Elisabeth Ellis lives with her husband of thirty-three years and her four children in Nashville, TN.
To make an indelible mark means you have left something behind that will always remain. And just like a pen stroke that cannot be removed, there are people and people groups that cannot be erased. They have fought back and stood their ground against forces so evil, they could only be impelled by the powers of darkness.
While Indelebilis tells the story of mostly fictional individuals their settings are completely authentic. From current-time characters to the story of a family in Poland during Nazi occupation. From the victims of the potato famine to The Great Depression and the KKK. From the Civil Rights movement, the destruction of the lives of Native American and First Nations children to modern-day sex slavery. These are people who cannot be forgotten.
I hope you will enjoy being a part of the lives of these characters as much as I have. They will stay with you for years to come.
Indelebilis, Chapter One
“Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
~Emma Lazarus 1883
Throughout time there were those who were forced to fight simply to stay alive.
There is a quality to these people that cannot be mistaken.
Within them burns a light so strong,
it cannot be snuffed out,
though have no doubt,
many have tried.
They are always the minority,
though there is a presence, larger than life, that watches over them
protecting, guarding, healing, and renewing;
whether or not they were always worthy,
whether or not they were always aware.
Because they have continually overcome insurmountable odds,
their stories are often tremendous,
these people are often tremendous.
They are the estimable,
And though great effort has been spent to erase them entirely,
(Atlanta, Georgia, July, 2018)
It was the last Sunday of July as the congregation made its way out of the beautiful stonemasonry church which had stood in its place, near the Grant Park neighborhood, in downtown Atlanta, Georgia for over one-hundred years. Most of the congregates slowed their pace just long enough to thank the minister for another rousing and inspired sermon. With his passionate fervor, Denny Mills could talk dry bones into walking.
There were three doors at the entrance of the church and at the middle door, whereas there was usually a bottleneck of people shaking hands with the pastor, today the queue was noticeably streamlined. Though this church was normally quite friendly and social, the Braves were having a particularly enjoyable season so, this Sunday at least, superfluous pleasantries would be foregone as people snuck out the doors to the right and left of center.
Somewhere just below the average vantage point, Mabel Adkins shuffled along the old wood floors of the church. She loved these wooden planks that her father had once carefully maintained. She tried to keep her balance by holding on to the back of each pew as the steady exodus of congregants made their way out, nodding and smiling and saying hello as they hurried passed.
Mabel kept a careful eye out for the Daniels’ youngest boy, who, since Christmas, had taken to darting around with both eyes on his iPhone. He had nearly collided with her twice since last December. Though Mabel was born in 1933, and times had changed to great extreme, she did her very best to keep up.
Though she couldn’t see the pastor quite yet, she knew she was getting close. After all these years she had memorized every scratch in the pews and every squeak of the floor. She’d practically learned to walk on this floor and she knew she’d one day be carried out in a pine box down these same oak planks. Mabel’s old umbrella was black, the handle, hand-carved wood. She hooked it over her arm and moved her bible and pocketbook to her left hand in preparation to shake the minister’s hand.
She could finally see daylight as she emerged from the small crowd and the minister’s face lit up upon sight of her. Pastor Mills was a large African American man, standing six feet tall and weighing nearly two-hundred and fifty pounds, most of which appeared to be muscle. Despite his formidable appearance, when he spoke to Mabel, he was as gentle as a kitten, always bending over upon her approach so as to share her same altitude.
“My dear, Ms. Mabel, how are you today?” he asked with pronounced enthusiasm.
Mabel put her hand to her throat, cleared her voice and smiled, “Pastor Mills, I am about as well as can be expected. I hope you are too.”
The pastor tucked Mabel’s arm into his just as he did every Sunday and slowly walked her down the steps of the old church house, making every last person wait for his return. Most thought it a kind gesture, but a few had to hide their impatience, after all, there was a game coming on. The pastor, however, was never one to allow the anxieties of the modern era to direct his considerations. Mrs. Wright was a remnant of a different time, and Denny was always one to honor such things, besides, she was very special to him.
Her eyebrows furrowed just slightly as she wanted the pastor to understand the sincerity of her words. “Pastor, I couldn’t have been more touched by the mention of William in your sermon today.”
“Ms. Mabel,” he responded as they took each step down at her pace. “I know you of all people remember, that if it weren’t for Professor Adkins, I wouldn’t even be here right now. I couldn’t be happier doing anything else, I owe him so much.” Mabel just smiled, she did indeed remember what a good man her husband was, but it meant so much to her when others did too. Mabel dabbed a tear from the corner of her eye, too choked up to speak and hugged his neck.
Though the pastor seldom ever lost his smile or his genteel tone he was still the same fireball he’d been in his youth. His determination and resolve to see justice done hadn’t waned from the time he was a teenager. Denny was the type of man who admired the patience of Job as much as he esteemed the backbone of King David. “Are you sure Isabel and I can’t drive you home this week?” he asked. “It seems a bit hot out to be walking.” He made the same proposal every Sunday, without fail, though Mabel remained adamant that she would walk.
“No, sir. I don’t mind the heat nor the rain as long as I have my umbrella with me, I have all that I need.” She patted his arm again and turned to open her umbrella against the summer sun. “Oh, Pastor, will you be at the soup kitchen tonight? I know it’s hot, but I’m making French Onion. I know you it’s your favorite.”
“A pack of wolves couldn’t keep me away,” he smiled.
Mabel lived three blocks from the church and she had always walked. She stopped driving entirely in 2008 because of an incident involving a cat in the road that she hadn’t seen coming. Though she never had a great affinity for cats, it was certainly never her intention to take the life of one. Knowing that she almost did, helped her conclude that her eyesight was not as reliable as it used to be. Though Mabel’s life had once been filled with acts of love and community service, her inability to drive limited her options greatly. So now her acts of service were mostly confined to the soup kitchen.
Mabel had always been a creature of habit, but she told herself that if you live long enough, it was unavoidable. She carried her father’s umbrella and she was never seen outside without it, never. It shielded her from the sun and the rain, and on the mild days of spring and autumn, it became her “walking stick.” She wasn’t fond of being helpless and who knows if she might ever have to fend off a stray hound or a feral cat. Once William had passed, she missed the security of his arm. The umbrella was a poor substitute, but you would never hear her complain. Life had dealt much harsher blows to those more defenseless than her.
When she arrived at her door, she unlocked and entered the home William had bought for her the year they married, in 1952. She had never been one to lock up the house, but one night, after watching the news, she stood to her feet, walked directly to the door and threw the bolt. It gave her a shiver and not just because she feared for herself, but because she feared for mankind in general. The world had grown colder and she could feel it in her bones.
One would never consider Mabel a proud woman, though in her time, had she chosen to highlight her attributes, she would have been considered quite stunning, but she preferred the quiet dignity of being sensible above all else. Sensible shoes meant she’d keep walking for years to come, sensible scarves kept her hair tidy throughout the day and it was her sensible proclivities that had brought her husband more comfort than any married man had a right to. Blame it on the decade of her birth or the need a girl has to rebel against her mother, but she never sought happiness in material things.
Before Mabel was born, her parents, Ernest and Julita Jacobs, were among some of the wealthiest in town. Then, thanks to one particularly black Tuesday in October, the Jacobs became one of the poorest. Mabel was born after the crash, in a one-room shack. She had never experienced the high life that Julita had been forced to relinquish, but she could still see the gold glittering deep in her mother’s eyes.
As soon as Julita’s husband hit the height of his success she lived carefree and high on the hog, but when it was all taken from her she became somewhat affected. Ernest tried to bring a smile back to his wife’s face, but there was nothing he could do. He thought that once Julita had a child, she would realize that joy existed beyond chandeliers and champagne, but he was wrong. She had tasted the good life and anything short of grandeur had left a sour taste in her mouth. She was just a ghost, trying to find her way home, and those were the people that Mabel came from.
© 2019 Elisabeth Ellis