Out of Pearidge

Authorization is granted for the use of short quotes for educational purposes as long as proper citations are used.

Mother's Day Off

Years ago, my daughter asked why her Aunts and I make such a big deal about going for ice cream whenever either of us visits another. I have never really answered that question until now.

As might be expected, Mother wanted her children to be close, and we were close when she was around. Mother worked the "swing" shift, 2:00 to 10:30 p.m. at the local cotton mill which meant she was gone when we four children came home from school. We looked after each other fairly well, mostly the others looked after me since I was the youngest but, of course, there were squabbles. We never reported these disagreements to Mother because, if we got along well all week, she would treat us to ice cream on Sunday, her only day off.

Things began to change when my brother joined the Army and went to Georgia. Soon after that, my older sister got married and moved to Baltimore. Then Mother got cancer. It was liver cancer. Mother had an operation. She seemed so much better while she was recuperating. The neighbors brought covered dishes and we cranked the homemade ice cream. I was almost 14; so, I got to do much of the turning.

Soon thereafter, the doctor came and talked to Daddy. They talked out near the street. They didn't talk long, but the bow of Daddy's head said it was serious. Daddy went straight to Mother. Then he told us. Mother probably would live no more than six months.

The effects of the cancer on Mother became progressively obvious; its draining of the family's meager resources was less obvious. Still, in December, I knew that, by taking a paper route, I could help. It was a big route, nearly 200 customers covering over 3 miles. I earned $40 a week, but I did need help.

On Sundays, both Daddy and Juanita, who was 16, helped. It was a family thing, with the three of us working together. On Wednesdays, when the papers were heavier, Juanita helped by driving the family car and distributing bundles of papers at safe places along the way. Mother was pleased that her younger children worked together so well and we were happy that it brought some joy to her life during times when she had her senses. These times became increasingly fewer.

Mother died in the Spring and, of course, it affected us all in ways which we could not anticipate. In a very short time, the support which had been mustered from the community dwindled to a halt; the illness had stimulated the support and now the illness had ended. Our neighbors got on with their lives and the three of us began to reconstruct a life together.

Perhaps the most obvious shift came in the increased duties which fell to Juanita. She was expected to do all the household duties of cleaning, washing, shopping, cooking, etc. These responsibilities cut drastically into her school work and her social life.

One Wednesday afternoon, she wanted to do something with her friends, which conflicted with dropping my bundles. She opted to go with her friends.

When I realized that all 200 of the papers were still at the beginning of my route, I was furious. The anger gradually turned to fear and dread that I would not be able to deliver all of those heavy papers. Eventually I realized that my only hope was first to take each bundle to distribution points and then to proceed with delivery as normal.

It was long past dark when I finally finished and returned home. Daddy took my side and reprimanded Juanita, telling her that she had to help with the papers on Wednesdays. She accepted this ruling, but she didn't like it. I was pleased because it meant I could avoid another Wednesday ordeal of delivering all those papers without help; however, somehow, I knew that Mother wouldn't be happy that her children weren't getting along.

Juanita and I spoke as little as possible for the next two days. On Saturday, I collected from my customers and went to Mrs. Reese, my area coordinator, to pay my bill. She asked how my week had been and I told her of my Wednesday.

"Why didn't you tell me sooner? Why our truck can leave your papers wherever you want. Just tell us where your safe places are and we'll drop them for you." I couldn't believe what I was hearing.

I rushed home to tell Juanita. "Come on," I said after telling her the good news, "and I'll treat you to some ice cream to celebrate."

"Why don't we wait until tomorrow, Mother's day off. I think that's how she would've wanted it."