2911 West Bird
It is a threshold that will forever remain in my heart—stepping through the doorway was like entering a parallel universe—this was Yes World, a place where no was only heard in conjunction with “do I have to go to bed?”
That’s right, the world was our oyster at 2911 West Bird—Granny’s house.
Drifting through the open doorway were smells of her kitchen. From the best fried chicken on earth to the greasiest burger in town, in her kitchen everything was made to order 24 hours per day. My food obsession cultivated in rays of sunshine pouring from the window next to the small wooden table which was the alter where Granny’s meals were laid.
It was also where Granny liked to watch us eat. As she watched every spoonful and anticipated each swallow, she delighted in that her family’s bellies were being filled.
Enough: that wasn’t something she always knew.
Granny grew up in a single mom home with three other children at a time when no help was available. Her mom often considered sending Granny to the orphanage up the road just to ensure she would be properly fed meanwhile giving her one less mouth to feed. This was the 1920’s when single mothers were frowned upon unless they were widows.
Great grandma wasn’t a widow, but as she might as well have been. Within the course of year Nora Moore went from a married mother of three with one on the way (Granny) to a single mother with four children—three living and one dead.
Granny had a promising future to enter into a loving family as she grew in her mother’s womb but two months before she entered the world, Nora’s world came crashing down. When Fern Charlene Moore was born on September 29, 1920, her father was already gone and her twelve year old sister—who would have been closest to her in age—was already dead.
It was mid-July, right after a celebration with friends. Pregnant Nora and oldest daughter, Golden, were drying dishes and proposing names for the new baby as they tried to guess a gender. The rest of the family scattered around the backyard playing hide and seek as their father, Charles Moore, readied himself on the back porch.
Whether it was random choosing or divine placing is a question not yet answered as each child chose the perfect spot in which to hide. In between the shed and the fence was Cecil’s favorite because his brother Gene, the seeker, didn’t like the poison ivy; Harry from next door tucked himself behind a sticky bush and immediately regretted it as his finger throbbed and his shirt sleeve clung to a branch.
It was Lela who could never make up up her mind quick enough. She darted from place to place as Gene counted down.
“Ready or not here I come!” rang out simultaneously with a loud bang from the back porch.
In the kitchen a plate shattered on the floor at the deafening sound of a gunshot as Nora reached the window just in time to watch Lela collapse where she was standing. By the time she reached her daughter, the grass around her was drenched in thick, dark blood and Lela was lifeless. Her eyes were open and pensive as if she were still pondering a good hiding spot, and Nora wept over top of her barely noticing the tiny kicks fluttering in her womb.
Her husband heard the anguished cries from the chair on the porch where he had been preparing to clean his gun, and where it suddenly shot a bullet into the back of his daughter’s head. The moment he watched her fall, he froze. Too afraid to move from that spot and claim the truth of what he had just done; caught in the web of that moment his terror sucked out his heart and left him as a shell. His insides were empty as he finally approached the backyard scene where his wife was covered in the blood that was on his hands.
Kneeling beside her was Gene, the oldest, whose hand slowly reached for Lela’s eyelids before Nora slapped it away.
“No! Don’t touch her! Don’t touch her!”
No one really saw him slip away in the midst of the chaos; eventually they just noticed Dad was gone. That bullet—resting feet away beside a wilted leaf—shattered Granny’s chance at ever truly knowing her family. She would never meet her father or her sister Lela, and she would never go to church and sit in the favorite pew where the Moore family regularly sat—Mom and Dad sat like book ends to keep the kid’s straight. She would attend First Baptist Church with her mom, her oldest sibling, Goldie, and two brothers Gene and Cecil, but those two missing bodies would always be felt—even by Granny who never met either of them.
Barely meeting ends through seamstress work and a part time secretarial job, Nora Moore continued to get out of bed daily and keeping working when truly she was broken. How many days did she curse the sun as it rose on another day that she just didn’t think she could get through? How many times did she shake her fist at the stars and demand an explanation from God? And did he ever give her one?
I don’t think he did. When God doesn’t answer that usually means we are in the process of a test, and the strongest students are the ones most rigorously tested.
Granny remembered her mother as a faithful woman; a strong woman who loved her family and did what she needed to do. It was Granny who told me that Nora once began the process of taking Granny to the orphanage up the street because she could not feed her any longer. Imagine the heartache of turning your beloved child over to someone else because you could no longer provide; this is a different level of love, a selfless one that many couldn’t bear.
God rewarded and God provided.
Cecil, Granny’s oldest brother, enlisted in the army so that he could send home his pay to feed them. It was exactly what she needed to keep going. None of us can say for certain what happened to Charles Moore after he ran away, but what we can say is that Nora Moore faced mountains that many would never even consider climbing. And she kept going—she kept on moving forward. She relied on God and she allowed those to help who He sent along the way.
None of this was forgotten. In their aging years, the baby of the family became the caretaker. Granny took care of Nora, as she lived with my Grandpa and Dad, until her last breath was taken in 1956 in the bedroom next to the kitchen of that same house where Lela was taken from her so many years ago.
2911 West Bird.