Wednesday, April 04, 2007

"She'll make some one a good home."

Alice Elinor Welborn, 1929.

I put together a newsletter for the local genealogy society back in my hometown in Michigan. I'm always on the look out for new material, and I frequently purchase stuff on Ebay- old letters, photographs, and yearbooks. Last week I received the 1930 "The Pines" and was surprised to see a picture of my grandmother Alice Elinor Welborn. A few days later I happened to glance at the text next to her picture. I laughed out loud.

"She'll make some one a good home." A prediction so wrong, so completely utterly wrong. Alice was pure evil, an evil fucking evil person. I've written something about her before, maybe you remember it. Maybe not. Take my word, Alice was a nasty piece, and her home was the nightmare of soap operas and insane asylums, all combined with a sickly sweetness that outsiders saw. Most people did not know or understand the mess she made of the lives of her three children, the horrific mental suffering they endured. Some of her grandchildren carry these problems onward, I'm lucky to have escaped them, very lucky.

To be sure, perhaps some of this wasn't her fault. Her mother, Jennie Blanche Cole Welborn, was probably just as evil, very skilled in beating her only child black and blue back in the day when that was perfectly alright. Her father, Ernest Garfield Welborn, was pliant and complacent. Together, the two of them took their only child into the cellar of their stone house and beat her with a coal shovel when they learned she was pregnant at 16, perhaps trying to induce a miscarriage. It didn't work, my father was born in 1930. Alice always hated Daddy for that, for something that happened when he was in the womb. In turn, my father tried everything he could to get her to love him, but it never took.

I guess I should feel sorry for her, but there reaches some point in your life when you should be able to look at your actions and understand whether they are right or wrong. Alice never reached that moment, in her mind everything she did was for the best. She discarded the first husband because he had his own ideas, made the kids think he was a demon, and then married the compliant farm hand, a man probably similar to her father, easy to push around and afraid to say no. She plotted and schemed and ruined the lives of her children. In the end her favorite son put her out of her own house and later left her ashes in a box in a shed. He threw away almost all of the family photos- so seeing this yearbook picture was startling.

It startled me to see Alice as young, seemingly happy. Maybe she was dating Morrell when the studio portrait was taken. In a few months, the end of January or early February 1930, she would get pregnant. But when that picture was taken she was apparently carefree. Even though I have strong feelings about her, I guess I'm glad that she had a little joy in her life before everything came crashing down. I just wish she had made an effort to control the demons inside her, everything would have been different.

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