A Month of Sundays
Before I was born fourteen years ago, my dad, August Rose, left my mom, Betty Rose, for a carnival singer. With no close kin, and nobody to help her in a pinch, Mom had to take some pretty lousy jobs over the years. Of course, living in Elkhorn City, Kentucky, where nobody lives a posh life, her expectations were not that high to start with.
For the last few years Mom has been working in a grocery store. Above the market is a three-room dump where we live with a woman named Lily, who also works in the store. Yes, it gets pretty crowded, and I do resent it.
I have asked Mom maybe a hundred times why she doesn't chase my dad down and wring some money out of him, but she has been too stubborn and proud to do that. So while I've been wearing last year's shoesand dreaming over dresses in the Sears catalog that I'll never have, Mom has clung to her precious pride, like it's worth more than me.
Recently, Mom's childhood friend, Grace Colley, came back to Elkhorn City after a long absence, but immediately began to wish she hadn't. So do I. She and Mom are thick as thieves.
It's the last week of school, and I come home one day to find them at the kitchen table with their heads together, doing some figuring on a piece of paper. And I can tell by their expressions that something is going on.
When Mom looks up and sees me, she says with excitement in her voice, "Garnet, I have finally got enough money saved to get out of here. We're going to Florida!"
"Florida? You mean to live?"
"If I can find work there, yes. They've been talking on the radio about Daytona Beach. It's the hot place for jobs right now."
I sit down at the table. Florida!
"When are we leaving?"
Mom does not answer right away, and her eyes meet Grace's.
"Garnet, honey," Mom says at last. "I was thinking that maybe Grace and I would go first, and find work. When I've saved enough, I'll send bus fare money,and you can join us down there. It shouldn't take long once I have a job."
All my blood rushes to my face. "So that's what you were thinking, huh? You're going to leave me here with Lily?"
"No, of course not. I've written a letter to your dad's sister, June, asking her if you can stay with her."
"But we don't even know each other!"
"It's time to remedy that situation," Mom says.
"Why can't I go with you?"
"Chiefly because of the expense," Mom says. "Three people on the road costs more than two. We're going on a shoestring as it is."
I can only glare at her because there are certain things you can't say to your mom, no matter how mad you are.
"Besides," Mom goes on, "you would have to stay by yourself a lot while we're looking for work, and I would worry about you in a strange place."
And it's settled. Do I have any say in the matter? Do I ever?
Aunt June answers Mom's letter right away, saying she had absolutely no idea her brother had a child.
"Why on earth would August keep something like that from me?" she says in her letter. "Of course Otis and I would be thrilled to meet April Garnet, and look after her while you are finding work in Florida."
She says she's sorry August will not be there to see me, but she has no idea where that rascal is. He has not been around in more than a year.
The following Sunday we are in Grace's Packard on our way to Black River, Virginia, about two hours from Elkhorn City, where I will live among strangers for an indefinite period of time. I don't speak to Mom all the way there.
"I'm sure this is her house," Mom says when we arrive and find nobody home. "I remember how it hangs out into the road, because it's built on a curve. And how could I ever forget this funny green color?"
I finally have to break my silence. "Didn't you tell her we were coming today?"
"Not exactly," Mom says. "I just told her sometime this weekend."
I do an exaggerated eye roll, then turn my back to her.
"Don't be so grumpy!" Mom says.
We take my suitcase from Grace's car, and the three of us sit down in some chairs on the porch. Grace looks at her watch. It's clear she wants to hightail it out of here as soon as she can. It's a pretty busy road here, and some of the cars slow down to look at us as they pass. Not only that, but there are houses lining both sides of the road, and people are craning their necks to see out the windows. Some of them even come outside.I guess they can't stand not knowing who we are. Directly across the road is a small brick store that says Richards' Grocery on the window. A man and woman are sitting in rocking chairs out front.
The sun is hiding behind a rising storm cloud. A wind begins to stir the trees on the hills that rise up all around this valley.
"Hey, y'all! Yoo-hoo!"
It's a woman waving at us from the house beside the store.
"Wonder what she wants?" Mom says, and raises her hand to wave back.
"Are you waiting on Otis and June Bill?" the woman calls.
"Yes we are!" Mom replies.
"Well, they went to the cemetery to lay flowers on the graves of their kin."
Right. It's Decoration Day.
"But they should be back here drek'ly," the woman goes on. "Who are y'all anyhow?"
Mom sighs. "I'll go talk to her."
And she leaves the porch to cross the road and speak with the nosy woman. In a few moments Mom comes back.
"That's Mrs. Mays," she says. "And those two in the rocking chairs are Mr. and Mrs. Richards, who own the store. They are just tickled to death to meetAugust's wife." Mom smirks as she emphasizes the word "wife."
Technically, Mom is still Dad's wife since they never got a divorce.
"They will be even more tickled to meet August's little girl whenever she feels like coming over to see them."
"August's little girl?" I say sourly. "I wonder how many times I'll have to hear that?"
Mom and Grace laugh at me. They are in a jolly mood. Well, good for them!
"And I learned June and Otis have two boys," Mom says. "Their names are Emory and Avery."
The rain starts coming down in big sparkling drops, and still we wait for more than an hour. Finally a brand-new '57 Plymouth Fury, nearly the same color as the house, comes rolling up beside the porch. Inside there's a man driving, and a woman on the seat beside him. In the back are two good-sized boys, maybe ten and twelve. Must be the Bills, my long-lost kin.
Lyrics on page 106 from "It Is No Secret" by Stuart Hamblen © 1950, renewed © 1977 by Hamblen Music Company. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Member of CCLI and ASCAP--www.HamblenMusic.com