In 1921, a little girl was born. She made no sense to her family. She was a little girl, but liked to play with games with her three brothers and other little boys the town. She loved her four sisters very much, but was not interested in the things they liked to do in the house. Children like her in the Negro race in Alabama were able to go to school through high school, but she was a math whiz. How could a little Negro girl like math so much? So the little girl lived a lot of her life doing things that no one else did. Though her family thought she was strange, they all loved her very much.
One day, while playing baseball with her brothers, she met a player on the opposing team. He was a pitcher and he thought he would be able to strike her out.
He was wrong.
He admired the spunk of the girl and in no time at all, they fell in love. There was one problem. The pitcher man was on his way to bigger and better things. He did not want to stay in Alabama and endure the cruelty of life there. And he wanted her to come with him. He proposed to her, of course, and the girl had a decision to make.
No one, no one in her family had left Alabama. There was a lot of fighting, and a lot of tears from both sides. Her family wanted the couple to stay. They married and the girl had a baby boy, but her husband still wanted to go. Finally, when the girl was pregnant with her second baby, they left and moved to Atlanta. She was only twenty years old.
In Atlanta, they lived across the street from a college. The girl who had been a math whiz always wondered what went on behind the gates at the beautiful college with the perfectly manicured lawns. She didn’t have long to wonder though. Her husband heard of a place with better opportunities. Pittsburgh. Even though she had just lost her second baby in a heartbreaking way, she found herself pregnant with her third and dared to feel hopeful. Pittsburgh it was.
Life in the big city was not easy. Her husband got sick working in the steel mills and couldn’t work. She had to take a job in a hospital decorating pastries, the very kind of thing that her sisters did that she tried to avoid. But she did it. She worked that job for more than twenty-five years. Working that job, she was able to put that third baby through an expensive private school—Carnegie Tech, now called Carnegie Mellon University.
Her third baby was my father. And because she decorated pastries, she gave her son opportunities that were not available to her. He became a principal.
When I was born, she understood that I was strange too. Since I always had my nose in a book, she nicknamed me “Professor.” And because she decorated pastries, even though she might not have wanted to, she gave her son a good education. His good education gave me one, and I became a professor at the college in Atlanta at the beautiful college with the perfectly manicured lawns. Because she sacrificed, I know exactly what goes on there.
The girl was my grandmother—Ida Mae Heard Huguley.