Here we are, poised, as if nothing is wrong.
It's Easter Sunday. I wear my new bonnet and white patten leather shoes. I hold a rose I have just cut from the bush behind us. Dad is an avid gardener and the bush is lush with blooms.
Mom is thin, thinner than I have ever seen. I think she looks beautiful and I love my new dotted-swiss Easter dress. Mom makes sure I have a brand new dress every Easter Sunday.
In a while, we'll go to church. We are Bapitst. We'll sit on the third row where we sit every Sunday, Daddy by the aisle, then Mama, then me. I'll have to pay attention because Daddy will want to know what I heard the preacher say later on.
At home this afternoon, Daddy will grill steak and bake potatoes. We'll have hot Mrs. Baird's dinner rolls with butter and sweet iced tea. It'll be so good, my skin will jump up and holler Allelujah!
A month of Sundays goes by and today is Mother's Day. Daddy took me to the florist yesterday so I could buy Mama a present. He gave me the money I could spend and he sat in the car. I bought an orange miniature rose bush in an ivory French Provincial vase. It's plastic not real, but it will last forever.
After dinner I give her the flowers and she L.O.V.E.S. them. I'm really proud of myself. On these kinds of days, I almost feel my skin letting down. I think maybe I don't need to worry all the time.
But before my food gets through my bowels, I hear it:
"Stupid Whore!" Daddy's yelling.
"Stop it, Gene!" Mama's crying. And Daddy's pushing her down the hall, stiffing his finger into her breast bone, shoving her shoulder back with the palm of his hand, slapping her face and calling her all kinds of ugly names until she falls. Then he throws the roses, vase and all at the wall beside her head.
I run to her. I pick up the roses, their wire roots jutting through green florist's foam. The whole bush has fallen out, but the vase has not broken.
Fifty years later, taking the gift down from the secretary in my Mother's room, I finger the vase, blow dust off the orange blooms.
Will you spend $50 to help me help women like my mother become formidable, deny such abuse and thrive?
Come to my benefit luncheon, book reading and signing at Viva! Books, Jan 11, 2014. Most proceeds above costs go to benefit the Kendall County Women's Shelter.
Click here for event details.
Call 210.826.1143 to reserve your space.
Make a matching donation online here: Kendall County Women's Shelter
Please mention "Viva! Benefit" when you make your donation.