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Published on December 14, 2021

Twins with strange names, red hair

They lived in poverty and had plenty of hardship, but they managed and survived. One of them was my mother.

By Shirley Prihoda
The Bulletin

My mother was a twin, and the pair was born in Shelby County, Texas, in 1924. For reasons never fully understood, they were given strange German names: Ovader and Arader.

One would think the long-term complications of unusual names in deep East Texas would have been considered.

Not the least of which: They would never find a monogrammed coffee mug this side of the Atlantic and playing Red Rover would take on an unfavorable twist.

One would think that carrying around unusual names would have been sufficient. Not so. They were blessed or cursed - again depending upon perspective - with flaming red hair and enough freckles that would have made even Doris Day feel compassionate toward them!

Neither twin ever made it to high school, or junior high, for that matter. They had to leave grade school to care for their terminally ill mother. Hospitals were simply not a luxury afforded to sharecropper’s families in the 1930s. They may have privately lamented the hand dealt them, but neither ever felt the need to play the victim card. That’s just how farm life was in the 1930s.

Identical twins share everything before making their entrance into this world and, to the amazement of us single-born, they continue this throughout their lives. I feel certain the twin’s bond was further solidified by the heavy load thrust upon them at 11 years old.

They arose before daybreak to milk the cow, feed the chickens and prepare breakfast so their father could get to the fields as the sun was coming up. Beans were picked, washed, and simmered on the wood stove while they headed to the fields to hoe corn or weed the garden.

In between the chores, they took turns running back to provide care for their bed-ridden mother. As the noon sun rose, they headed back to the farmhouse to stoke the fire in the wood stove and get the cornbread in the oven. The afternoons presented an equally laborious task of daily washing their mother’s sheets.
Water had to be drawn from the well - one bucket at a time. Then a fire was built under the black wash pot. When the water was hot enough, it was time for the lye soap and scrub board. For those lacking the experience of washing on a scrub board, imagine running your knuckles repeatedly on the sidewalk and then pouring hydrogen peroxide over your skinned hands.

The trauma of watching a loved one die is unfathomable for an adult to verbalize their feelings. It was even more so for the twins, who were not-so- affectionately called “those blame twins.” This moniker was repeated often by those who appeared only to point out their deficiencies.

My mother rarely spoke of those years and was not oblivious to her lack of refinement. One day, something must have touched a latent memory. With eyes full of tears that she was too proud to let flow, she told me they were repeatedly described as being “wild as March hares.” Apparently, April or May hares aren’t wild.

The years of the dying process stole the time when a mother teaches her daughters what it means to be a woman and left a blank in the twins’ lives. They lacked the refinements of poise and beauty. More damaging was the wall of protection they built around themselves.

They knew it was fruitless to express their longing for love and acceptance. This became a driving force throughout their lives. Arader married the first man who showed interest in her and birthed two boys and two girls.

My mother married a man in 1941, who, if possible, was more wounded than she was. To say the marriage was tumultuous would offer it more grace than it deserves. But then, grace is giving something good where nothing is deserved.

My sister, Helen, was born in 1943, and I came along five years later. The only thing surprising about the marriage was that it lasted 10 years before he walked out without leaving her any support, financial or otherwise. My mother was alone and wondering how she was going to take care of two girls.

What she lacked in formal education was superseded by her common sense and a willingness to work. She framed houses alongside men, plucked chickens in a chicken plant, and drove a taxi.

She left this world in 1994 and bequeathed a heritage to me far greater than learned accolades; she left me the knowledge that hard work is a valued heritage.

My mother preferred sweet potato pie over pumpkin. She didn’t have the luxury of sweetened condensed milk, but I think she would approve of this recipe.

Sweet Potato Pie

Ingredients

1 Unbaked Pastry Shell
2 Medium Sweet Potatoes, cooked (baked or microwaved)
½ Cup Butter, softened
1 Can Sweetened Condensed Milk
1 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
½ Teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
¼ Teaspoon Salt
2 Eggs, beaten

Instructions:

Heat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, mash cooked sweet potatoes with butter. Add condensed milk, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Mix well with a whisk or hand mixer. Add in beaten eggs. Pour into a prepared pastry shell and bake for 50 to 55 minutes or until the knife inserted comes out clean.

(To contact Shirley, please send emails to john.bulletin@gmail.com or write to The Bulletin, PO Box 2426, Angleton, Tx. 77516)