Chapter 1: The Beginning
My mother Lisa Powell grew up in Detroit Michigan. My father Paul Whitaker grew up in Birmingham Alabama. My father’s father owned a printing shop he inherited from his father who inherited from his father a family tradition. His name was William Whitaker. My father’s mother was a dress maker, she didn’t own her own shop yet, but she sewed on her sewing machine at their big house on the block.
My mother called it living downtown Alabama. Her name was Lillian Reynolds- Whitaker. My father Paul Whitaker had an older brother named Peter that they didn’t talk about. He had left home at the age of 16 and they never spoke of him it was something going on between him and his father.
My grandmother showed my mother a picture of Peter when he was about thirteen years old and that she misses him so much. She didn’t tell her what had happened between her husband and their son that made him leave home at such an early age. She didn’t even know if he was dead or alive.
Their house was a big old type setting house with a lot of rooms in it. It was so big seemed like their houses were attached to each other with the neighbors. The streets were paved with bricks there were street lights on every corner.
The printing shop was in walking distance from my grandfather’s house and he kept busy with customers in and out of the shop every day. People would also come by the house for my grandmother to make dresses or anything they needed to be made. My father Paul’s mother, my grandmother had two brothers a brother named Uncle Trudy he and his wife Helen lived in a big white two story house that had a beautiful garden in the back of the house in Macon Georgia with their two children a daughter named Elizabeth and a son named Seth and a brother by the name of Brett. Brett didn’t have a family.
I was told that he always was a loner even when he was a young boy. She hadn’t heard from Uncle Brett since he enlisted in the military. Uncle Trudy and Aunt Helen were rich and had people working for them. My mother said she remember this one black man that stuck out for some reason to her, he was a nice man, considerate, honest and his name was Jake Tremble.
My mother Lisa liked talking to Jake, he seemed like he was a loner. He was about my mother’s age. Every day he would come by while pushing a wheel barrel full of dirt to the garden. My mother always at that time would be picking flowers to put in the vases. It was a coincidence that my mother just happened to leave home at the age of seventeen and found a job at my father Paul’s Uncle Trudy house on the farm.
My mother would cook all the meals and my father would act as a butler. My father’s mother and father lived in Alabama, but I’ll get into that in a while. When my father was eighteen he left home to start his own life, he didn’t want to work as a printer like his father so he ventured out on his own and ended up in Macon Georgia working on odd jobs yard help and eventually at Uncle Trudy where he met my mother. My mother was seventeen when she met my father. My Uncle Trudy was a hard man and family meant nothing you earn what you want or need. He was all about money and not wasting time being unproductive. My father didn’t approach my mother for a long time they would say Hi and keep going but still something was stirring in the air between them. He thought he wasn’t good enough for my mother so he kept his distance until one day, my father saw my mother walking on the trail near the garden, she was upset because she had burn Uncle Trudy’s favorite shirt while ironing it and he was mad about it. By the way I’m Lizzie the one telling the story about how they met and all that happened as it was told to me by my mother.
My father followed my mother in the garden to console her and that’s when he and my mother became friends and the beginning of a beautiful relationship. My mother was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan where my maternal grandparents lived and owned a restaurant called Powell’s Meet and Eat Restaurant. This summer would change my mother’s life. She was an only child. I didn’t understand why they didn’t want her working at the restaurant when all she did was cook when she came to work on the farm at Uncle Trudy’s. Go figure.
My father and mother began to meet in the garden after everything was done and they had free time to be together.
They grew closer and closer. Uncle Trudy started to notice my mother and father spending so much time together. One day he approached my father to see what his intentions were towards my mother.
My father assured him he had the greatest respect and the right intention concerning my mother. Mrs. Helen Uncle Trudy’s wife was a quiet woman, soft spoken and always had to look pretty, neat, and well kept, not a hair out of place. Elizabeth their daughter and Seth their son was in college. Besides owning his own businesses Uncle Trudy also was the president of First Federal Bank of Macon, Georgia. So, he was loaded. The romance continued between my mother and father Paul and Lisa. One day Jake as I mention earlier who was a black man decided to befriend my mother. It was innocent and friendly, respectful. My mother wasn’t racist she didn’t see color she saw people. They became friends my father also was friends with Jake. Jake was the kind of person that cared about people no matter what race. Jake was nice, helpful and had a concern for people. Jake said he came from a place called Beaufort, South Carolina he wanted to get out into the world and become a business man. He wanted to own multiple businesses.
He didn’t have much education as far as going to college but he did graduate from school. That’s when he left South Carolina to pursue a career. His mother and father worked in sweat shops, and doing yardwork and cleaning houses. They manage to save what they earned and bought a house that they owned in Beaufort, South Carolina. Jake’s father’s name is John Tremble and his mother’s name is Margaret Tremble. Jake was determined to make something out of himself.
The money he earns from working for Uncle Trudy he saves, he gets free meals, room, and board if he does the work.
With the money, he’s saving he said he’s going to New York and start a new life. He has been studying at night from books out of Uncle Trudy’s library about starting a business. I applaud him for trying on his own. Although Uncle Trudy has been keeping his eye on Jakes progress in learning about business and often in a subtle way would ask him business questions to see how much he has learned. That night Uncle Trudy and Aunt Helen threw a big party, there were a lot of guest and everyone was having a good time. The food my mother and the staff prepared was delicious. My father was the polite butler and leading everyone to their seating arrangements and parking cars. There was dancing and singing. It was something to see. After the party was over and everyone had gone home and everything was cleaned up. Uncle Trudy and Aunt Helen had gone in their room for the night, my mother and father had turned in for the night in separate rooms of course. Jake said he was too wound up to sleep and decided to take a walk in the garden. I guess my mother didn’t want to sleep either and decided to also take a stroll in the garden. My father was out like a light or so we thought.
My father and mother’s romance had blossomed into a relationship and they shared their first kiss that night of the party. Love was in the air and it felt beautiful. That night as my mother and Jake found each other in the garden there was still something lingering in the air and everything felt right. The moonlight was shining, there was a sweet-smelling breeze from the aroma of the flowers was blowing in the air.
Jake was startled as my mother walked up behind him and touched him on his shoulders. He turned around and was inches from her face as they stared into each other’s eyes. My mother tiptoed and kissed Jake on the lips.
He pulled back and looked closely into her eyes for assurance of is this what you really want to do? My mother responded from his stare and kissed him with the assurance that she knew what she was doing. He kissed her back but kept his eyes open in disbelief. As their passion grew he knew there was no turning back from a place you just can’t come back from. She didn’t resist neither did she want to they both were at the point of no return. After it was over she ran into the house and locked herself in her bedroom. Jake knew that he had to leave he couldn’t stay there now. It would cause too much confusion it would seem as if everyone would know what happened in the garden that night. He went to his room and thought about what he would say to Uncle Trudy about leaving and getting the rest of his pay.
He had enough money saved from working for Uncle Trudy for over five years. He packed his things and tried to rest for his long trip to New York. Jake liked Paul and didn’t want to hurt him because of what happened the night of the party so he thought that it was best for him to leave in the morning. He couldn’t face Paul and he couldn’t face Lisa. Early the next morning he got up before anyone else.
He knew Uncle Trudy would be up walking the grounds as he did every morning. He approached Uncle Trudy and told him he was leaving and asked for his pay. Uncle Trudy wanted to know why he wanted to leave so suddenly. He asked Jake to stay and give him at least two week notice so that he could find someone else to replace him. He told Jake that he was irreplaceable. Jake stood his ground and handed him a letter that would explain everything but not to read it until after he leaves.
Uncle Trudy saw that he couldn’t convince Jake to stay so he paid him what was owed to him even a bonus. He told Jake that he felt like part of the family. That was a compliment coming from Uncle Trudy. He doesn’t give out too many compliments. As he watched Jake disappear down the road he felt saddened by him leaving and he just didn’t understand. About an hour later everyone started to stir and move around doing their daily chores. They notice from the start that Jake was missing.
They were looking for him until Uncle Trudy called them together and said Jake had left and wouldn’t be back. The question was asked why? Uncle Trudy said that he didn’t know what was going on. Uncle Trudy hadn’t read the letter that Jake wrote. He had taken it in his office and put it on his desk. He was a busy man so he left for the bank. After all he was president and had obligations and meetings.
The letter on the desk wasn’t address to Uncle Trudy it was blank on the outside with a letter inside the envelope. Uncle Trudy had to leave that day on a business trip for bank presidents and would be gone for two weeks. When the house keeper cleaned his office, she threw away the envelope that was on his desk, she didn’t notice the thin piece of paper inside.
Paul and Lisa get married
Paul and Lisa grew closer and he asked her to marry him. They waited the two weeks for Uncle Trudy to return. My mother’s parent’s, my father’s parent’s, Uncle Trudy and Aunt Helen and the staff attended the small wedding at the house of Uncle Trudy and Aunt Helen. Uncle Trudy sent them to San Francisco on their honeymoon for a week all expenses paid. My mother never spoke about that night of the party, about what had happened between her and Jake. She knew that was the reason Jake had left. If anyone had found out they had been intimate in the garden that night they wouldn’t have understood, they would think that he forced himself on her which is far from the truth.
It was her she had initiated the whole thing of what had happened that night. It wasn’t Jake’s fault. Times hasn’t change enough for people to accept mix relationships. She thought about Jake as the days went by. She started to feel sick, and nauseated. Maybe she was coming down with the flu or something. As she was walking in the garden she felt light headed. Paul decided to call for a doctor. The doctor came and checked her out. To my mother and father’s surprise she didn’t have the flu, she was having a baby. In the height of the moment they were so excited. Their first child who would have thought it would have been this soon. Then she remembered under the light of the moon and the sweet- smelling breeze of the aroma from the flowers in the garden blowing in the air that night she shared with Jake. It couldn’t be she began to wonder if the baby was Jake’s or Paul. She didn’t know for sure. What could she do? She couldn’t tell Paul about that night, she never told anyone.
Should she get an abortion no, that would raise some questions from Paul about why she wanted an abortion? What if the baby doesn’t belong to my husband Paul? As the baby grew inside her it should have been a joyous experience but for my mother she only pretended to be happy on the outside, but on the inside, she was suffering in silence. The pain of not knowing whose baby it was. She knew at some point before the baby is born she needed to tell Paul about that night with Jake in the garden.
But how can she tell him now after they are married, she just couldn’t find the words to say so he would understand. What if the baby is Paul, she would ruin her marriage by telling him about that night in the garden with Jake? But for now, she must keep quiet. Paul noticed that she wasn’t as happy as she pretended to be. He thought maybe she’s nervous about having a baby for the first time. He understood the mood swings but still in the back of his mind something didn’t feel right.
He felt like she was holding something back. Many times, she started to tell him something but held back. Paul sensed that something was wrong. Maybe it’s the baby he thought. At one of the doctor’s appointments he said something about the progression of the baby. The baby was bigger than usual or it may come early. I noticed whenever she came from the doctor’s visit she seemed upset. When Paul would ask, her is everything’s all right with her and the baby she would say yes, we are fine. Since the news of the baby Paul had taken on extra work at night working at a saw mill for a couple of hours. For those couple of hours Paul was gone my mother would sit on the porch towards the garden and think about that night with Jake. She wondered where he was and if he was all right.
One day as the mail came there was a letter addressed to my mother with no return address. She held the letter in her hands for a minute her hands were shaking because in her heart she knew it was from Jake. She went into the garden and sat on a bench under a tree besides the yellow and white tulips and opened the letter. She began to read the letter that said, my dearest Lisa the most beautiful flower in the garden, I’m writing you this letter not for regret of that night in the garden but to apologize for my misconduct to such a beautiful flower. A flower such as yourself is delicate and I should have waited to take you to a place where you should have been handled with such care and the utmost touch of respect that should have left you with the sweet aroma of desire and not this fragrance of hidden feelings.
Perhaps if we had met in a time where all people were considered as equals and color of skin didn’t matter because we’re all human beings. It is the color of our skin that separates us. Race does not define a person. That night in the garden will be forever a part of me. I know that we will never meet again face to face but memories are forever. With the sweetest of fond memories my only tulip in the garden, Forever Jake. With tears running down her cheeks she felt a pain in her abdomen. She ran in to the house and went into their bedroom to lie down.
She tore up the letter from Jake. She still had to keep this a secret. The pains grew closer and frequent. She called for her husband Paul. He rushed up the stairs and she told him it was time. She was in labor. Paul rushed to get the car, and pulled it out in front, got her overnight bag and carried her to the car and drove her to the hospital. They rushed her in the delivery room. Paul was there holding her hand and then out comes a healthy baby boy born on August 1, 1950.
The room went silent mouths were open nobody seemed to be breathing. Was there and elephant in the room, because all the oxygen was just sucked out of the room suddenly. The doctor handed my mother her baby boy. She looked at him and knew the baby was Jakes baby. She looked up at my father Paul’s face. All the color had drained from his face he was white as a ghost. The doctor and nurse looked at Paul. Paul was in shock. He couldn’t believe his eyes.
This biracial baby couldn’t be his baby he walked in front of the bed and looked at my mother holding the baby he was speechless she was speechless and crying. If he hadn’t seen the birth of this baby boy his self, he would have thought they had given him the wrong baby. But his eyes had seen it all. He was a beautiful baby boy but he wasn’t his son. He turned and ran out of the delivery room with my mother calling after him. Saying I’m sorry please forgive me. I can explain. They took my mother to her room and got her all settled in and said they would be back to check on her later. She didn’t know what to do. The next day my father came to see my mother. He had so many questions and she had better have the answers. He asked her when and with who did this happen with? How long did she know? Why didn’t she tell him before they had gotten married? Why did she let him believe this was his baby? The questions kept coming.
My mother started from the beginning. She told him about the night of the party she couldn’t sleep and she saw Jake go into the garden. He couldn’t sleep either. So, she followed him into the garden. They never spoke a word to each other. When she walked up behind him and touched his shoulder he turned around because she had startled him. He looked into her eyes and smiled and she tiptoed up and kissed him on the lips. He pulled away and looked her in the eyes so deeply as to say are you sure you know what you are doing?
She told him that she responded back by kissing him harder and he responded and it was too late to stop then. Our passions were high the air was sweet and we just couldn’t pull away from each other and it happened. We were intimate in the garden that night. Afterwards I ran into the house and locked myself in my bedroom until the next morning. By the time, we had gotten up Jake were already gone. Then my father said that’s the reason he left so suddenly and you knew why and still didn’t say anything.
You acted as surprised as the rest of us. She answered yes, I knew the reason he left because if it had come out about what happened he would have been blamed for it all when I initiated the whole thing. I wasn’t ready to face him or you or anybody for fear that somehow you would know what had happened. Jake left because he couldn’t face any of you either. I never told anyone about that night until now. Paul I really thought the baby could be yours and I didn’t want to say anything to jeopardize our marriage if the baby turned out to be yours. We had gotten married and were intimate weeks later so I had no reason to suspect that the baby couldn’t be yours.
The doctor started saying that the baby was big for the months that I was carrying and that he may come early that’s when I started thinking could this baby belong to Jake. Paul said but why didn’t you talk to me about it then? Why didn’t you tell me what the doctor was saying? She said I didn’t want to lose you and I didn’t know what you would say or think about me. I loved you. It was only one night with Jake. We had a life time together. I didn’t want to mess our lives together up if it could have been avoided.
Adoption or Divorce
Paul said I can’t raise another man’s baby. You have a decision to make. He told my mother he would be back the next day she needs to think about what she’s going to do about the baby. He walked out of the room. She knows she should think about what’s going to happen with her baby and her marriage. She didn’t know what to do. To save her marriage to my father she had to give her baby up for adoption. If she kept her baby she would have to get a divorce. Everything was now out in the open. Uncle Trudy was irate about her and Jake a black man. His true colors were showing. They were only good enough to work for him. Jake wasn’t good enough for his nephew’s wife but he was good enough to work in his yard. The community was buzzing with the news of the white woman with the mix baby. All of this was getting next to Paul, the whispers, the stares he couldn’t cope with living in Macon Georgia anymore. He knew he had to leave with or without me. He went to see my mother. He looked her in the eyes and said either you give your baby up for adoption or I want a divorce. She had thought about what to do all night. She didn’t get any sleep.
She was so confused and depressed because she had to choose between this helpless little baby and her husband. How could he ask her to make a choice like this? But things being the way they were her baby wouldn’t have a good life in Macon Georgia. She knew what she had to do. She had to do what was best for her son. She told Paul she would give him up for adoption. She made the necessary arrangements for the adoption. I hated to say goodbye to my beautiful baby boy who I had loved from the minute I set eyes on him.
Paul also told her that they were leaving Macon Georgia because he couldn’t stay there because of all the talking going on about her and the baby. When they gotten to Uncle Trudy’s house the disappointment that was on his face was so obvious she didn’t want to stay. There were whispers and strange looks from the staff. They packed their things and left Macon Georgia. They didn’t know where they were going. She didn’t want to leave her beautiful baby boy behind who is a part of her and she had grown to love him the minute she held him in her arms. His name was Jake Jr. she had wrote a letter to him explaining to him about who she was and why she had to give him up in case he ever wanted to know about his birth parents.
She gave the letter to the adoption agency to give to the adoptive parents to be opened only when he starts to ask questions. My mother and father moved to Birmingham Alabama when they left Macon Georgia. They never spoke about my brother Jake Jr. again. My father and mother bought a house in Birmingham Alabama where I grew up. My father started helping my grandfather in the printing shop and my mother was helping my grandmother with her dress shop because she had finally opened a shop of her own.
Business was great their lives seemed to be in order and everyone was happy or so we thought. One day in 1955 my grandfather fell ill so my father had to take over the printing business. In 1960, my grandfather died of influenza. At the reading of the will my father found out that he had inherited the printing shop and everything in it of course he had money also. My father’s mother didn’t want to live in the house she had shared with her husband so she sold it and moved in with my father and mother until she decided what she wanted to do. She was still young and life goes on.
At the age of 56 years old she still could make a life for herself if she wanted to with someone else. She must have room to grieve for right now. It was now February 1960 when my mother suspected she was pregnant again and told my father. He was very happy. Although she thought about her first born she never mentioned him. My father had forgiven my mother for the past or so we thought. He loved her. Now he would have a child of his own, his first- born son or daughter.
His mother was excited to be a grandmother. As the months passed my mother grew bigger and bigger as if she was going to pop. Late one day in November my mother went into labor and went to the hospital. That’s when I was born a beautiful bouncing baby girl. She named me Lizzie Michelle Whitaker. My father was happy about the birth of his precious little baby daughter. He wept as he held me for the first time in his arms. I grew up in Birmingham Alabama a happy well- mannered little girl. I went to school and enjoyed playing with my dolls and my friends. I was about five years old when my mother announced that she was pregnant again, yes baby number two was on the way.
My father worked every day at the printing shop and my mother continued to help my grandma at the dress shop until she was too big to work and the doctor put her on bed rest until the baby comes. Jake Jr. was 10 years old by now. My mother wondered what kind of life he had. Was he happy? Is he in school? I saw my mother writing in a book one day she said it was her diary and it was private. She said never to touch it. All her private thoughts were in that diary.
I sometimes wondered why she would be crying after she had written in her diary. Maybe one day she would say what makes her so sad after reading and writing in it. It was time for baby number two to be born and off my father and mother went to the hospital in labor. My grandmother kept me. It’s a boy I heard my grandmother yelled on the phone, my father finally had the son he had always wanted.
Of course, my mother was happy she had a son. But I know in her heart she couldn’t forget about her first- born son Jake Jr. Her child she had to forget even existed. My grandmother was dating again and things were getting serious.