Occasions

Some of the women speak rarely, if ever, of their babies. Lucy is not one of them. I think that’s due to the fact that she was writing letters home to her sisters instead of keeping a regular journal. Her family would surely have wanted news of little Sissy’s progress.

Aside from giving regular updates of her progress in weaning Sissy, Lucy also talked about the baby’s developmental milestones: walking, talking, teething, and potty training. This is the first time I’ve heard the word “occasions” used in this way, and the crudity of the subject matter juxtaposed with the oblique primness of the description made me laugh.

[October 1852]

I have not said a word about dear little Sissy. she is not weaned yet & I guess I shall not do so till spring she does not talk yet & has not run about more than a month She has 8 teeth all cut since she was a year old & strange she cut her eye teeth first She’s a cunning puss knows all we say tell Mrs Wright she has 2 great faults which I am continually whipping her for one is poking her fingers into the bread when set to rise the other is opening my box & sitting on the top of things & twice she did her occasions in it.

Cooke, Lucy Rutledge, 1827-1915, Letter from Lucy Rutledge Cooke to Marianne Rutledge Willis, October, 1852, in Covered Wagon Women: Diaries & Letters from the Western Trails, vol. 4: 1852: The California Trail. Holmes, Kenneth L., ed. & comp. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1995.

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