When we lived in Perry, we became acquainted with Mr. and Mrs. Cameron Foreman.  I believe my dad probably knew Cameron before we moved to Perry and renewed his friendship with him.  None of us had ever met his wife, Bessie. I don't recall ever knowing what her family name was, but I do know she was from Arkansas and had a younger sister named Rosebud.   Cameron was a tall, lean fellow with brown curling hair and smiling brown eyes.  He was likeable enough, but it was the sweet, shy, pretty Bessie that we all fell in love with.  I know that I thought of her as another older sister, and to my mother, she was like a daughter.

The Foremans had a large family.  Their oldest son was James (nicknamed "Kank"), and I believe it was Juanita who was the oldest of the girls.  Then there was Joyce and Esther (nicknamed "Patsy").  Then Bessie had a baby girl that she named for my mother, Aline, but we called her "Baby Rags," because all of her baby clothes were hand-me-downs from her older sisters.  Sadly enough, this child died of pneumonia when she was very young.  The next girl, I was allowed to name, and we called her Francine - the heroine of the book I was reading at the time was Francine, and I thought that went so well with Foreman.  The youngest of the family was a boy named Abby.
James was my friend.  He brought me peeled sugar cane and we sat together near the paddle wheel of the old Harry Lee to chew it.  And he was my swimming buddy.  

After my family moved to Texas, while James was still in his teens, Cameron leased farmland in another Parish, planning to put in a rice crop there.   He had just begun preparing this new land for planting when bad weather set in, and there were torrential rains which  lasted several days.  The first day of sunshine, he was determined to get back to work preparing the land for planting.  So Bessie packed a picnic lunch and she and the children went out to the field with him.  He found his tractor bogged down in a lake of mud.  The only way to get it loose was to drive it up an embankment out of the mud, so he climbed up to the seat and after several attempts, he had almost reached the top of the incline.  Then disaster struck!  The engine stopped and the tractor's front end came up, and the heavy machine flipped over backwards pinning Cameron down.  His horrified family could only stand helplessly as he was mashed further and further into the mud.  Bessie told James to get into the truck and go to find help, but by the time help arrived, poor Cameron was totally buried.

No one expected the widow would be able to take over the task of raising her children by herself.  She surprised us all.  I don't know anything about her finances - if Cameron had insurance on his life, or if she received any money from Social Security for the children.  I do know that she moved from the country into a small house on the south side of Abbeville, so that going to school would be easier for the children.  She lived very frugally, saving every penny that she could, but seeing to it that her children had everything they needed, if not all they would have liked to have.  She sewed her daughters' dresses and made shirts for her boys.  She kept the kids in line with well-chosen, softly-spoken words, and as far as I know never resorted to physical punishment.  She earned the respect of all the townspeople.

Bessie stayed in Abbeville until all of her children had graduated from high school, then she moved to New Orleans where she bought a duplex on Almonaster Avenue.  She lived in one half of the house and rented the other other half, to supplement her income.  James, Juanita, Joyce, Patsy and Abby married, and when Bessie, who had always appeared frail, became unable to live alone, her children moved her into a neat little one-room cottage in a suburb of New Orleans.  Her daughters took turns staying with her, so she was never alone.

I visited her there once.  The first thing she told me was, "Oh, seeing you is almost like seeing your mother again!"  And next, she said, "Pug, you have got to lose some of that weight.  It's just not healthy to be so fat!"  Just like a big sister!

About two or three months after this visit, I dreamed that I was at Bessie's house.  There was no conversation, but I was mixing a batch of homemade bread for her while she sat at her sewing machine. Every time I looked up, she was looking at me and seemed to be trying to tell me something.  I don't always remember my dreams but this one was so vivid that it woke me up.  I got up and wrote a long letter to Bessie, catching her up on what was going on with me and my children and reassuring her of my love for her.  I mailed it the next day.  

Three days later, I got a call from one of her daughters.  They had found my letter in their mom's mailbox when they got back from her funeral.  Bessie never got to read it.

I believe Bessie came to me in that dream to tell me good-bye.

12 November 2001

Copyright © 2001 Aline T. Meaux, Abbeville, LA

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