She gripped a balled handkerchief, or a tissue, in that hand almost always. You’d only notice that little finger, crooked up above the rest, when she made certain gestures, like smoothing her dress across her lap. It was a source of endless fascination when I was a child, and she would obliging turn her hand this way and that so we could get a closer look. Her pinkie finger, it was, curled permanently into a C-shape.
Here’s how it happened:
My grandmother: Ooo, I had a lot of friends. We had a lot of friends. We could not visit people all in the neighborhood. We could not go, the children came to our house. You know, to play and all that kind of – to play ball. We’d play ball in the evening, and they’d put me in the field because I couldn’t catch no ball on account of my finger. [Laughs.] I always had to go in the field. Louise and Launie Mae were whizzes. Louise was a terrible bad ball — I mean, she could play some ball. But Launie Mae was good, too. But, honey, they’d put me out there way out there in the field where didn’t no – just as soon as I’d reach up to catch that ball that thing would knock it out.
Me: Right. How did you hurt your finger?
My grandmother: Ah, you know, they had windows that you’d put a stick under.
Me: To prop them up?
My mother’s cousin: Didn’t have a sash.
My grandmother: Yeah. And I was in there playing and took that stick out there, and it broke something. But anyway, Mama said she had gone to town. That’s what they say when they went into Statesville. And she said when she came back, Golar came out meeting her with me in her arms, and said she had on a little dress, and said she turned the dress up and blood was coming through the dress off me, you know, my finger and everything. It scared her to death. So they carried, she carried me to the doctor’s, and they put splints on to get it – it was broken, you know. He put splints on. But, see, I would pick ‘em off.
Me: Just take it right off.
My grandmother: Take ‘em off. And take ‘em off. And hold my hand like that. [Balling her hand into a fist.]
Me: Okay. So that’s how it healed. It healed closed. How old were you then? Real little?
My grandmother: I guess I was little. I don’t know how old I was. Two, three. I don’t know whether Launie Mae was there or not. I know Louise was, but I don’t know ‘bout all of ‘em. But, anyway, I was just big enough to crawl up to the window and pull the stick out.
I have many favored photos of my grandmother, and this is one of the last:
At home, in her easy chair, just back from church, with that little finger.
Remembering Margaret Colvert Allen (2 August 1908-11 February 2010).