(A novel by Susan Overturf Ingraham)
Las Cruces, New Mexico, 1956 to 1960
[Excerpts from Kate Jacobsen Cullen's diary.]
January 4, 1956
I've decided to keep a diary. If anything happens to me or my children, my words will speak the truth, and I will tell my enemies that I have written this down. I’m also going to write a letter and put it in a safe place. I will tell Al this. Today has been the first day back after Christmas. It was good to return. I feel safe when I'm here.
March 15, 1956
I went to see the doctor. Dr. B. is a nice man but there’s nothing between us. Others use false information against me. I've done nothing wrong. F.W. is my best friend, yet she doesn’t believe me. Al and I argue a lot — always the same thing. He comes home late, saying he had work to do. I don’t believe him. The children are growing up. Katrina has no friends. Michael doesn’t do his homework. The children are not invited to social events — my enemies are succeeding! But I will prevail. I must be on my guard. I must write that letter soon.
June 18, 1956
Three days ago Al and I had a huge argument. He came home late, and then he had the nerve to deny that he’d spent time with E.L. I know he sees her. I'm tired of his lying to me. We argued all evening and into the next day. Apparently sometime during that day he called his mother and talked to her about our problems. She told him that he should divorce me! I called her and told her to stay out of our lives! There‘s so much I must guard against — even my mother-in-law. People talk behind my back and laugh at me. Al has put me in this predicament, but I swear I've done nothing wrong. L.F. knows that I'm innocent. I’ve started writing that letter.
August 31, 1956
Back to work! I’m almost ready. The children are anxious to start school — I talked to several this morning. This will be Katrina’s sophomore year. I'm sure she’ll do well, but people will try to make her life difficult because of me. Michael, too, is struggling and I think his teacher is part of the group. Al tells me I'm imagining things. But I know. I worked on my letter this summer — long and full of details. But it’s not done yet.
October 15, 1956
Today is Allison’s tenth birthday. We took her out for a Mexican meal, and we all went to the Dairy Queen and had ice cream sundaes. Allison seems happy but she's so shy. Michael’s doing well in school, and so is Katrina. Sarah’s difficult; she won’t talk to me. Al and I had a terrible argument last week. He won't admit that he's done anything wrong, just like my father. People are never what they seem. Like Dad’s secretary years ago. She was always kind to me, and then I found out that she and Dad were having an affair. How could she do that to my mother? I can never let my guard down. But I will prevail.
November 24, 1956
It's been a long day. Thanksgiving. Up at 5 a.m. to prepare the turkey. I was in the kitchen all morning — rolls, cranberry salad, mashed potatoes, gravy, and pumpkin pie. Al and the kids helped. We set up card tables in the living room and I used my best china, crystal, and silver. I wish my mother could have been here. It was a good day, a day to remember. My mind is clear and I'm happy.
December 9, 1956
Today is Katrina’s 16th birthday. Imagine! I loved it when I was 16, but I made some bad choices. I want Katrina to make wiser choices than I did. She's a very popular girl and has started dating. But it’s a scary world. A few days ago in Alabama, a Negro woman refused to give up her seat on the bus. Imagine! I don’t know where this will take us. There is a limit to what these people should be allowed to do.
December 25, 1956
Christmas — my favourite day. Al gave me a diamond ring. I just wish I could trust him. The children all got nice things. I like opening presents, but I dread going to church. My enemies are there. I want to finish my letter during the holidays — it’s been nearly a year since I started it. I must get it done soon.
January 31, 1957
I've been happy to be back with my students this month. Things are not going well between Al and me. I'm so tired. I want to feel safe, but I never do. Too many hate me. How long can I hold out? I want to move, but Al doesn’t. He says I imagine things. But Al doesn’t see what is right in front of him. He allows people to walk all over him. I'll not hide my face in the sand. Over the holidays, I finally finished my letter, telling all, and I've put it in the safe deposit box. If anything happens to me, they will know who is responsible.
July 31, 1957
Al and I have been married 19 years. I wish I could be 20 again. Do I regret what I did? I could have married B.L. or H.W. I could have had a fling with J.L. But I've been faithful to Al. Dad always said I was a good girl.
September 3, 1957
Another school year begins — my fourth year. I like it, but the drive is long, particularly in the winter. Katrina’s a senior. She continues to date that boy, Eric Dawson. Eric’s not nearly good enough for Katrina. I don’t want her to make the same mistake I did, but she won’t listen to me. December 15, 1957
Last weekend Al went to El Paso for a conference. He says someone else suggested that they go over to Juarez and he had no choice but to go along. He says he didn't drink anything, and he waited outside in the car while the others went in and drank and watched naked women dance. I don’t believe him! I know he looked at those women! He got home at 3:00 a.m.. I slapped him! I hate men! All they think about is women. I feel so dirty. I'll get a divorce. I won’t be like my mother and let a man push me around.
May 25, 1958
What a difficult year it's been! Al and I argue constantly, and there are still many enemies. I know that J.W. is telling lies about me. But today has been a special day — Katrina has graduated from high school. She defeated all opposition and graduated near the top of her class. I'm proud of her. But she’s still dating Eric!
September 6, 1958
Another school year begins. Al and I told Katrina she must stop seeing Eric. She’s so much smarter than him! She says they will not date for three months.
October 15, 1958
Today Allison is 12 years old. We went out to supper and then had ice cream and cake at home. Allison is doing well. She’s not at all like Katrina. I must never let my guard down, however, especially for Allison, who is less capable of taking care of herself than Katrina. My letter is safe. If I’m harmed, the letter will make sure that justice is served. But I feel I’m too strong for them.
October 16, 1958
Today Katrina told us that she's going to start seeing Eric again. She's breaking her promise. She's going to make the same mistake I made! I don’t know how to change her mind and make her see what I see.
June 28, 1959
Another year passes. I'm 41 and the best years of my life are gone. Al and I disagree about nearly everything, and I can’t trust him. My children are growing up before my eyes and yet there are still many who would see me destroyed. M.P. has flirted with Al — I've told her to stay away. We’ve quit the church choir — P.T. hinted that there were people there whom I couldn’t trust. I've insisted that Al quit Toastmasters. I swear I've done nothing wrong. I'm tired, very tired. But I can never let my guard down. The letter is safe. All will be revealed some day.
November 20, 1959
Michael’s 15 years old today. He's a smart boy but I have to scold him about his grades. He's been much more difficult to raise than the girls. He's a very good looking lad. I don’t know how to talk to him. He's stoic but also a clown. Sometimes he loves to make us laugh. Today he went to supper with some friends and then we came home for ice cream and cake. I made his favourite: chocolate.
February 5, 1960
Katrina and Eric have told us that they want to marry at the end of this school year. I cannot believe this is happening! It’s like history repeating itself. First, Grandmother Jacobsen, then my mother, then Al and me, and now Katrina and Eric. She's making the same mistakes every woman in this family has in four generations. I'll not help pay for that wedding. They’ll be no more financial help from us. We agreed to a small wedding at home — the smaller, the better.
April 9, 1960
Al and I had a terrible argument. I smelled perfume on him, which is how my mother always knew about my father. Al denied any wrongdoing. I don’t believe him. He’ll never change, just as my father never changed. Things are worse than they have ever been. There’s no hope. All conspire against me. I must always be on my guard. I'm not safe. J.W. said that she had heard that P.T. will get even if he can. Will I ever be safe? I want to leave here, but Al won’t go. He says there’s nothing to fear, no one will harm me. He doesn’t understand, and all my pleadings do no good. I'm alone. Thank heavens I’ve got the letter safely stored away.
May 30, 1960
Today Katrina and Eric exchanged their vows in our living room. Eric’s parents were there — his mother is truly awful. This is a mistake. Katrina will regret it forever. Just as I have. Just as my mother did. Just as my grandmother did.
- Continue to Chapter 29.
- Refer to Family Tree to keep relationship of characters in mind.
- Return to Family Legacies Table of Contents.
Disclaimer: While it is true that my characters were inspired by my own genealogical study, I could not and did not know my ancestors with the same intimacy that I have created in my characters. Therefore, let it be said that these characters are fictional and created from my own imagination. Similarity to persons living or dead is unintentional and coincidental.