Had she lived, my mother would have reached the 100-year milestone today, April 28. She came close. She was just a couple weeks shy of her 95th birthday when she died, and the doctor said that was close enough to celebrate a long life.
One day, a few months after she died, I was taking a shower and thinking about her, when this line popped into my head, “I remember the day my father died.”
I knew it was her ghost, or my muse talking to her ghost, that prompted the line, and I could hardly wait to get to my computer and start writing.
I did take the time to dry off and get dressed – one does not want to drip on one’s keyboard after all. And I just started writing. This is just a bit of what followed that line:
I remember the day my father got married. Not to my mother, of course. The day he married her, I was not even a thought on the horizon or a gleam in his eye. Neither was the baby just starting to form in the comfort of my mother’s womb. That was my sister. The “oops” that sent Evelyn and Russell to the county courthouse on a day in the fall of 1940.
The day I remember was seven years later, after a divorce that moved my father from our house to a rooming house three streets away. That he fell in love with the lady who owned the house was not a huge surprise to my mother. I think she suspected that Daddy was half in love with the lady before he ever left for the final time, but I was a child of nearly five then and the ways of adults – those secretive, deeply hidden motives and actions – were still a mystery. What I did know on that auspicious wedding day is that Daddy looked so happy; wearing a smile that threatened to burst right off of his face and holding hands with a lovely lady in a straw hat with pink flowers and a simple white dress.
The lady’s smile faltered when she saw me and my sister running toward them. I had seen the crepe paper streamers on the car and just knew something fun was happening without us. Juanita wanted to hold back. “We should go back home,” she said. “They probably don’t want us.”
“No.” I ran ahead. “Go home if you want to. I want to get a streamer.” Another girl who looked a few years older than my sister was twirling in lazy circles with a piece of the crepe paper floating behind her, and that looked like so much fun.
I pulled up from my mad dash some distance from my father and the lady, not sure if I should go closer, but then Daddy held his hands out. “Come here and meet my new wife.”
Wife? But my mother? Wasn’t she his wife? Why did he need another?
Not only was I stunned into silence, I knew I couldn’t ask those questions. That just wasn’t done. In 1948 children did not question their parents. Nor did people talk about things that were private. There were very strict boundaries that one did not dare cross. Of course, old ladies whispered in the summer darkness on front porches about the girl whose baby was born just 7 months after she had married. “And the baby was no preemie, let me tell you.”
But in the daylight, and in the company of people who knew you, questions were not asked and speculation was not made. At least not out loud.
So that day, my sister and I took our streamers that the lovely lady said we could have, and we ran home.
Mother was in the back yard hanging sheets on the clothesline. A light wind filled the stark white fabric, making them look like sails on a ship outlined by the vivid cobalt sky. Mother turned at the sound of our excited voices.
“Look what we have.”
“Where’d you get those?”
“From Daddy’s car. They were having a big party. But we couldn’t stay.”
“A party for what?”
“His new wife.”
Today, as I write this sixty some years later, I can still see the lines of anguish on my mother’s face, and I swear I can feel the chill of the breeze as a cloud covered the sun at that precise moment to punctuate the stillness with a sudden drop in temperature.
Those paragraphs never made it into the book that began five years ago and is now published by Creativia Publishing, due to release on May 19th, but that’s okay. Maybe they just needed to be the catalyst to start my mother’s story – Evelyn Evolving I am so happy that it is now available for pre-order for Kindle readers. It will eventually release in paperback and audio, and I can’t wait.
Do an author a favor and order your copy now.