“Mrs. Miller [Lena White Miller’s mother] was older than our mothers and was not feeling well most of the time. Mama said she was having change of life but failed to explain to me what this meant. In fact, she did not explain to me any of the things that happened when little girls started to grow up, and sure enough it happened one night when I was spending the night at Lena White’s. I went to pieces. Tiny and Mary and Rawa had for some time been asking me if Mama had given me a little book called Marjorie May’s 12th Birthday, but no one had told me why I should read it.
“Mama always told us that ‘nice little girls’ didn’t discuss things like that, and we were told absolutely nothing of the facts of life. One day I overheard her talking to Bama about someone they knew who was having menopause. They were talking in hushed tones, and I knew that I had better not ask for the meaning of the word, so I slipped to the table in the front hall where the Encyclopedia Brittanicas were stored and looked the word up. I still did not know what it meant so for at least a while I remained a dumb but ‘nice little girl.’ They would have been horrified today at the mention of sex education either at home or in the schools.
“We were totally unaware that there were gay people in the world, and I think they were too until the mayor, [redacted], who was a highly respected gentleman who lived in the big white house across from the Methodist church, had to resign because of a scandal involving two baseball players. This was a little while later when I was about a junior in high school, when the Commonwealth came out with big headlines one day that the ball players had kidnapped the mayor and put him out of his car on the Malmaison Road. Then men then exposed him and said that he had picked them up at the Double Dip on Carrollton Avenue after a baseball game and offered to ride them around. We still did not understand but whispered with our friends about who else might be like that. Everyone was upset that [redacted] would have to give up his job as mayor, especially since he had such a nice wife and son. The wife soon filed for a divorce and the mayor moved to Indianola and we inadvertently learned another fact of life.”
One would think Sara would have learned her lesson with Jessie’s failure to prepare her for certain of life’s unpleasant surprises and adjusted for her own two daughters. Not the case. The “facts of life” remained unspoken for at least another generation, leading to some interesting incidents on East Adams. And we’ll just leave it at that.