"Roylene," I called out as she latched my front gate.
"I'll come to the tavern and read you Toby's letter when it comes."
She smiled, the little bit of brightness in that girl coming out. I waved and Roylene shuffled down the road, head hanging low between her bony shoulders. She was barely out of earshot when Mrs. Kleinschmidt started in about Okies and vagabonds and the progeny of Mr. Roosevelt's handouts. I stuck my tongue out at her haughty face and she put a cork in it, stomping up her porch steps without another word. I felt guilty later so I wrapped up half the loaf of beer bread and brought it over as a peace offering. She knew right off it was a day old, and her complaints followed me all the way home. It was good the second day, and the third, too. Irene even said so when I brought her some for lunch. We ate it with stew made from every leftover vegetable I had in my icebox, along with some Spam I chopped up and added to the mix. Cook that stuff with an onion and you might as well be eating filet mignon!
Take care of yourself, hon, and let me know when that baby comes.
March 16, 1943
This baby will NEVER come. The doctor predicted I'd have it two weeks ago. I know these things can't be rushed or even speculated about. But with each passing day I get heavier and more sluggish. Like a big fat slug in the garden. Also, my temper is short. This adorable little girl ran up to me in the market yesterday and said, "Is that a baby in your tummy?" and I snapped back, "What do you think it is? Do you suppose I've swallowed a watermelon?"
Her sweet little eyes filled up with tears and I thought her mother might yell at me or glare, even. But no she looked at me with soft forgiving eyes that told me she understood. She'd been there, too. Women know one another, don't we? We can peer into our deepest, hidden places.
Well, maybe not all women.
I grew up around fancy things, Rita. Nurseries and nannies. My mother? Well, let's put it this wayshe was a side dish more than a main course in the banquet of my youth.
Father and Mother traveled a lot. It's funny, I don't remember missing them. Mostly I was excited to see what presents they brought me from wherever they went. Swiss chocolate, Spanish flamenco dancer dolls, music boxes.
Gosh, sitting here doing nothing but growing large is making me remember strange, forgotten things. And I'm noticing things, too.
Like the way I sway back and forth even if I'm not holding Robbie. I see other mothers do this, as well. You swing, lulling them to sleep even if they're not in your arms.
My mother never swayed. She stood up so tall it was as if a string held her up from heaven. "Don't slouch, Gloria. If you slouch like that the world will treat you like a pack mule. Good posture is the key to independence."
I have to admit I still slouch sometimes.
And also, her hands. My mother's hands were always perfect. She wore gloves when she went out, but when at home she kept a pot of hand cream (rosewater and glycerin) near her at all times. Rubbing it in methodically. Cuticles first, then nails. The backs of her hands and then up each finger. I believe her hands were soft like rose petals. But I hardly ever felt them.
She died three years ago, my mother. From the cancer. I miss her every day. I've been thinking of her hands a lot. I can't imagine having such perfect hands. Mine are rough, but strong. And my son knows them well.
I suppose this is all nonsense. Nonsense written by a woman very tired of carrying this weight. (And who might be at the end of her rope!)
Excerpted from I'll Be Seeing You by Suzanne Hayes and Loretta Nyhan. Copyright © 2013 by Suzanne Hayes and Loretta Nyhan. Excerpted by permission of Mira. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
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