a small yard that was surrounded on every side with hog pens as far as the eye could see. The first thing I noticed after getting out of the car was the smell. It was summer, and the smell was horrendous. I tightened my grip on Jennifer, and stepped carefully around the chickens and roosters that were roaming around the front yard. My guess was that Hank hadn’t told his parents we were coming. My second guess was that they were obviously not expecting him to be bringing a city girl to meet them. With a baby. Jennifer was still crawling, and not as intimidated as I was about our surroundings. After the initial introductions had been made, Jennifer wanted down on the floor. I fought it until Hank’s mom came over and relieved me of her, setting her down on the floor. The floor did appear clean, as did the rest of the house. I was very uncomfortable, so spent my time checking on Jennifer.

We had arrived in the late afternoon, which was their chore time, so once Hank’s mom was assured we would ‘stay to supper’ she excused herself to go help Hank’s dad with the chores. Supper was quite an experience. There was left over fried chicken from the noon meal, as was every other dish on the table. It had been covered up with a cloth, and after removing it, plates were set around. Everyone dug in with relish, but since I wasn’t used to eating cold food, I focused on where Jennifer had crawled off to. Conversation flowed around me, which may as well have been a foreign language, no more of it than I understood. Farrowing houses, scours, cutting feeder pigs, sows coming in.…when I didn’t hear Jennifer I excused myself and left the table. I found her in the front room with a chicken bone in her mouth! As I came back into the kitchen with it I noticed several more on the floor under the table. I began picking them up and putting them in my empty plate. Jennifer’s pretty little sun dress was dirty, as were the white corrective casts on her feet and legs. Hank’s dad was laughing, saying that they usually put the bones on the floor so the grand kids had something to chew on. I fell silent, and sat quietly until Hank was ready to leave. I am quite sure that his parents were as concerned about Hank bringing me to the house as I was to be there. On the drive back to town, I was quiet. If Hank had noticed anything amiss he didn’t say.

“I don’t think your parents liked you bringing a city girl home to visit.”
“Why would you say that?”
“Because your mom said several times that she didn’t think you would ever want to go with a city girl. They were expecting a country girl, Hank.”
“They will like who I do.”
“I am not so sure.” I sat quietly listening to him talk about growing up on the river, and I felt about as out of place as I had ever felt in my life. I thought about the country people that worked at the shoe factory, and could see plainly now why I was such a mystery to them. Kansas seemed like the other side of the world, and I wondered for the hundredth time how I was ever going to fit in here. When we arrived back at Mom’s, she met us at the door, immediately taking Jennifer out of my arms and asking what on earth had happened. As she went in to clean Jennifer up, I tried again.
“Hank, I don’t think your parents like the fact that I am a city girl. If they don’t accept me then the rest of your family won’t either. Your mom was asking about several different girls- were they girlfriends?”
“Were. And I don’t think you could say girlfriends, just girls I did things with. I think mom expected that I would someday be serious about one of them, but I haven’t ever been serious about anyone until now. They will come to like you. You’ll see.”
I kept my silence, but decided not to pursue the matter.

Later that night sleep eluded me. Not for the first time I worried that I was making another mistake. Would I never find a place where I felt I belonged? The future stretched out before me, and as hard as I tried, I could not see where the road would take me….

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Friday, January 16, 2004


Author's note: For those of you not familiar with my arrival here in Smalltown or the events that occured following my daughter's birth, you can read the rest of that story line in my archives- my first post for August tells of those events.
Also, there seemed to be some confusion about the phone call I made to Matt while I was in California, resulting in some anger against him. I apologize for the misdirection, and if you read the re-edit of yesterdays post, this will be clarified. Thanks!

I was kept in St. Johns hospital for a week. Three doctors had been assigned to my case, all oriental. I couldn’t understand a word they said to me. It was a good thing they brought interpreters with them when they made rounds. There had been some concern on my part that they were all neurologists. My imagination went wild, but I was assured that they had been called in to discover why I could have fainted besides the heat. After three days of tests, poking, prodding and questions, it was determined that I was allergic to a medication that the local doctor in Smalltown had prescribed for me. Once I was taken off of that medication, I began to improve. The rest and regular meals did wonders for me. I felt like myself again. Thank goodness they released me on a Saturday. Hank came up to take me home.

I stayed with Mom until Sunday night. It was wonderful to be with Jennifer and my family. Sunday evening I left to go back to my trailer. I was glad to have some time alone to sort out my feelings. Being ill is never a good time to make decisions about your life. I had to face the fact that Matt had moved on with his life and likely could never love me again. It was harder than I thought to accept this. He was unaware of so much about what had happened in my life prior to my leaving Kansas, but now that the choices had been made I had to live with the result. While I was seeing Steve, his family had made me feel like tarnished goods. I had been found lacking and unacceptable because I had been divorced and had a small child. That is how I felt about myself when I thought about Matt. I was thankful to have ended things with Steve, and that chapter of my life was closed. I knew without any reservation however, that I would never get over Matt. I loved him still and I would love him when I took my last breath on this earth. Accepting that, I had to move on. I knew that Hank wanted to be a part of my life. He was a good man. It wasn’t fair not to give him a chance, and knowing I had a child and was divorced didn’t seem to make any difference to him. I knew also that I would never love him as I had Matt. We had a connection that was unexplainable, and he completed me on many levels. The power of first love goes with you the rest of your life, no matter what comes after. These secrets a woman holds in her heart all of her life. Once I had tucked Matt there, I was ready to move forward….

I was welcomed back at the factory with wide smiles and some relief. The work was still stacked just has it had been when I left the previous week, so the celebration was a short one. I was only to work regular hours the first week back, and could see the doctor’s wisdom in this by lunch time. Cathy was now eating with her boyfriend, so Hank and I ate lunch together everyday. In the evenings I went out to Mom’s to spend time with Jennifer, and he came on several occasions to meet her and my family. They all loved him. He was a stable, caring man and Mom and Grandma and Grandpa held hopes that we would marry someday. Jennifer loved Hank. He was so good with her, and it warmed my heart that he could accept her so freely. I always said that he fell in love with Jennifer and just took me because I came as part of the package.

Several weeks later I had a letter from my friend in Kansas, and she told me that Matt and his girlfriend were engaged. Even though I had made my peace about Matt, it was devastating news…..

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Thursday, January 15, 2004


…..I was walking down the hallway at church. Choir practice had just let out and I was on my way to the fellowship hall where the youth group met. As I approached the courtyard movement caught my eye, and I stopped to look into the glass walled meditation garden. In the middle of the courtyard a boy scout was putting up a tent by himself. I knew that the church was a meeting place for several groups, a boy scout troop being one of them. I watched him for a while, intrigued with the skill it took to erect the tent alone. When the tent was up he stood back and looked at his handiwork, then up to where I stood on the other side of the glass wall. Smiling, he motioned me inside the garden….

I was almost fifteen years old, but would not be allowed to date until I turned sixteen. I hesitated a minute before deciding that it would do no harm to just talk to him. Walking around to the glass door, I turned the handle and walked into the garden. The open ceiling allowed the fading daylight to illuminate the courtyard. Smiling, he walked forward and took my hand, guiding me over to the tent. “I bet you are wondering why I am setting a tent up in the courtyard, aren’t you young lady?” he said. His eyes were the most incredible shade of blue, and twinkling with mischief. He had dark hair, a bit on the natural curly side, and his smile was irresistible. Laughing, I nodded my head. “Well you have to admit it isn’t a sight you see every day.” We talked for quite a while, dusk falling around us in the balmy air. I told him that my dad was the scout leader for our boy scout troop in Shawnee, and we talked about that. When the lights came on in the corners of the garden, it jolted me back to the present. “What time is it? I was supposed to call my dad for a ride home after youth group!”
“I think that you missed Youth tonight. They let out a few minutes ago.”
“I’d better go call dad. It was nice talking to you…I’m afraid I don’t know your name. Are you in Youth?”
“Matt, yes, and haven’t been for a week or two. You’re new to the group aren’t you? I know I would have noticed you…”
“I only joined in October. I’d better go.” Turning, I walked to the door before he said, “You didn’t tell me your name”.
“Becky, ask your dad if it is okay for a boy scout to drive you home from church.”
Nodding, I walked out to the fellowship hall and dialed my dad. He hesitated a minute, but agreed that it would be okay for Matt to drive me home. By the time I hung up the phone, Matt was standing in the fellowship hall talking to a few of the other guys. Walking over to me, he asked if dad said okay. His eyes were even a more incredible shade of blue in the light of the fellowship hall. Laughing, I said yes, that it was okay for him to drive me home. Taking my hand, we walked out of the church. We talked all the way to my house, which was several miles away. He told me a little about his family, and we laughed about some of the kids in the youth group. When we pulled up in front of my house, Matt walked around the car to open my door. We walked up to my door, and he asked if it would be okay to meet my dad. We walked in the house, and I introduced Matt to my family. Of course it helped that he was wearing a boy scout uniform, and with his natural magnetic charm he won my family over in the space of a few minutes. When he left, he told me he would see me on Sunday at church.

Over the next several months I saw Matt regularly at church. We had so much fun together. After Youth we would go out with his friends for French fries and a coke. The ‘fellas’ as our small group of friends called themselves consisted of six guys and four girls. They were all two years or better older than me, and attended a different high school than I did. I turned fifteen in March. In April we were out riding around after church when I began to feel pain in my lower abdomen. It worsened quickly, and I asked Matt to take me home. Looking at my pale face, he agreed, and a short time later I was home. I tried to go to bed, but couldn’t rest because of the pain. Finally my dad and mom decided I had better go to the emergency room. Three hours later I was admitted and in a hospital bed. The nurse gave me a shot for the pain, and I slept until early morning. When the surgeon came to my room, he told me that the tests indicated a bad appendix. Later that day I was taken to surgery.

When I woke up the nurse told me all had gone well and that the surgeon would be in to visit with me later. That afternoon dad told me that Matt had called to check on me. Mom came by after work. Wednesday evening after Youth, my room filled up with the fellas, who had slipped by the nurses station one at a time. They brought me spring flowers picked from somebody’s garden, and after a few minutes succeeded in being busted by the nurse and asked to leave me to rest. Matt winked, and told me he would be calling Saturday when I was released from the hospital. My heart soared. It had been assumed by the fellas that we were an item, but he had not asked me for a date yet.

Saturday I was released in the morning, and taken home. Mom and dad knew that Matt was going to call, and I asked if he asked me for a date if I could go. After some discussion, they agreed. During his lunch hour, Matt called and asked me if I would like to attend a play at his high school that evening. I could barely walk yet, and I was still pretty weak, but I said yes. I had a wonderful time.

Matt and I had a connection right from the beginning. We were never at a loss for words, and had so much fun together. After our first date we were inseparable. He was my first love, my first everything. Meeting him changed my life and completed it. I felt loved and secure and special with him, and after two years of dating, dances, and making plans, we started a hope chest. He was gone to Colorado skiing when my mom told me that she and dad were divorcing. She told me before the boys so that I would be able to help them when the time came. In a few short hours my world turned upside down. With Matt gone, I never felt so alone in my entire life. He called later that evening, and I told him what had happened. He would be returning home in two days. when he came home he gave me a beautiful ring that he had engraved with his initials. He was wearing the mate to it, and his had my initials in it.

Mom left two months later. Nothing was the same after that. When I hurt my back at work the doctors found a birth defect in my spine. They couldn’t fix it without surgery to which they only gave me a 50-50 chance of walking after. When Matt graduated in the spring, he worked every available hour to save money for college in the fall. When he left for college, I had never felt so lonely in my life.

Letters from Matt came regularly, and I wrote every day. He was understandably busy, and came home as much as he could. His friends began to tell me he was dating other girls at college. He never denied it, but never affirmed it when I asked him. I was hurt. Confused. When I got a job at a local Village Inn as a waitress, my schedule was horrendous. I suppose that looking back on it now I would have to say I was selfish, feeling sorry for myself, and disillusioned. It seemed easier to let go than hang on. Time passed. I heard from Matt less and less, I didn’t write as often either. In his second year of college he was focused on his studies, and was making a life there. I didn’t feel a part of it. I ceased to care about what happened to me. Dad was dating, my brothers were busy with their lives, Matt was busy. I began to talk with the cook at the restaurant, who had only six months to live. He wanted to go to California and spend the time he had left there. When he asked me to get married and go with him, I felt for the first time in months that someone really needed me. It was running away from unresolved problems I knew, but I never felt so alone. We were married in late January, and left right after the ceremony. Dad had to sign for me as I was only 17, and it was a dismal day. I had a very bad feeling when the groom arrived half drunk, and the further we got from Kansas, the more ominous the situation seemed.

Almost immediately I knew I had made a terrible mistake, but pride wouldn’t let me go home. My months in California were horrific. After my husband tried to kill me by pushing me down a flight of stairs and later with a handgun, I called Matt from a payphone. He was in the middle of a family dinner, and had his new girlfriend there. I didn't even tell him what had happened. Pride wouldn't let me, and he was understandably moving on with his life. He couldn’t help me now. I couldn't blame him for my circumstances. I knew I had made the biggest mistake of my life, that I had made very bad choices based on immature and selfish grounds. Time had not dimmed the love I had for Matt, and I began to think that his friends had just wanted to break us up for whatever reasons they had. When I hung up the phone, I stood there in the phone booth on Wilshire Boulevard and sobbed. Over the next several months, my dreams were haunted by beautiful blue eyes by night and my days were filled with fear, and sorrow at losing Matt. I had been incredibly stupid. When I went into the hospital to deliver my daughter, my husband was nowhere to be found. He had lied to me about his health, and was often not home. I hemorrhaged in delivery, and when I hear the code blue, I was filled with such sorrow. I would never be able to raise my baby or right the wrongs I had caused. Just before I lost consciousness, my thoughts were of Matt…

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Wednesday, January 14, 2004


The days fell into a pattern. The work was never ending, and was stacked behind our stations so that I could hardly see out. Cathy was sick one day and didn’t come to work, so I had to work all the harder to keep the rubber and French binder in work. By noon I was exhausted. Everyone was irritable because of the heat in the factory, and by lunch time our shirts were soaked with sweat. As I walked out of the factory to my car to eat, Hank was standing there waiting for me. He asked if I would eat lunch with him, and I was simply too hot and tired to decline. I walked to my car to get my sandwich and saw that he had moved his car next to mine. His car was bigger than mine, so he told me to get in with him.

While we ate lunch we talked about Cathy, and he told me they had gone to school together. She was currently dating another friend of his. It didn’t take me long to figure out that he knew everyone. Half of the factory employees were family of some description. He had been born and raised in the country, having gone to a country school, but he attended high school in Smalltown. It was easy to sit and listen to him talk, his accent was definitely country. I was surprised to learn he had played football in high school and had been a star on the team that had won the district championship for Smalltown. Before I knew it we were headed back in to the factory. As we clocked in he asked me to have supper with him after work, and thinking about the ketchup soup waiting for me, I agreed.

Mid afternoon temperatures soared. The harder I worked the further behind I got. Without Cathy sitting at her machine I could see Hank working across the conveyor, and several times when I looked up he would smile at me. He had a job that required standing, and had more freedom of movement than I did just sitting at a machine all day. I had just pulled another stack of work over to my machine and sat back down when my eyes blurred. My heart seemed to flip over in my chest. I took several deep breaths and started sewing the next case of shoes. Jeannie was talking about her son’s birthday party. Stella was talking to someone in cutting about some shoe samples. The buzzing in my head drowned out the sounds around me, I was conscious of the fact that my machine was still running and I was going to sew over my finger if I wasn’t careful. The last thing I remember was Hank jumping over the conveyor hollering for Stella…..

I heard sirens. It was so hot, but I was cold. Voices were so far away….then blackness.

When I woke up I didn’t know where I was. It was cool and quiet. I had an IV in my arm which restricted movement, and I was so very tired. The next time I woke up a nurse was taking my blood pressure. She told me that I had been brought in several hours before by ambulance from Smalltown. She asked me my name, how old I was and the name of the President. I asked her where I was, to which she replied St. Johns Hospital in Springfield. At that I panicked, and tried to sit up in bed….I had to get home…Mom and Jennifer didn’t know where I was…I had work to do…I was 85 miles from home… The nurse firmly pushed me back, and finished hanging a bag of medicine on the IV stand and connected it to my IV. My eyes drifted closed again.

I woke up the next morning. The morning nurse told me that I wasn’t to worry, my mother had been called and she knew where I was. She would be calling me later in the day. I was to have a round of tests and blood work, but mostly I was supposed to sleep and eat. The medication made it difficult for me to concentrate on what she was saying, and woke a while later to see a breakfast tray sitting untouched on the bedside table. A nurse’s aide came in to help me sit up so that I could eat, but I wasn’t hungry. My head hurt.

By late afternoon I had been poked, prodded and x-rayed to death. I was positive I had no blood left to give, and had slept through lunch. I tried to focus on the sounds around me, and heard a cart being rolled up the hallway. It stopped at the door to my room. “Are you Becky Strain?” I opened my eyes to see a hospital volunteer holding two vases of flowers. She set them on the end table at the foot of the bed. “Yes”, I managed. “Well, you have two vases of flowers here. One is from the shoe factory workers in Smalltown, and the rose is from Hank.” She took the cards off of the flowers and laid them in my hand.
“They are beautiful. Thank you,” I said. When I woke up supper had arrived I still had the cards in my hand. While the aide was helping me with the supper tray the phone rang. It was my Mom. She told me everything was fine there and that Jennifer was happy. She was worried, I could tell. The hospital was keeping her apprised of my condition, and told me to eat and rest. I asked her to hug Jennifer for me, and when she hung up, my face was wet with tears.

When I woke up the room was dimly lit. Someone was holding my hand. Opening my eyes, I could see Hank sitting by the bed holding my hand. When I started to sit up, he stood and rolled the bed up a bit. “Hi there sleepyhead,” he said. “I thought you were never going to wake up. How do you feel?”
“Like I was hit by a truck. What day is it?”
“Thursday. You have been here since yesterday. Caused quite a commotion at the factory, I can tell you. Cathy is back at work, and Stella is filling in for you until you can get back to work. They are installing big overhead fans around the factory to help with the heat. Everyone is worried about you.”
“When can I go home?” I asked.
“I don’t think you will get out of here very soon. The nurse said they were going to be running tests again tomorrow. I brought a card from the line. Everyone signed it.”
He put it in my hand, but seeing I was too weak to open it, he did the honors. Seeing all of the signatures was too much. I started crying again. “I’m sorry, Hank. I just can’t believe they all sent flowers and the card. It was so nice of them.”
“You have more friends than you realize, Becky. You have earned the respect of everyone there, city girl. Everyone is worried about you. So am I. The nurse says you are suffering from heat stroke and exhaustion.”
“Oh. Well, I had a heat stroke when I was younger from a bad sunburn, and getting overheated always makes me dizzy.”
“Well, I need to get back home, we are still working overtime. I’ll be back tomorrow evening.”
“Thank you for coming, Hank. Really, it was so kind- I know you must be tired.”
“Don’t be silly. I wanted to come check on my girl.” With that he leaned over the bed, gave me a kiss, and left.
The aide came in to get me ready for bed, and with a broad smile said, “Your boyfriend is real cute, isn’t he?”
“Yes, he is, but…” I started to say he wasn’t my boyfriend, but she said, “He has the most gorgeous blue eyes…”
When she left, I was remembering another pair of beautiful blue eyes, and wondered where Matt was tonight. I knew he was still in college…What was I going to do? My eyes drifted shut and I fell into deep, dreamless sleep….

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Tuesday, January 13, 2004


We had been working overtime hours for six weeks, and ten hour days began to take their toll on everybody. There was no air conditioning in the factory and by late May it was unbearable. I hadn’t been sleeping well because there was no air conditioning in the trailer either, and Jennifer was fussy. By having a piece of toast for breakfast, and one of the ham sandwiches I bought ten for a dollar at lunch, I was able to eat every day. Town and Country usually had Brooks ketchup on sale five bottles for a dollar, and remembering that Mom told me she used to make tomato soup out of that and hot water, I was able to have supper when I was late picking Jennifer up and missed supper at Mom’s. It was a relief when Stella announced the next day that she needed volunteers to work Saturdays. I agreed without hesitation, needing any extra money I could get.

Mom wasn’t as happy about the extra day’s work, as she had been worried I was working too hard for a long time. I had lost weight, and dark circles had begun to appear under my eyes. She offered to keep Jennifer at night too, just while we were working so many hours so that I could get much needed sleep without interruption. I had known for some time that my working so many hours would eventually be a problem in making sure that Jennifer had a stable schedule and proper care. I was trying very hard, but not doing a very good job. I was tired. Leaving Jennifer was the hardest thing I had ever had to do. She was in the best possible environment, and the overtime couldn’t last much longer….but I felt so empty as I drove home, and by the time I got to my trailer, I buried my face in my calloused hands and cried. I am not sure how long I sat in the car crying. It was dark. I never noticed the car drive by, but when I heard a car door shut very close, I got out of the car. I recognized him, of course….

He stood in the glow of the streetlight just watching me as if unsure how to continue. I said nothing.
“You have been sitting there crying a long time. Is everything all right?”
I nodded in the affirmative.
“I was just going up to A and W to get a hamburger. Would you like to join me?”
I stood there a while with so many thoughts swirling through my head, when my stomach objected to being empty. A hamburger sounded like a gourmet meal.
“I won’t keep you out very long, I’m tired too. It’s been a long day.”
Once again my stomach rumbled. I couldn’t seem to form a coherent thought.
“Let’s go eat. Then I’ll bring you home and you can get some sleep.”
I was being silly. He was being kind. A hot sandwich sounded wonderful.
Looking up at him, I said “Thank you. I forgot to eat supper.”
Relief flickered briefly over his face, and he took my elbow and guided me around to the passenger side of the car. Once we were on our way up Main Street he said, “My name is Hank by the way.”
“I’m Becky Strain.”
Smiling, he said, “Yeah, I know.”
Puzzled, I looked at him.
“I asked Cathy what your name was weeks ago.”
“She never said anything to me about it. I wonder why?”
“I asked her not to,” he said simply.
While we sat at the drive in eating hamburgers, french fries and mugs of frosty root beer, we talked about the work at the factory. He asked if I was going to work Saturdays, and I said yes. A short time later, he took me home. I thanked him for the meal, and for stopping by.
“Where is your little girl?”
“She is staying with my Mom while I am working so many hours. She hasn’t been sleeping well with the trailer being so hot. This will be my first night without her, and I was so upset I guess I lost track of the time. Thanks again for supper. It was wonderful.” I managed a smile.
“You’re welcome. Hopefully the overtime won’t last much longer. It’s hard on everyone. See you tomorrow.” He stepped forward, kissed me lightly on the cheek and left…..

Wearily I laid down in bed, and went instantly to sleep….

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Monday, January 12, 2004


Over the weekend we moved my things to the trailer. I had to leave Jennifer’s crib at Mom’s house so that she would have a place for her to sleep during the day, so we would have to sleep together. We stayed at our new little home for the first time on Sunday evening. Although it was nice to be on my own, it was odd not having anyone to talk to. I had no TV and the local radio station went off the air at 8:00 in the evening, so the house was oddly quiet. I had to leave the house early Monday morning to give me time to take Jennifer to Mom’s before work.

My routine fell into place quickly. We were working 10 hours a day at the factory, and by the time I picked Jennifer up from Mom’s house, I was ready for bed. Mom usually had supper for me, which was the only hot meal I had each day. All of my money had gone toward the rent, deposits for utilities, and gas for the car. With four days until payday, I had no money left to my name. The few groceries I had been able to buy had been formula and baby food for Jennifer. I had no coffee pot, so I had to save a quarter to get coffee out of the vending machine at the factory each morning. It was hard to start the day with no breakfast and working so hard on the line used a lot of energy. With no lunch, it was hard to sit and watch Cathy eat her sandwich. Pride kept me from asking for any money. Thank goodness the overtime hours would enable me to get some groceries. Although I got my paycheck on Friday afternoon, the bank was closed when I got off work. Mom made a nice supper Friday evening, and since I didn’t have to work the next day, Jennifer and I stayed after supper and visited. It was so good to have hot food in my stomach. When Jennifer and I left for home, Mom sent some leftovers and cake with me. At least I would have breakfast before the bank opened.

After depositing my check, I went to Town and Country to buy some groceries. Jennifer needed baby food and formula, which left very little for anything else. I bought bread, peanut butter and jelly and some instant coffee. On Saturday they sold ham sandwiches ten for a dollar, so I bought those for my lunches. I thought a lot about my friends in Kansas, and my mind often wandered to my old boyfriend. I knew he had two years of college left. Letters from my girlfriend kept me up with the news. I could see his face so clearly in my mind, his blue eyes twinkling as he laughed. I hoped that his life was a good one. With the extra hours at work, and Jennifer not sleeping very well due to teething, I felt much older than my 18 years. With my birthday coming up, I hoped for money instead of gifts.

One evening Jennifer was more fussy than usual. She had been crying for a long time, and I was getting desperate. As I paced the floor with her, I remembered my Mom saying that they sometimes took me for a ride in the car to get me to fall asleep when I was a baby. A short time later we were riding up and down Main Street. After about twenty minutes, Jennifer was nodding against my shoulder. Pulling back into my drive, I took her into the house and put her to bed. I was picking up her toys when I heard a car outside. Walking to the window, I saw a car with two men in it pass by slowly. After making the circle turn at the last trailer, the car came slowly back by. The street light fell on the faces of the men, one of them was someone Cathy talked to at the factory, and the other one was the man with the very blue eyes. As they passed by, he waved and inclined his head once in greeting…..

That night it was a very long time before I could fall asleep.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Sunday, January 11, 2004


Taking my hand firmly in his, he pulled me to my feet. Brushing the seat of my jeans off, I thanked him and walked with as much dignity as I could muster back to my station. I kept my head down the rest of the day, concentrating on my work. Cathy chattered randomly about her latest love interest, which I listened to with only half an ear. My thoughts were focused on getting through the rest of the day, going to Town and Country to get some empty cardboard boxes, and getting home to do some packing and playing with Jennifer.

By the time the 10 hour day was done, I was exhausted. We had been working on a new order of toddler high top walking shoes all day, and the leather was stiff in order to lend support to little ankles as baby’s first shoes. My hands were swollen, and my spirits were sagging as I pulled into the parking lot at Town and Country. I entered the store and looked for the manager, who told me to locate a sack boy to help me with the boxes. Great. I walked into the stock area. Steve was back there pricing canned goods, and looked up as I approached. I asked him for the boxes, which had been stacked in a corner with my name on them. He asked how I had been, to which I answered fine. He said he had heard I was working at the shoe factory now and asked how I liked it. We made polite conversation for a few minutes, and he turned to get the boxes for me. Once the boxes were loaded, I thanked him and told him to take care of himself. Nodding, he waved and turned to answer the call for a sacker at the registers. Another chapter was closed as I headed home.

Mom had kept supper warm for me, and while I ate Jennifer played in her high chair with some animal crackers. Being home greatly lifted my spirits. I told Mom about the incident at the factory, and seeing Steve at the grocery store. After supper, Jennifer kept me company while I packed boxes. There was an amazingly small amount of things to pack, mostly being Jennifer’s clothes which needed to stay at the house as long as Mom was babysitting her. My meager belongings filled four boxes. Most of what I had brought from California was still packed in boxes in the garage, and since I would have no room for most of it I wouldn‘t be moving it. It was with much gratitude that I had a nice hot bath, put Jennifer to bed and fell into my own bed, falling instantly asleep….

My dreams were haunted by the sensation of falling, a strong helping hand, and very blue eyes….

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Saturday, January 10, 2004


We had been working overtime for several weeks trying to get a Buster Brown order out before Easter. I had closed enough black patent leather Mary Janes to outfit every little girl in the country. Cathy and I had struck up a friendship mainly because we sat next to each other all day and shared the same work, so while we worked she would tell me about her love life. She was several years older than me and had never been married, so when she asked how I came to be here in Smalltown I told her. She was amazed that I had been in love with one man, married another, moved across the country, had a baby- almost dying in the process, and was now here in Smalltown divorced. And working in a baby shoe factory. Cathy dated almost every night, and couldn’t believe that I didn’t. I told her about the situation with Steve and his family, firmly stating that I had no interest in men while trying to secure a future for Jennifer and myself.

Several of the men over in lasting cast interested looks Cathy’s way through the day, and made an effort to speak with her on break. We began eating lunch together, and it wasn’t uncommon for some of the guys to stop by her truck to visit. Since Cathy smoked and I didn’t we ate in her truck. One day while eating sandwiches she told me about a trailer she had wanted to rent, but it wasn’t big enough for her. After we had eaten, she took me by to see it. The trailer court was located directly across from Town and Country supermarket on Main Street. It was also just several blocks from the shoe factory. The trailer she had wanted was indeed small, only 10’ x 40’. The owner’s son was mowing the lawn, and let us in to look at it. There was only one bedroom, a bathroom, a kitchen and a living room. It was furnished. The wheels began to turn in my head, but we had to get back to work. All afternoon I thought about the little trailer, and how I could manage the expenses. I had saved nearly every penny of my paychecks for two months.

That evening I talked to Mom about it. She was supportive, understanding that of course that I wanted to be independent, but was not sure that this was the right time for me to be moving. I was young, impulsive, and sure that someone would come along and rent the trailer before I could come to a decision. Mom wisely said nothing else, and the next day on my break I called about the trailer. After work I went by and signed the paperwork, and left with the key. That night Mom made a cake to celebrate my new home, and plans were made to move Jennifer and I over the weekend.

The following day at work I was coming out of the restroom on morning break, and bumped into a young man who was turning into the men’s restroom. I had my head down, and had been preoccupied thinking about what I needed to do before moving. The force of bumping into him caught me completely off guard and knocked me to the ground. Stunned and embarrassed, I looked up to find him laughing, which immediately angered me. I was just about to launch into a stunning setback when he surprised me by apologizing and reached out his hand to help me up. Eager to get back to my station, I also murmured a hasty apology. Still standing with his hand outstretched, I looked up into his face and saw kindness there. And very blue eyes. Slowly I reached out my hand and placed it in his…..

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Friday, January 09, 2004


Stella came back to work the following week. The factory workers had passed a coffee can around while she was away for her grandmother’s funeral, and each worker put change in it. It was a surprise to me that the card presented to Stella held almost a hundred dollars. It was a lesson to me. The workers could not have done much individually, but as a whole, the result was staggering. She was very moved, and promised to buy rose bushes for the memorial rose garden at the cemetery in honor of her grandmother.

Stella was surprised to find me working on the line, and was very pleased with my progress. It was satisfying for me to hear the other girls telling how well I had been doing. I was a long way from ‘making my time’, but was averaging twenty five cases of shoes a day. The days passed. Slowly the women were accepting my presence, and as I celebrated my first month as a working girl I felt that maybe everything was going to be all right.

I drove by Town and Country supermarket everyday on my way home from work, and I stopped in occasionally to pick something up for Mom or Jennifer. I often saw Steve, and although I hadn’t really spoken to him since we parted company I could see him changing. There were usually high school girls hanging around him, he was losing weight, and his hair was longer. He looked unhappy. Although it should have made me happy to see him like that, I was sorry for him. My life was changing as well, but I was making positive strides toward a future for Jennifer and myself. I didn’t have time for looking back.

Leaving Jennifer was hard for me, as I had been with her every day since her birth. She was eight months old now, and was changing every day. When I came home Mom would tell me about their day, and it was hard not to feel left out. I wouldn’t get to see Jennifer’s first steps, hear her first word or hold her when she was sick unless it happened at night. She appeared to be flourishing. She had the best of care, and I had to be happy about that. The weekends were wonderful. I spent them on the floor with Jennifer, playing. Mom and I talked, baked and cleaned house. My life was quiet and ordered. It was also about to change forever…..

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Thursday, January 08, 2004


Days began to pass with some regularity and routine. I was left alone in the training station to learn the different types of shoes the factory sold, and was surprised to see the different company names on the job tickets. It seemed that the shoes were the same for every store except for the stamp that went inside and the box they were packed in. My little shoes were being shipped to Sears, J.C. Penny, Buster Brown, Red Parrot, and many other big name stores.

The other employees had a tight knit group, and left me alone. I had my hands full learning my job and trying to increase my speed, but I began to wonder if anyone would ever speak to me. One day Stella didn't come to work. Since she was the only person who spoke to me, and was the person that brought me work and gave me instruction, I had no choice but to seek help. Looking around the area where the line workers sat, I watched for a while trying to get a handle on who to approach. There was one other closer on the line, and she was covered up with big stacks of job cases. She was working as fast as her hands could go but making no headway. The floor lady from cutting was dragging over work faster than she could sew them up. I saw no other recourse but to ask her what I should do next since my work was done.

I introduced myself, and asked her who I should ask for more work. Laughing, she told me to have a seat at the closing machine next to her and dig in to the stacks of work around her. She told me her name was Cathy, and she appeared to be in her twenties. I wasn't at all sure that I should be moving to the line yet, but Cathy told me that Stella's grandmother had died and that she would be gone for a couple of days. I walked over to the training station, shut down my machine and cleaned the area before taking my snips and moving to my place on the line.

Cathy introduced me to the rubber, where our shoes went after closing. She rubbed the inside seam with a machine that put a piece of coordinating tape over the seam and turned the seam into the outward curve that forms the shoe to the back of the foot. Her name was Jeannie, and was fast enough to be the only rubber on the line. Her station faced Cathy's and mine. Cathy helped me get my new machine turned on and get the right thread on it, gave me a few brief instructions, and sat back down. I pulled over a few cases of shoes and went to work. I was now on the compo line, which was hard sole shoes. I was happy to be away from the soft sole line, as the shoes were so small there. The only problem was that now I had to start all over again getting used to the bigger shoes and learning how to use the new machine. The other problem was that the leather was stiffer and harder to work with. In an hours time my hands were feeling the change.

The other workers seemed to take my change of station in stride. Jeannie introduced me to the french binder, who sat behind her and sewed the binding around the edges of the shoes to finish the edges. Her name was Frances, and she was a very stern looking woman who had very little to say. They all worked with amazing speed. It took me the rest of the day to get into the rhythm of the larger shoes, but was satisfied that I had finished eleven cases of shoes by days end. While I had eleven tickets on my worksheet, Cathy had nine sheets full of tickets. I could not comprehend how she had accomplished all that work, but she assured me in no time I would get faster.

As I left work I said goodbye to the three women who had helped me that day. I was physically worn out, my hands were stiff and swollen, but I felt hope. It was with a great deal of satisfaction that I drove home. I wanted a hot meal, and to hold my little one. I missed her so much, and if Mom wasn't watching her it would have been unbearable to leave her with strangers in order to work. I couldn't wait to tell Mom I was now a real line worker, as I turned down our country road.....toward home.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Wednesday, January 07, 2004


I slept fitfully all night. Mom gave me some aspirin before I went to bed for the aches and pains, but my right hand throbbed all night. I kept sewing those tiny baby shoes in my sleep, could hear Stella's words of instruction going through my head. Jennifer was fussy, not sleeping any better than I seemed to be, so I finally got up, gathered her up in my arms and sat down in the rocking chair. The simple pleasure of rocking her in the dark of night proved to be just what the doctor ordered. As we rocked, I whispered all of the frustrations of the day to her. I promised her I would get better at sewing baby shoes, and that we would have a house of our own one day. Voicing my thoughts and fears strengthened my resolve, and as she fell back into peaceful slumber the tears that had threatened all day fell silently and unbidden down my face and into the darkness.....

The alarm clock broke through the haze of sleep. Still sitting in the rocking chair, I reached over and shut off the alarm and stood to lay Jennifer back in her crib. I made up the bed in the dark, and went in to shower. The hot water did wonders for my back and shoulders, but my right hand was still stiff and swollen. After washing my hair and dressing I was able to bend and flex it. By the time I dressed and went in to the kitchen Mom was up and had coffee waiting. Moms don't miss much, and she had come in to check on Jennifer and I but opted to let us sleep in the rocker. After a good breakfast, hot coffee and lots of encouragement from Mom, I gathered my lunch and left for work.

Rather than waiting for all of the other employees to clock in first, I got out of my car and walked in with the rest of them. As I walked to my work station, I noticed that many of them looked as tired as I felt. This is hard work. No wonder they looked older than they probably were. I sat down at my machine and gathered my snips. Stella was nowhere to be seen, so I finished the case of shoes I had been working on the afternoon before. There was a case of repairs, or 'back shoes' as they were called, so I repaired those and set them in the floor where the finished work was to be put. The training station was set apart from the line workers, and with their heads down and working as fast as they could go, no one gave me any notice. A few minutes later I saw Stella coming out of the office and heading in our direction, so I sat back down and waited.....

By morning break I had finished another case of the tiny baby shoes. When I came back from the restroom, Stella was checking my work. Out of 48 shoes there was only 2 that needed repair. Encouraged, I repaired them and set them on the floor. She had brought up five more cases of shoes, but these were a larger size and much easier to work with. By the noon bell I had finished another case. At noon I took a couple of aspirin and ate my sandwich. My right hand was getting stiff, so while I sat there I thought about the other workers while I massaged my hand. I had worked in a nursing home in Kansas, which was physically demanding, but nothing like a factory. I had been a cashier and a waitress, but neither job compared to the harsh conditions of factory work. All of the people looked old, which evidently had everything to do with the hard work they did every day. Pushing yourself as hard as you could force your body to work eight hours every day just to eke out a living was difficult. There was no joy in their faces, their bodies were bent and stooped from working at machines, and many of them massaged their hands when resting. Maybe we were not so very different after all....

As I walked in from lunch and waited to clock in, there was no conversation in the line. As I sat back down at my machine, I felt as if I had a better understanding of things. I was determined to show them city girls had grit. If they could work year in and year out making baby shoes to raise their families, then I could do it too.

That night as I drove home, I had a very satisfying ache in my back and my right hand was swollen. As I pulled into the driveway the light was on in the kitchen and supper was on the table. I thought about the other women at the factory that had to go home to a dark house and make supper before they could eat. The front door opened, and there was Mom and Jennifer. My heart warmed as I walked in and took Jennifer in my arms. Could life be any better than this....here on our country road?

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain