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How Can I Say No?

by PamFord Davis  
4/03/2015 / Short Stories


Though willowy and taller than Wallace, Jessie did not let that deter her. Seated, she beheld her beau eye-to-eye across the school bus as he caught glimpses of her bouncing ribbon tied curls. Jessie, always prim and proper had color-coordinated navy blue ribbons to match her starched pinafore. Daily bus rides served as springboard to courtship and commitment.

Their personalities gave credence to a long held belief; opposites attract.

In July of 1927, outgoing Jessie wed introverted Wallace in a simple ceremony at nearby Kirkville Methodist Church. Frugal and industrious, Wallace had purchased a two-story wood frame house directly across the road from his folk's farm. In 1928, new responsibilities were as prevalent as New Year's resolutions. Three months into pregnancy, Jessie was grateful that morning sickness had subsided.

"Ready for hotcakes, Wallace?" Jessie inserted fresh firewood into the iron stove before wiping flour-dusted hands across her linen apron.

"Yes," he said, 'Make it a big stack with bacon. Smell of perking coffee brought me in! Sure wish this snow would let up. I have to finish that work for Dad on his old plow. Gets so cold out in that barn." He waited, rubbing his hands briskly together over the stove as his bride poured steaming coffee. Carrying the filled cup to the table, Jessie gently set his coffee alongside an oval platter before she smoothed out wrinkles from the tablecloth.

Lumbering behind, the weight of Wallace's workbooks caused the hardwood floor planks to shift, 'creek-creek.' "House is just settling," he asserted. Pulling out the prized chair from Stickley Furniture Company, he ran calloused hands across cherry veneer. Although personally more comfortable tinkering with newfangled automobiles, he admired those who made quality furniture. Resting securely atop the woven cane seat, he slurped black coffee. Spatula in hand, Jessie leaned over to fill his plate with a working-man's breakfast

Newborn cries of Donald and laughter of three-year-old Robert marked the year of 1931. Their proud parents held high hopes of bright futures for both offspring. Early years of nurturing were foundational in their tight knit family.

It was during turbulent teen years that the family unit made a major shift. Wallace had a younger brother named Franklin who sought shelter.

"Jessie, Franklin has proposed to Betty. He asked if they could live with us, just until he can afford to build a house for them and her daughter Midge." Sheepishly, he averted her eyes. "I said I'd have to talk it over with you." After a brief silence and deep reflection, she answered. "You know I think the world of Franklin; boys do too. He has been so much happier since meeting Betty and that smile on Midge, well, how can I say no?"

Jessie worked out suitable living arrangements for everyone. In February of 1947, newlyweds and Betty's five-year-old daughter (from a previous marriage) moved in. It would be two long years and two additional daughters before Franklin's completion of a Sears and Roebuck prefabricated house. Thereafter, Jessie and Wallace slowly adjusted to unfamiliar sounds of silence. Both Robert and Donald had enlisted in the military. Busying herself with housework, and still having time to spare, Jessie decided to become part of a growing number of women in the workforce. She rode a city bus into Syracuse where she held a position as clerk for Dey Brothers Department Store. Wallace, a loyal employee to Precision Castings Company, seldom missed a day's work.

It was the mid 1950's Wallace, with great trepidation approached Jessie once more. "Dear, I think Mother and Dad should sell the farm; the upkeep on that big drafty house is costly. Leo Ennis is interested in buying it. I want them to move in with us. Of course I haven't said a word about it to either of them, had to ask you first." Hoping to read her mind, Wallace looked into contemplating eyes. "I've been thinking the same," said Jessie. "Both are getting feeble and need someone to look after them. They can move into our downstairs bedroom. That will be best because it has a bathroom. We can sleep upstairs."

In the 1960's, Wallace built a new ranch style house. He, his wife and parents transitioned with little fanfare. After the death of both parents, home-life included teenage grandson Donnie. Years later, Jessie, as a widow temporarily opened her home to granddaughter Diane and husband Jay while they looked for housing. My Aunt Jessie sacrificially provided a home to many homeless.

*Writer's note: Creative Non-Fiction/Granddaughter Diane was caregiver to Jessie during the later part of her life. Wanting to provide a safe shelter for grandmother, Diane & husband Jay were looking for a house where Jessie could comfortably live out her remaining years with them. When Jessie learned of their plans, she adamantly refused. She did not want to impose.

Devotionals are her first love in writing. Published articles in Mature Living Magazine, Devotions for the Deaf, The Secret Place, Light from the Word, Coosa Journal, With God Daily, Mary Hollingsworth's The One Year Devotional of Joy and Laughter. http://www.pamforddavis.com
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