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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Geraldine Ray, September 13, 1977. Interview R-0128. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Absent mother results in missing life lessons

Ray's mother worked for a family out of state, so she grew up without a mother's attention and advice. She regretted not learning information such as how to handle a menstrual cycle.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Geraldine Ray, September 13, 1977. Interview R-0128. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

GERALDINE RAY:
She was living in Washington. And she was working for the Browns'.
KELLY ELAINE NAVIES:
The family she worked for all those years?
GERALDINE RAY:
Right, yeah . . . and she uh brought Louise and Virginia down here when they was little. They was about four and five years old, maybe five and six. Anyhow, they came to stay with our aunt Pearl for two weeks and I kept em a week. And uh that was the first time I seen them and I didn't see her when she come back and pick em up. So, I never seen her anymore until 1979.
KELLY ELAINE NAVIES:
So, what kind of impact do you think that had on your life, that your mother wasn't around very much when you were growin up?
GERALDINE RAY:
Oh it has a big . . . uh . . . I always wonder . . . why? You can't help but wonder why. Why leave me? You know, things I could have talked to her about I didn't have her to talk to and see older people didn't talk to you like your mother would . . . things I told my daughter, I didn't know I just went into it headlong wonderin what's happenin, you know cuz they didn't tell you things so you found out the hard way.
KELLY ELAINE NAVIES:
So, things like your menstruation.
GERALDINE RAY:
Right, I didn't know nothin about that. I'd got here in school and it come on and I was scared to go home, because I was bloody all over. I didn't know why I was bloody.
KELLY ELAINE NAVIES:
So, you couldn't talk to grandmother Coon about that?
GERALDINE RAY:
And when she saw me, I was trying to hide it and when she saw it she said, well, I'll get a . . . and she went and got a sheet and tore it and made me a belt and showed me what to do and give me some rags to put on it . . .
KELLY ELAINE NAVIES:
And that was the first time she ever . . .
GERALDINE RAY:
That's right. That was the first time she ever mentioned it.
KELLY ELAINE NAVIES:
So, did you go to the doctor to have . . .
GERALDINE RAY:
No, she told me what it was.
KELLY ELAINE NAVIES:
She just told you . . . how did she explain it.
GERALDINE RAY:
Aw, that's nothin I know what it is go in there and get me a sheet. She was in a wheelchair then. Went and got a sheet-she was havin problems-she wasn't completely past goin but she was havin problems and she went got a white sheet, tore it up into strips and made me pad and padded it-took one and made a belt and give me two safety pins to pin it on.
KELLY ELAINE NAVIES:
Did she tell you it was gonna come every month and how you could have children and that kind of thing?
GERALDINE RAY:
I don't remember she ever tellin me that. But, quite naturally I found that out, of course.
KELLY ELAINE NAVIES:
How do you think you figured that out?
GERALDINE RAY:
Next month!
KELLY ELAINE NAVIES:
Oh yeah, but I mean the part about having children.
GERALDINE RAY:
Well, that didn't come-I heared that through the grapevine. (we both laugh)