CHAPTER VI – A WOMAN OF THE GREAT MIGRATION – ARLENE – biography continues – Henry and Martha Smith (a love story)


Henry and Martha Smith 

When I think back to the days of my youth, I remember that Aunt Martha and Uncle Henry  were my role models for a good marriage.  Aunt Martha was tall, slender, and very pretty with a creamy complexion. (Martha resembled her daughter Arlean as a young adult)  Uncle Henry was built like a football player.  He had a dark-brown complexion, very muscular and strong.  They were so much in love and had been since they met years ago in Virginia when they were young.  They had nine children, May Hester the oldest daughter was at least five years older than me; Wesley (little Wesley) was near my age; Louise , Herbert, Rudolph (died in infancy), Charles, Douglas, Arlean and the baby girl, Geraldine.  I loved visiting their house because there was always a baby to hold and love.  Uncle Henry loved Martha until the day she died. They were one big happy, loving family.

My favorite thing to do was to visit with Aunt Martha’s family to play with my cousins.  Louise was about a year younger than me and loved to go everywhere with me.  We were typical mischievous children who did somethings we were told not to.  We ranged in age from twelve to infancy.  There were fireplaces in most of the rooms of their house for heat.  So, often we rolled paper into pretend cigarettes and would light them by sticking the paper into the fireplace and then pretend to smoke the paper.  This was Louise’s favorite game.  She seemed to be drawn to fire and loved to play with it.

I remember one particular day we were all playing in a room with the door closed and this time we were not playing with the fire.  Louise wore a dress made of a light flannel material.  She reached for something from the mantle over the fireplace and a flame leapt out and caught her dress on fire.  We all became hysterical and cried and screamed that Louise was on fire.  When the adults heard us and tried to open the door they could not get the door open.  It jammed when they pushed it.  We watched with shocked horror as Louise was enveloped in flames and burned in front of our eyes.  Sadly, we did not know how to stop the flames.  This was a horror that took place during my seventh year of life that has left its mark on me for the rest of my days.  We lost Louise and this was a reminder that there are days of sadness in all families.

Many years after Louise’s death and I was an adult, married woman with my first son, Walter II who was 2 months old, I went to visit Mama Carter in Rolfe.  Aunt Martha who lived nearby had a new-born baby girl, Geraldine.  Aunt Martha was in her forties at the time had a very sickly pregnancy.  The baby was born prematurely, very weak and pale.  Aunt Martha came to visit me at Mama Carter’s house.  She told me how happy she was I was there because she needed me to help her.  She told me that here baby was not thriving and was slowly fading away.  She believed that the baby wasn’t getting enough to eat.  She explained that she produced very little milk in her breast to feed the baby.  The doctor gave her a formula for the baby, but the baby’s mouth was so small and she was so weak that she could not suckle the hard nipple on the baby bottle.  Aunt Martha asked me if I would share some of my breast milk with her baby.  I told her that I had enough milk and  could feed both babies while I was there.  We set up a plan for me to come to her house at the same time every day and breast feed her baby.  I nursed Geraldine every day for the week that I was there and when the day arrived for my return home, Geraldine was thriving and strong enough to nurse from the baby bottle.

Uncle Henry attended the apostolic church and often invited Marguerite and I to his church for special services.  Marguerite was Uncle Issac’s wife.  I was a young mother and wanted to be baptised, but feared getting water in my nose.  Many years prior Mama Carter asked me why I wasn’t baptised and I told her of my fear and she told me that when the time came for my baptism to hold my nose and I would be fine.  On this particular evening Marguerite and I went to church with Uncle Henry and his family to attend a revival.  I was caught up in the singing and preaching and before I knew it I was at the altar feeling the spirit of God.  The pastor of the church who knew me since I was a baby asked me if I wanted to be baptised and I said, “Yes”.  To my dismay they told me that I would be baptised that evening and the deacons began to fill the baptismal pool immediately and the ladies of the church took me aside and prepared me for baptism.  Before I had time to think, I was in the pool with the pastor ready for my baptism.  I remembered Mama Carter’s words and put one hand on my nose to squeeze it shut.  The pastor immediately removed my hand from my nose.  I put it back.  He moved my hand away for several tries until finally the pastor realized that I was determined to hold my nose.  He dunked me in the water and I did not know what happened.  I felt as if the doors of heaven had opened and I was rising up and going straight to heaven.  It was a wonderful feeling.  Then suddenly someone said to me in a loud voice, “say hallelujah!”, and touched me.  After I felt that touch the spirit left, and I was back to reality.  I will never forget that night and that feeling.  I believed that I would have been filled with the Holy Ghost that evening if the person had not touched me.  I was a Methodist visiting a Pentecostal church and did not expect to become saved that night.  I guess the timing wasn’t right and I wasn’t ready to live the Pentecostal lifestyle of a “saved” woman.  I often wondered what would have happened if I had not been touched.  Uncle Henry was a religious man who talked to us about God and holiness and wanted Marguerite and I to be saved.  We loved him and enjoyed going to church with him although we never joined his church.

Authur – J. Keel

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