Archive for September, 2010
Sundays. I tend to feel sad on Sunday nights. I blame my parents, of course. Since I can remember, Sundays were church days. Waking up early, getting dressed in uncomfortable dresses, itchy hose, and tight shoes was only made better by the fact that we were going to see friends and perhaps go over to their house until the evening service.
I used to get lectured quite a bit on Sundays. How to sit, how to stand, how to talk, how to laugh. Who to look at, who not to. How to wear my hair, even. My mother would have me practice my posture with the handle of a broom behind my back, held secure in the crook of my elbows, and two, three books stacked atop my head every day after school. It was common for girls in the church to be married by seventeen. It was not common for them to go to college.
Sometimes I think about all the things I missed out on while in church, or getting ready for it. Maybe I would have learned to roller skate or swim. Maybe I would have become more courageous, more adventurous, more articulate. Maybe I would have openly read books that were censored by the church, and not hid them from my parents. Maybe I would have learned to express my opinion, stand behind it.
I wonder about the me I could have been. The one not so obsessed with pleasing. The one that is hiding in there somewhere, looking at the world, anticipating the moment the cloak would come off.
This is a Magpie Tale.
It was early. A fire had already been laid in the big stone fireplace. I watched the woman make her way to the threadbare cushioned seat before it, holding on to her distended belly as though it were a melon she was in danger of dropping. Giant shadows danced upon the walls, reaching up into the eaves where the garlic and the peppers were hung to dry. I slipped into the room as quietly as I could, and slid underneath the lacy bedskirts of my mother’s bed, into my hiding place.
It smelled like drying apples in there. It smelled like cinnamon and nutmeg, and mint, and thyme and dill. It smelled like my mother. Tears bubbled up in the corners of my eyes, but I did not want to cry, and thought of something else, something funny that almost made me laugh out loud, until I remembered that I was spying. So then I thought about my mother again, and how sad I was to be in the world without her. I thought about the wailing women at her funeral, and my father’s sad smile and reddened eyes, and then I thought about how he went away one day and came back with this woman to take care of me. Except she didn’t really take care of me. She mostly sat and brushed her long hair and chattered to me about parties and dancing and dresses.
And then she got busy with making a baby. And when her belly began to round she smirked at me and told me that I was a big girl from this day on and no more climbing on my father’s lap. And sure enough I didn’t believe her until my father came home and he sat me on the bed next to him and told me the same thing himself.
It was grey outside when my father and the midwife arrived. I worried that he would go to my room and find me missing. Instead he carried the woman into my mother’s bed and set to boiling water and rags for the birth. The midwife shooed him out and sent him to wait underneath the shuttered window, promising that it wouldn’t be long.
The woman was silent in childbirth. A drop of blood plopped on the wood before me. Then another. And yet another. And just when I was sure that she was dead, I heard a grunt and the wailing of the newborn pierce the air. The midwife went to the window to announce the birth of a boy. From my father’s happy whistling I knew the woman had won. My mother was forgotten. My childhood was over.
This is a work of fiction. For more, please head over to Magpie Tales.