Sunday, November 13, 2011
A Year of Sundays, ch 2 pt 1
Chapter 2 – May 8th, Mother’s Day
Part 1 of 2
“How the hell did this Sunday thing start, anyway?"
It was Silas who finally broke the silence. We'd been staring at each other with nothing to say for a half an hour. Everybody but Josie, who hadn't shown up yet.
The hospital bed was already gone. The den looked lonely without it.
I shrugged. I knew the story was stored somewhere in my brain, but didn't have the energy to dig for it. We buried our mother three days ago, and it felt strange to be at her house on Mother's Day without her.
Elizabeth answered. "Grandma started it, when great Uncle George got electrocuted and Aunt May had to go to work full time. Poor Aunt May had never worked, and she had the three kids to raise. So Grandma started getting all the women of the family together on Sundays, and they'd cook all day – don't you guys remember that? They'd make a week's worth of meals to send home with Aunt May. They did that for years, and eventually the men started showing up for the food. Sometimes the women made so much that everybody took home meals. Anyway, it started even before Mom and Dad got married, and just... continued."
Josie came in. She looked tired and sad. "Aw," she said. "You guys look tired and sad."
"We're talking about how Sundays started," I told her, so she could join in if she wanted to.
"Oh yeah, Sissy and I were talking about that after the funeral."
Well, no wonder Elizabeth had the answer right off. They'd already talked about it.
"So, I had an idea," Josie said, "because I knew today would suck. Everybody should wander through the house and pick their favorite thing. Then we meet back here in an hour or so and talk about what we found and why we want it."
Silas groaned. "Then what, we start fighting over shit right away?"
"Oh, come on, Silas, we're not going to want the same stuff," Melanie said.
Silas shrugged. I knew what he was about to do, and I could see the dread in his expression. "Let's hold off for a while. Mom said I have to tell you guys something today. And I want to get it over with, because if it were up to me, I wouldn't tell you at all."
I felt nervous for him, and glad that we chose to have a sibling-only Sunday.
Traditionally, everybody was welcome on Sundays – husbands, kids, boyfriends, best friends. Didn't matter who you brought on Sunday, so long as you showed up. And if you were out of town or otherwise unavailable, you were expected to call at 5:05 during dinner, with food in front of you, wherever you were.
Our sacred Sundays made us different from other families. It was intimidating for some of our boyfriends, for sure, but absolutely comforting for our kids. I hope we're closer than other families. Mom hoped so, too. And I know that's exactly why Silas had to tell us what he had to tell us.
"Oh Silas," Melanie groused. "Always so dramatic. What is it?"
He sighed, and then ran his fingers through his hair, and scrubbed his face with his hands. "Okay. Here's the deal. I'm going to spit it out, to all of you at once. No line-up in the den, one-at-a-fucking-time. And then I'm going to get up and walk outside. I don't want to hear a word, or see a look, or answer a question, until I come back." He looked at us each in turn, dark eyes burning. "I'm serious."
He paced across the room and back. Then looked at us one more time, and finally he just said it.
And then he walked out.
I waited long enough to see their initial reactions – Melanie's face froze in surprise, Josie smiled and shook her head, and Elizabeth's mouth opened, then closed, opened, then closed, as she searched for words.
Then I went after my brother.
He was leaning against the back gate with his eyes fixed on the windows of his old bedroom. And he was smoking.
I mirrored his stance, the gate groaning when I added my weight against it. "I've known for a long time."
"No shit?" He offered me his cigarette. Only it wasn't tobacco.
I took a hit and handed it back to him, fighting the cough that wanted to come when the smoke burned my lungs. Then I made the mistake of picturing Elizabeth at a loss for words, and choked on a laugh. The marijuana smoke burned and tripped my vocal chords as it escaped. "God, that hurts," I managed to croak.
"Yeah," he said, and offered the joint again.
I waved it away. "I'm good."
"How did you know?" he asked.
"I saw you at a club one night, making out with a guy."
"Well. That would do it."
"I'm glad you told us. It was a heavy secret, even for me. I can't imagine how heavy it's been for you."
He shrugged. He's a man more of expression and body language than words, so you get a lot of his message with your eyes. "It gets to be habit, starts to feel normal, even."
I pictured Elizabeth again, gasping for words the way a fish out of water gasps for water, and I giggled.
"What's so funny?" he asked.
I flapped my hands and tried to talk, but only laughed harder. "Elizabeth," I finally managed to say. "Her face," and then I laughed so hard I couldn't breathe.
Silas chuckled along with me. "She's going to be a tough sell," he commented, and we stood there, giggling.
The marijuana must have made it to my brain, because I couldn't stop laughing.
Silas sobered first. "I have to go back in there."
"Yeah," I agreed. "It won't be so bad."
He gave me a look that clearly said, yeah, whatever, and we went back in.
They were all still in the living room, talking, when we came into the house, but all talk stopped when we entered the room. I sat on the couch next to Josie. Melanie and Elizabeth were in the wing chairs that flanked the couch. Silas folded himself to the floor in front of the television, so we were all facing him. The firing squad. I almost started laughing again.