Oregon, USA. 1912.
The setting sun cast a pink glow against the warm August sky. Rose Lawson hurried on with supper preparations. Her husband Jacob Lawson would soon be home. Of late her husband’s timings had become erratic. Infact, a couple of times he spent the night away from home, and refused to give her an explanation for the same.
‘Ann, what have you been up to?,’ Rose questioned her 16 year old daughter. Startled, Anna Marie dragged her eyes away from the parlour window. She had been gazing at 17 year old Abeula, their Mexican farm hand, who had been settling the pigs in for the night. Abuela and her mother lived on the farm and helped the Lawson family with the chores.
‘Give me a hand with laying the table, won’t you? A proper lady must know how to run her home. Your father is already looking for suitable boys for you. You know I was married off when I was barely 18 and you came along almost immediately!’
Ann stood to her full height and rolled her eyes at her mother. Her mother invariably turned the topic to suitors for Anna Marie. Anna Marie, on the other hand, was least interested in boys, or men. At school her friends were always gushing about the males that stood around their all girls convent school. They spoke to Ann about love, lust, and stolen kisses at the village fairs. All this held no interest for Ann, and she often wondered if she was sick.
But this summer something had changed for Anna Marie. She had been taking a walk through the farm and caught sight of Abuela, bathing herself at the hand pump. Abuela’s bronze skin shone in the warm sunshine. Ann had suddenly felt an unfamiliar rush. She felt a wetness between her legs. Unsure of herself, she kept staring at Abuela. Abuela caught sight of Ann, and instead of turning away, she motioned for her to come closer.
Ann approached hesitantly. It was late noon and no one was around the place. Abuela took Ann’s hand and ran it over her wet arms. A shiver ran down Ann’s spine. What was this she was feeling? Was it not the same feelings her classmates professed feeling when they were approached by eager males? Ann was confused. How was she feeling these emotions for a girl, for one of her own kind?
And then Ann remembered something. She had always been a voracious reader. She could always be found in the company of books. She recalled reading something by Archibald Gunter, that spoke of females fornicating with each other.
Was it possible that she was one of these people? Whatever the reason she wished to pursue this fascination with Abuela.
During that fateful summer, with her parents were otherwise occupied, Ann and Abuela grew close. They spent many a lazy afternoons just biding away the time. Often Abuela’s mother would scold Abuela and urge her to help her with the chores.
‘Abuela, we must not overstep our boundaries. Resist from getting close to Missy Anna Marie. She is not in our league and the mischief you two get up to will not go unnoticed. Do you wish us to be sent back to Mexico?’, she would chastise Abuela. Possibly the far sighted woman could sense that there was more to the friendship than what met the eye.
But Ann and Abuela continued their escapades.
One pleasant afternoon, Ann and Abuela were in each others arms in an old barn. Their relationship had progressed to a full fledged sexual one. Unbeknownst to them, Joe the barn yard boy spotted their rendezvous. He immediately informed Ann’s mother.
All hell broke loose at the Lawson home. Rose Lawson was livid.
‘You wicked girl, what have you done? Cavorting with…a ….girl? Is this why you are never bothered to pursue relations with boys your age? What is this…buggery …you have been up to! Until now we had heard of certain men behaving with other men, in this fashion.’
‘Mother,’ pleaded Anna Marie. ‘It is not that I want her body, I want Abuela for the person she is! She makes me complete.’
‘Oh my, how long has this been going on? Just wait, let your father hear of this. He will lock you up in your quarters and throw away the key. What if our neighbours hear of this? Our church would throw us out. We would become social outcasts. My daughter going around with another girl!’ Rose Lawson shuddered.
Anna Marie only pursed her lips and stood her ground. It was 1912. A lot had been happening in America. There was literature available that spoke of same sex relationships. Granted, it was rare. But the fact of the matter was that Anna Marie could never picture herself with a man. Sexually or otherwise. She would be damned if she settled into an arranged marriage, which was her mother’s one true wish. She would rather run away with Abuela, into the pink skies.
Rose Lawson was determined to inform her husband Jacob. He had been away far too long this time, almost the entire week. Rose settled for the night and awaited his return.
At the breakfast table the next day, Anna Marie found her mother distraught and crying bitterly. She felt a pang of guilt thinking that it was due to her escapades.
Rose looked up and gave her daughter a scathing look. ‘The fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree,’ she said. The entire town has knowledge of your father and 49 other men having orgies for nights on end. He has apparently been this way his entire life, he has confessed. What am I to do? I am finished.’
Anna Marie gave her mother a sympathetic hug. She felt bad for her mother who had been deceived in her marriage. But she was happy and took pride in the fact, that the times were changing.
Author’s Note: The American society prior to the 1900’s was puritanical. Any homosexual behaviour was frowned upon and families resorted to ‘curing’ these sexual feelings by visiting various ‘doctors’. It was considered an illness.
In 1912, a huge scandal was unearthed in Oregon. It was in connection with the YMCA. About 50 men were said to have been holding orgies. Ironically the YMCA chose to look the other way. By the 1920s large progress was made and LGBT persons found employment in the entertainment industry. Source: Google and Wikipedia.
- Ann – short for Anna Marie Lawson.
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