Eleven year old Nellie was stunned, her Papa had just died of a stroke, after being in the hospital five days. Mama took her and the other children back home, on the streetcar. Eva was thirteen, the brothers were, Ane, 8, and Teddy, only 5.
Their landlord, Will Lamoreaux, and his wife, Ethel, came right over. Mr. Lamoreaux said, “Jacoba, don’t worry about the rent. You and the children stay as long as you need to live here....what would you think, in a few days, if your oldest girl came to stay with us until you get back on your feet?”
Eva ran out of the house, crying hysterically.
Jacoba’s eyes followed her shy, sensitive, eldest daughter, as she said, “No. Eva couldn’t do that; but Nellie could.”
Nellie was sitting right there in the parlor, surprised to hear she was being sent to live with strangers. Mama and the Lamoreaux’s talked of how much it would help Mama, with one less child to feed and clothe.
A few days after her husband’s funeral, Jacoba Ponne washed and ironed Nellie’s school dress, play dress, undergarments and socks, gently placing them into her own carpet satchel. Mr. Lamoreaux picked up Nellie in his horse-drawn dairy wagon. The brave young girl kept repeating to herself, “I’m helping Mama. I’m helping Mama.”
At the Lamoreaux’s big farmhouse, just a mile down the road, six children still lived at home. The two oldest daughters were married and had children of their own, one family living nearby, the other, one hundred miles away. One of the five sons was in college, but came home on weekends, two sons were in high school, one in grade school, and little Bobbie was just two years old. There was a girl, Ethelmary, Nellie’s own age.
On the first morning Nellie woke up in this new place, Mother Lamoreaux gave her a navy blue dress with puff sleeves, and pretty embroidered stitching and smocking across the front. It was a beautiful dress! It was handmade. Nellie had never had anything like it before. At breakfast there was a platter full of eggs and sausages, steamy hot, and another plate piled high with homemade bread. A large pitcher of milk stood on the table and each child had a full glass of milk already poured. Nellie had never before seen so much food in one place at one time.
The Lamoreaux’s had their own dairy and their own herd of cows in one red barn, on the hillside there was a large flock of sheep. A shed housed chickens, and behind it a huge vegetable garden.
On Sunday morning, Mother Lamoreaux woke Nellie, as it was time to go to church. Nellie had never been to church before, her Papa had forbidden it. This family sat together in two pews, and sang the songs with gusto with the other people. After the service, everyone went to Sunday School.
Nellie loved the wonderful story of a kind man named, Jesus. She had never heard of him before. He loved lost and lonely people. She felt lost and lonely. Hearing of this man, Jesus, filled her with the warmth of the love she learned about. She came to love this Lamoreaux family too, and never went back home to live with Mama and her “real” siblings.
Five years later, her Mama died of breast cancer, being too poor to seek medical attention. Nellie clung to the principles she learned at this friendly, caring, congregational church in her hometown.
In her later years, retelling this part of her life, Nellie said she was like a sponge, soaking up all she heard about Jesus. My mother, Nellie, carried the promises of Jesus through the following 80 years of her life, instilling these truths into her own children and grandchildren.
The wisdom and compassion of Mr. and Mrs. Lamoreaux enfolded a hurt little girl, helping a mother and her children cope with the harsh realities of life in the early 1900's in Michigan.
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