One memory has stuck in my mind and puzzled me well into my mature years. It has to do with my attitude regarding my mother. She was my hero and she could stand up to any adversity and cope with any problem that might arise. She was my rock; I had never seen her shed a tear, and I did not understand why she should do so on this occasion.
She had carefully dressed me in my best cotton print dress and my Sunday shoes and combed my mop of red hair, carefully parting it just so and carefully parting it absolutely straight before putting in a bobby pin to keep it from flopping into my face as it was wont to do. She lifted me into the seat of our 20-something Chrysler Touring Car and we awaited the arrival of Daddy who would drive us to our destination.
We traveled the gravel roads as we normally did when going to town and Daddy parked at the corner of the town square where we debarked, he in the direction of the pool hall and Mama led me across the street toward the drug store which doubled as the bus stop. Soon the Trailways bus pulled in and, as the door opened, we could hear the driver intone, "only a five minute stop here, folks. Don't bother to get off."
The driver left the bus with the door open and Mama hurried us to the steps where she lifted me quickly up into the aisle between the seats. By this time I had become alarmed and clung to her hand with urgent determination. I had never been on a bus before and certainly didn't want to get left on one!
Halfway back in the bus, a lady stood up and reached out her arms. Mama dropped my hand and embraced her with both arms whereupon both women stood with tears running down their faces. I don't recall what conversation took place, being much too astonished at the sight of Mama's tears. I can still see the image of the two of them, so much so that I could recognize a picture of my Aunt Annie 75 years later. The tall lady with the tiny glasses and the mahogany-colored hair. I even remember her hairdo, short and marcelled with a little brown cloche on top.
Neither Mama nor I ever met the lady again. I later learned that she was Mama's older sister whom she had not seen for a very long time. She was traveling to live with one of her children and was passing through the little town where we did our Saturday trading of eggs and cream for cash to buy food. There would be a short stop and she couldn't get off the bus but, If Mama wanted to see her, they could meet for just that few minutes.
Fast forward -- the eighth person in our family of 10 children had passed on some time ago, leaving one brother and myself as the last survivors of our generation. Since he is a few years older than I, his continued existence has become doubly important to me. I had last seen him about 10 years ago when he came to attend the funeral of the wife of one ofour older brothers. A year ago he had been seriously ill and was not expected to recover. I was just beside myself with worry. He was a thousand miles away, living in a "rehab center" and unavailable to me even had I been able to travel to him. I couldn't even access a telephone number to speak to him.
As we elders often do, he surprised everybody by recovering! Of course, it took a long time but finally he began to say that he wanted to see me! When I was informed by a niece that his daughter was going to bring him to visit the relatives in my area, I was more excited at this prospect than I had been about anything in the last few dismal years! I carefully chose the clothing which I would wear, even buying a new pair of slacks because I had lost weight and the ones I had were all a size too large. I carefully washed and arranged my hair and searched through my shoes until I found the perfect pair. I felt as if I was going to a prom!
We met in a restaurant in town and my heart was pounding with anticipation. I saw the diminished little old man with all the excitement with which I had greeted my teen-aged suitors. No time for words, we embraced tightly and just stood there with the tears pouring down both our faces. It was bittersweet as we both were aware that it would probably be our last meeting. When one reaches the 80-year mark, one no longer plans for much of a future. We may say, "Next year," but we are well aware that there may not be a next year.
I hardly remember any of the conversation although I am sure there was one. Mostly chitchat about old times and other family members living or dead, I am sure that the tears never left my eyes, even as I smiled with the simple joy of being with my beloved childhood companion. We sat side-by-side in adjoining chairs and posed for pictures -- entwined in each other's arms and savoring every last moment of the longed-for togetherness.
As I stood at the curb and watched the vehicle carryingthe last connection with my family away down the street and perhaps never to be seen again, an old memory sprung into my mind.
Now I know why Mama cried.