Dear Nanny,

Drawing of me by my aunt Gladys Cleage Evans. 1968. Made at the dining room table
How did you know
I was in love? 
We were at the supper table. 
you looked at me and said "That girl is in love." 
Mommy acted like she didn't hear.
Later that summer my other 
grandmother said the same thing.
I was, but how did you
know?

Poppy’s Notebook

Mershell C. Graham, 1943


Gwen - a table for the basement five feet by three feet, folding legs.
In an old basement storeroom, Poppy had a workshop. It had a workbench, a tool chest, and a bin full of small pieces of wood we used to make dollhouse furniture and little boats. It smelled of wood and machine oil and Pinesol. 

Daisy - a set of shelves for attic stairway five feet tall, twelve inches wide. 
Outside of the workshop in the main basement was a long workbench.  There were short pieces of wood stored underneath.  Against the wall were longer pieces. 

Mother – one bookcase for house any size. 
Poppy made furniture sometimes.  Not fine pieces but basic, useful pieces,  a rocking chair that sat in the upstairs hall where it was used to rock fussy babies and sick children when my mother was growing up.

One bulletin board for Church – two and a half feet long and two feet ten inches wide.  Glass front brown board, back clear glass twenty six and a half times thirty and seven eighths.
He made a small table that sat on the landing for the telephone.  The phone had a long cord to reach upstairs at night and downstairs during the day. 

Lottie Brandon – one porch flower box. 
Poppy built flower boxes for his back porch and the back yard as well as for his daughter’s porch.  I wish I could see him coming up the walk to repair things, carrying his toolbox, like a doctor coming to see a patient.

Katie Cleage

I plodded on for years fighting to 
get my husband Phillip's pension. His
siblings stole his muster pay before 
I knew what it was. 

Our two children died babies in slavery.
When Sherman's troops came through, Phillip
left to join the army. I waited to
hear from him. The white folks had locked up my few
clothes. I managed to get them and I left. Working
for myself for the first time. I sewed.

One day my brother saw me in town. He
told me my husband was near there. I went to
the camp and stayed with him. Then they
took him away from me with smallpox. He
died in the hospital alone. 

I went back out on my own, sewing. I met a man who
promised to marry me. I had two children with
him. Then he married another woman.  

I sewed until my eyes gave out. The rooms
were so dark. Then I took in laundry. I
had my own place where I worked and 
took care of my children.

I heard that I was owed a pension. A lawyer
took my case and didn't give
up until I got my pension. With back
pay, it was $3,500. I bought a better house and my 
children went to school. Then, a year later, I caught
pneumonia and died. I didn't mind for me, but
the children. I would have liked to have lived for
them. 

Now my dust lies under these trees, the dry leaves 
blowing down. Where my children lie, I do not
know.