The Ragamuffins

The RagamuffinsHere’s one of my grandma’s favorite photos; she calls it “The Ragamuffins.” It shows her and her twin sister Ruth along with their little brother Jimmy. (His legs are bowed because he had a bad case of rickets due to malnutrition.) Ruth is on the left. Seeing her laughing so vibrantly breaks my heart every time I look at it; a year or two after it was taken, she would be lying on the floor of the barren living room, nothing between her and the floor but an old mattress, dying an agonizing death from diptheria. My grandmother said Ruth was always the outgoing twin, and you can see her personality shining through in this picture. She and Naomi were very close, speaking to each other in a language that only they knew, and to this day Naomi has a hard time talking about her death. Only once did she say that after Ruth was dead, Naomi defied her mother’s orders to stay out of the living room. She snuck in and saw Ruth lying on the mattress with a blotch of purply blood under her nose. Later, government workers came in white hazard suits to take Ruth’s body away. Their mother, Mattie, never got over Ruth’s death. Every year, they would put a pink hyacinth on Ruth’s grave, and Mattie often threatened to go there to commit suicide when she was upset with the surviving children. To see this picture, and know the tragedy that lay ahead for these three children…It makes me glad I don’t have psychic powers and can’t see what lies in my own future.


One thought on “The Ragamuffins

  1. How sad. I too have young children in every generation who died from relatively minor illnesses by today’s standards. Many of them are in unmarked graves. I make it a point to try to locate the graves, place a small concrete cherub lawn ornament and say a prayer. I want them to know they are not alone and not forgotten. I’m sure you feel the same about Ruth.

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