Two decades later, a frustrated mother was shouting at her young daughter to clean up for supper.
“Estellaaaaaa, get out of the sun! You look like a field hand and your hair is a mess! I told you a million times not to go swimming in the lake when the sun is high — and to always comb your hair back in a bun when you swim, so it does not get so frizzy. Get washed up and ready for dinner before your father gets home!”
Mama Renee waved her finger angrily at her daughter, raking her other hand through her curly dark reddish-brown hair.
“Yes, Mama,” Estella stated coolly, wincing as she tugged harshly at her unruly locks.
Her mom was irritated, “It’s always ‘Yes, Mama!’ but you still do whatever you please, and you say it with such a straight face. You should run for office.
”Her daughter commented, “Yeah, then I could make pulling hair by mommies illegal!” Mama chuckled, “Well, for now, I still have veto power, young lady!
”She was always dreaming big things for her daughter, even though this was the 1940’s in Texas and they were poor. So, the possibility of her dream becoming a reality for Estella was close to nil.
Mama’s moods were like quicksilver, constantly changing. Estella’s poker face was a learned behavior to cope with her mom’s emotional swings. With Renee, one never knew if she was about to hug you or hit you. So, early on in life, Estella had adjusted herself to be agreeable at all times.
“Mama, are we going to be attacked like the people in Pearl Harbor? I’m afraid.” Pearl Harbor had recently been attacked by the Japanese, and many were afraid and ready to go to war.
“Don’t be afraid. I believe we will win this war and there won’t be any attacks on the mainland,” said Mama Renee, giving her daughter a reassuring hug. Mama Renee had premonitions that came true but, although the visions, dreams, and feelings that she received were accurate, not all important outcomes were shown to her.
Tragically, Estella’s father did not make it safely home for dinner that day. Estella was back downstairs in thirty minutes, dressed and coifed, just in time to hear a knock at the door. The local sheriff explained that her father had died instantly when a drunk driver had run him off the road.
Renee became hysterical, more afraid of what would become of her and her daughter than of the actual death of her abusive husband.
Estella cried for months because even though he was abusive to her mom, as his only child, she had been a daddy’s girl and was treated well by her father. Although she was happy that her mom was now free from his abuse, the pain in her heart from missing her father and their quiet talks while fishing by the pond was unbearable. When he was alive, she would sometimes think that her mom should divorce him, but then she would pray that her mom would stay in the marriage so she could keep her daddy full time. This inner conflict made eleven-year-old Estella feel selfish.
There was only one girl, Sadie, that Estella was friends with from school whose parents were divorced. Divorce were extremely rare. At first the divorced dad spent time with her but then he moved away, remarried, had a new baby son and rarely saw her. Sadie’s divorced mom had to work two menial jobs because her ex-husband was paying very little in alimony and child support — sometimes none at all. Due to not having a man around Sadie’s broken home to protect it, they were seen as easy prey during those tough economic times and were even robbed a few times in their relatively safe town.
Richard Myrtle had been behind on the mortgage of their small farm, and the only field hand that worked there had not been paid in weeks. Suffice it to say, the Myrtles lost the family farm and had no relatives to live with. Mama had explained to Estella that she had grown up an orphan from Louisiana.
Richard’s sole relative was an estranged brother, Jim, in upstate New York. He did not want anything to do with his poor family members since he had graduated from college and was now a teaching assistant at a prestigious university.
However, Renee was exceptionally beautiful, and the few times that she had met Estella’s Uncle Jim he had appeared to be smitten by her beauty, charm, and grace.
Renee was 5’3,” petite yet curvy, and wore her hair long, dark brown, and flat-ironed straight. There was a pale gold tint to her skin that gave her a sun-kissed glow at all times. Mama’s golden-brown eyes had an exotic slant.
Many people in town could never understand why such an attractive and cultured woman as Renee Deneuve would end up married to Richard Myrtle, a poor dirt farmer from the backwoods.
Her husband was an average-looking man at best, with golden-brown hair, a short stature, and silver-grey eyes. He was decidedly rough around the edges.
But the fact that he spoke his mind in plain English had made Richard charming in a down-home way. He had gained some wealth several years before the Great Depression, even opening a small local bank, but had lost almost everything due to the stock market crash, along with the Dust Bowl. All he had left was the small Texas farm that had been in his family for generations.
When he lost his wealth, everyone thought Renee would leave Richard. But, as a religious woman, she had stayed in her marriage and had a daughter.
Uncle Jim was Richard’s opposite; he was tall, handsome, and appeared cultured. He tried to distance himself from his family, and rarely returned home. But, to his credit, he came home for his brother’s funeral.
Renee spent the last money that she had buying new dresses, hairdos, and groceries for Uncle Jim’s dinner. Her reasoning was practical, “If Uncle Jim is going to take us back to upstate New York with him, we have to look the part!
”Estella was concerned, “But what if he doesn’t take us back with him?” she stated sadly, concerned about her mama’s small gamble that was all the money they had.
Renee suggested Plan B, “Well, the worst-case scenario is I get a job waitressing or as a maid or laundress. Let’s not worry about that. Let’s think positively and pray,” said Mama with a bright smile.
Estella bit her bottom lip when she was worried, and she was worried now. She knew her mother would not last three days as a waitress, maid, or laundress, so she was on her best behavior when Uncle Jim came into town.
At noon, Renee took Estella upstairs to the attic. There was a small, stained-glass skylight placed just precisely so that the noonday sun showed through. She pulled out her Bible and together they prayed that Uncle Jim would love her and help the two of them survive financially.
They read the Song of Solomon and Mama wrote Uncle Jim’s name on a brown piece of paper next to her own with the word, “love” over his name, placing the paper into the Bible passage they had just read together.
She also wrote the same words on a mirror. She told Estella that her mother had taught her how to pray and manifest, and that this knowledge had been passed down through the generations.
Uncle Jim fell madly in love with the “heartbroken” Renee He was a sucker for women in distress. He packed Renee and her daughter up and took them back to upstate New York with him.
He was now working on his Ph.D. and had hopes of becoming a tenured professor. When that plan fell through, the resourceful mother decided it was best to marry another man who had a better chance of success.
Mama Renee was moody, beautiful, and practical; she did what was in her family’s best interest to survive. No one could fault her for her ruthlessness when it came to marital relationships.
If she had been born in the ’70s, instead of 1899, Renee would have been an incomparable businesswoman and an industry leader. . .