August 18 dawn crept in without a cloud. The sky was a startling blue. I looked at my sister lying next to me and knew it was the end of sharing a bedroom. Six years separated us in time. We had always, as far back as I can remember, shared a bedroom. Now it would be mine and I was afraid. She had always been prettier. I was proud to have a pretty sister. What would I feel like at the end of this day with her gone to her own home? She was beautiful in her wedding suit; her young man looked handsome and nervous. The dust settled; the 47 Ford gone. The tree frogs never missed a note; the crickets kept up their incessant chirping; the fireflies would blink on again, off again when twilight came; night would follow. Was I the only one that knew that things had changed forever?
I walked the streets of the city, searching for the building where my sister worked. Granddaddy had died, they had called me, barely thirteen, and now it was my duty to tell my sister. Dressed in my Sunday best, blue taffeta dress and white shoes, I caught the streetcar downtown. I had never been on a streetcar by myself. This week was my week away from the farm. We had sung songs and shelled peas during the trip to Jackson. No emergencies expected, no phone numbers given and now the streets closed in on me and I cried because I couldn’t find the building where my sister worked. The crowds didn’t notice my fear; only an overdressed little girl, in the wrong clothes, who finally caught the street car back to the suburbs and waited.
(Writing in my Mothers Voice): All the doors of the big house slammed shut on this dry, hot, windless July day. The old folks would say it was his soul departing and I shivered wondering if Mr. Will’s soul, my father in-law twice over, was departing from this house. The dust was slowly settling back into patterns; dust from the slow-moving caravan of cars making their way down the long tree arched drive to the main road and then the short distance to the church that his wife’s father had helped to build. Someone had to stay with the little ones who did not understand what was happening. Soon the mourners would be back and the big dining room table would be loaded with food once again, as relatives and friends would come to pay their respect to the living. They would say what a good man Mr. Will had been; how he had cared for his family and now had gone to see his son, Dave, my first husband. Tears fell silently for what might have been for me.
Aunt Am used to come and sit by my bed and read in her great tremulous voice the stories I remember so well from childhood–but only when I was sick. She had a beautiful rose garden and a dahlia bush. Her tear drops and buttercups and hyacinths were the prettiest in that countryside. Her flower garden was on the left side of the house. She gardened, cooked and cleaned…and read when we were ill. She waited on granddaddy when he was alive. I remember her slight figure, in a bonnet and apron, over her long dress…always working or reading. I never thought of Aunt Am as ever getting tired. “They” whispered she had been married once….it didn’t work out…he left after 6 weeks. She cared for her sister and her children . Grannie made cakes and wrote in her diaries. It seemed to me that Aunt Am did everything else. She never appeared tired or weary until she died. She never complained. Her body was swollen and bloated. Didn’t look like Aunt Am…and then she died.
Who would be the next to die?
(c) Linda R. Bourgeois (written during the summer of 1984…never finished)