She Would be 90 Today But She Died at 39

She did great things while she was on earth! She delivered 5 living babies! She was a phenomenal Momma, we all cherished her. She was married to Daddy, whom I shall admit was not the greatest husband, but who loved her in his own way, as she did he, in return. I am fortunate to have been a witness to such a unique love. But that is another story, for were I to go there, I would have much to explain about how the abuse was so great, in today’s world, it would never be permitted to happen, but seventy years ago, those things were kept secret!

It was a very short life that Momma lived, she died at 39, just a baby. Most of my children are older than that! In this particular tribute, I hope to give glory to the name of Mom, not to those horrific experiences that really identified her time on this earth.

In reality it was a story of children, of famed aerialists Lillian and Oscar, who traveled with the circus as a lifestyle. In fact, that is how they met, she was 15 and he 18, she was traveling with her family’s small circus, from across the seas, he with another circus and as a member of the Flying Jordans! They met, fell love almost immediately, spent a very short time before he had to travel by train back to New York krom Chicago where they had met.

Oh, I shouldn’t get ahead of myself however, before he left he made her a promise that he would return when she turned 18 and marry her! Which is exactly what happened! On the day she turned 18, he traveled to meet her, they were married, had a few hours together, and he was off again back to the circus. Keep in mind, they had not seen each other in the three years prior to that day, after having just met and fallen in love, as the story goes.

Though there is no one with whom I can confirm this, short of the newspaper article which shows the two of them and I believe confirms these words, thus, you are left to assume, as I, that this is in fact, a true account of their story as I tell it.

At any rate, growing up as, Circus children, had many disadvantages, the children were placed in a home, which my Momma always referred to as a children’s home! Now, if you have ever taken time to look back over the accounts of children’s homes in those days, you will no doubt agree it was not a desirable home in which to be reared! The accounts she shared with us, bore no difference to those told by others.

She told us of the times when the Maiden, who was the epitome of a female drill instructor, would make demands of the children that far exceeded the normal demands on children. Momma told stories of how in retrospect she imagined that that lady had to make ends meet from short supplies, though they received monies from the parents who left their children to the care of the home, while they were on the road. Momma always tried to make allowance for those with shortcomings.
At any rate, one of the stories she told, now keep in mind, the original home they were in, was a home for the children of Circus professionals, I believe however, the home Momma referred to as a children’s home came after she was 10 years old.

Lillian died at childbirth a year after my Momma was born. The baby, Richard, was adopted out and my Aunt, my Uncle and Momma were left to the care of my Grandfather, who at some time, married another, whose name at this time, slips past my memory. I will recall it later or research to find it if possible, Louise tickles my brain, but in no wise definite! I don’t have particulars of those times, as both my aunt and uncle have passed and for that matter, the years when they were alive, we were not permitted to visit often with my aunt and her family. My uncle, Daddy would not allow Momma to even speak much of, during our childhood, kids will be kids, and who knows what happened to cause the rift between them. We did not meet our Uncle until well after Momma’s death, he came out to Oregon and met with us kids for a short visit.

That in itself was fun, to have someone who had known our Momma when she was little and who shared many of the same life experiences as she, however, as I mentioned earlier, secrets abounded in those old days and he, like Momma, was very tight lipped about their history growing up.

I suppose I must give credit here, to the fact that if they, like I, believed in focusing on what is good in life, we permit those horrific experiences to drift into shadows that eventually become so faded, we no longer bring them to light or memory at all, thus, they appear to never have happened. A good way to mature into a, “normal” human being in spite of those unfortunate and unnatural lives and experiences that brought us to where we are today.

Momma told stories of how they would sneak into the Head Mistress’ bedroom and place a black snake in her bed. Of course Momma also told how the Head Mistress always knew it was she and her brother who were at fault! Hmmm, I wonder how? Not really, Momma told how she would fess up even if it were some shenanigan she had not pulled, so that none of the other children would be punished as a whole for the devilish behavior of some. There were other stories of how, when they were in that children’s home from the time she was 10 until she turned 18, she would watch as other children lined up to be viewed for potential adoption and would dream of being adopted by a family who would love her and cherish her. That was never to be her lot in life. She experienced tough times throughout her short 39 years here, but through it all, she remained a wonderfully positive, great storytelling Mother of 5, and to those 5, who still share stories of the antics of her humor and her Love for each of us, she is loved and cherished.
Blessings from a Beloved Daughter, Cheryl G Burke

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