A Migrant’s Story – Part One

The Mall at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsb...

The Mall at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh. Hamerschlag Hall in the foreground and Cathedral of Learning, University of Pittsburgh in the background. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.


20 thoughts on “A Migrant’s Story – Part One

  1. Just got teary-eyed over this one. Wow. Such irony. To end up in one place but give your children a future in another. My grandmother was Lovely Mae. I think grandmothers named may have a gift of encouragement for their grandchildren. Or maybe that is all grandmothers.

  2. Thanks, Julie! And even though she died 10 years ago, before I even got my job, she was wise enough to know I would end up here. She had a kind of prescience in saying things that seemed so outrageous at the time, but ended up coming true. That’s a different type of wisdom than book smarts. Love your grandma’s name, so cool! Thanks for stopping by!

    • God knew the plans He had for you and for her. I love it that He gave her a peek into the future. God is good at doing that. Most of the time we don’t see it. So glad you got to see the full picture. Of course, the picture goes on, and on.

      • Sunni,

        You are so right! God knows what the full picture is before we do. I am glad that I was able to get some sense, but it did take a long time to understand her perspective! Thank you for stopping by and I look forward to meeting you soon!

  3. Awesome and inspiring story, Piper. I can see bits of your grandmother in the MS I read–and the best part about writing fiction is giving characters what real life people couldn’t have or do! 🙂

  4. Thanks Evangeline! My grandmother and her sisters are indeed the inspiration behind the Bledsoe Sisters series. And I do find satisfaction in giving them their well-deserved HEA right away! Thanks for stopping by!

    • Thank you Kay! She was very insistent sometimes, and in my hard-headed youth, I would dismiss her, but now I understand how wise she was! Thank you for stopping by!

  5. Thank you for sharing your story, Piper. There was so much sacrifice in the generations before us. It’s good to see it celebrated.
    My grandmother was a Mae too. Her husband died young leaving her to raise 5 boys and 2 girls. The youngest was 2 when he died. If her faith ever wavered, she never let on. She was a special woman. Thank you for reminding me of her today.

    • You are so welcome, Mary! And I suspect, if your grandmother is anything like mine, she thought nothing of her sacrifice–it was just what she had to do. Amazing, aren’t they? Thank you for stopping by!

  6. Piper,

    I know I’m late, but this was such a sweet story I had to chime in. Your grandmother sounds like my mother. Always sacrificing for her six children. I used to write for a church newspaper and after my mother’s death I found nearly all my articles cut out and pressed into her bible.

    Your grandmother would be so proud of you today.

  7. No, Elaine, it’s not too late. Thank you for your comment. I appreciate it so much. And your Mom kept those articles in the safest place she knew. Wonderful. Thanks for stopping by!

  8. Piper, you made me think of my grandmothers today – one who homesteaded in Montana as an unmarried woman, then married my grandfather so they could combine their land; and the other, who was born deaf and navigated her way in a hearing world to raise wonderful children. Our ancestors did what they saw as necessary and required; I am so blessed by their examples. I hope I live up to them!

    • I’m with you Leslie! I always try to keep her example in front of me whenever I feel tired or frustrated. She had to get up at ridiculous hours to work that job–I always remember whenever we had a family gathering, she would be done with work by noon. Their examples are a blessing and are a reminder to us to keep striving! Thanks for coming by!

  9. Beautiful story, Piper! You made me teary-eyed as well. You also made me wish I knew more about my grandparents and their parents. You’ve inspired me to ask my mom more questions.

  10. Thank you Jacqui! I’m glad that you are motivated to ask more questions! This is the time to do it. There are things that I wish my grandmother was still here to ask. Do it now! Thank you for coming by.

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