Biographical Non-Fiction posted June 14, 2022

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The Day I Learned I am a Survivor

A Laugh - The Sound of Survival

by Annmuma

I remember October 30, 1956.  

I was an eighth-grader and my home room teacher was Mrs. Henderson.  It was a pleasant enough morning, weatherwise, but I was so nervous, even a little afraid of that day.  You see, on October 26, my mom died and, in the few days following, there was a funeral, much hugging, people saying the things they say to kids who have just become motherless. 

During that awfulness, only one of my friends stood nearby, Sara Terrell; most of the Tioga Junior High students had spent Saturday at the annual Shreveport State Fair.  Given a choice, Sara would have been there too, if her dad were not a deacon in the church and her mom, a schoolteacher.  Sara was and still is a lifelong friend of mine and her mom and dad required her to be an ‘example’ for the rest of us.  We laughed about that a lot, but, on that grim weekend, I did not do much laughing.  Nevertheless, it had been nice to have Sara there, the only non-adult at the funeral besides my younger brother and me.
Finally, it was Monday morning and anger and resentment continued to build as I worked to get my ponytail to hang straight.  Daddy worked the eleven to seven shift at  Alexandria's railroad roundhouse and, when we rode the early bus, we were gone before he got home.  I disregarded his note, scribbled on pink paper and left lying across the telephone.  I didn’t care if he came home or not or if he ever spoke to me again.  The last words he had said directly to me were, “Your mama’s dead.  We need to tell Johnny.” 

Aunt Denie, Daddy’s sister, was staying with us for a few days to help us settle into a new routine.  I ignored her calls from the kitchen and the sympathy in her voice.

“Olevia.  Come get a biscuit and bacon before you leave.”

I did not respond and I let the screen door slam behind me as I started down the hill to the bus stop.  John caught up with me before I reached the cattle gap at the end of our driveway.

“Why are you being so mean, Olevia?” he asked as he handed me the biscuit and bacon Aunt Denie had sent.

“I am not being mean.  I just don’t want that stupid biscuit.”

“Did you get your lunch money?  Daddy left it on the desk next to the telephone.”

“No.  I don’t want it.”

“How are you going to eat lunch if you don’t have any money?”

“I have lunch money left from last week. And quit asking me so many questions!”

We both climbed on the school bus where I sat and stared straight ahead. Some of the other kids tried to be nice, but failed miserably in my opinion.  Either they wanted to talk about the State Fair or they wanted to express some sort of condolences.  I didn’t make it easy for either, simply stared at them as if they were speaking another language. 

Meanwhile, John was in the back of the bus, talking and laughing like everything was okay.  I was beginning to become a bit annoyed with him as well, except I knew that was only the ‘outside’ Johnny, not what he was feeling. 

That made me even angrier and that thirty-five minute bus ride felt like hours.  The morning dragged, but, at least it dragged by in a perfunctory manner.  Other than the teachers being too nice to me and none of my friends knowing what to say or do, it was just Monday at school.  At lunch time, I grabbed my history book and headed over to the cafeteria.

Once I had a filled plate, I found an empty table alone and somewhat separated from the rest of the students.  I sat there studying my history book as if it interested me. 

“Hey, can I sit here?”

I looked  up to see a girl with orange-red hair – a natural color I don’t believe I’d seen before or have seen since.  Her face was covered with freckles so dense they formed splotches under her eyes.  I answered as nonchalantly as possible.  “I guess so. Don’t see anybody in the chair.  Who are you?”

“Merilyn Haydel.  This is my first day here.  We moved from Pineville to here over the weekend. I was kinda hoping to go the Fair this weekend, but I didn’t get to.”

A new girl – well that aroused my curiosity.  We didn’t get many of those in Tioga.  “So, where do you live?”

"My daddy got us a new Jim Walter’s home.  It’s pretty close to Tioga Baptist Church.  We are finishing  it ourselves.  Your name is Olevia, right?”

“Yeah.  How did you know that?”

“Everybody is talking about you.  Your mama just died, didn’t she?  Was she sick a long time?”

“Sorta sick, I guess. I don’t want to talk about it anymore.”

With the ease of turning a page, Merilyn smiled and changed the subject. “Who is that good looking boy over there?”

“David Rice.  His mom is a beautician.  She gave me a permanent in my ponytail.  Are you going to go to Tioga Baptist Church?”

“I don’t know.  Does David go there?"

We both exploded in teenage giggles .. my first real laugh in what seemed like years. 
Merilyn instantly became my best friend and a number of years later, we moved together to Dallas as we found our places in life. 

I remember the day I met a ‘new best friend’. I remember the day I realized that life is filled with ups and downs and I have no corner on the market of either.

I remember the day I understood I was a survivor.



I Remember writing prompt entry
Writing Prompt
Begin your non-fiction autobiographical story or poem with the words 'I remember...' Complete the sentence conveying a moment, an object, a feeling, etc. This does not have to be a profound memory, but should allow readers insight into your feelings, observations and/or thoughts. Use at least 100, but not more than 1,000 words. The count should be stated in your author notes.




The above picture is the day Merilyn graduated from high school.

When we were both in college, Merilyn send me a birthday card that said, "I guess I like you more than anyone else." Open the card and it said, "But then, I don't know how much anyone else likes you!" I still have that card and it still makes me laugh.

Many years later, Merilyn and her family lived in San Antonio. When one of her boys -whom I had never met - graduated from high school, he sent me an announcement and included a note, "Mom says you are her oldest friend. How old are you?" He obviously inherited his mom's sense of humor!

People come in and out of our lives as needed for us and for them. I'm thankful Merilyn arrived on the day she was most needed.
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