Saturday, November 26, 2011
A Year of Sundays, ch 3 pt 1
Chapter 3, May 15
Part 1 of 2
Together again, and so far not even a sideways look toward Silas. I had a good feeling that we were all going to be just fine. It's strange how death brings people together. I think it makes you realize that it's important to cherish the people you love.
I'd arrived early, by myself, and had spent the morning pulling Mom's clothes and shoes out of the closets and piling them on the bed. I figured we'd discuss where we should bring them, and then I'd handle it. I could almost feel her directing me.
I was done going through clothes, so while I waited for my sibs to show, I peered into cupboards and drawers, wracking my brain to figure out what to do with dishes, silverware, platters and decorations. I like to keep stuff to a minimum, so I don't need any of it at my house. I decorated with pictures on walls instead of knick-knacks on tables. My china cabinet is full of framed photographs, not dishes. My dining room buffet holds scrap-booking supplies, rather than candles, table cloths, and napkin rings.
I used paper plates and plastic utensils for summer parties, and my white every day dishes with fancy paper napkins and blue drinking goblets for anything more formal than that. I appreciated simplicity. The less I owned, the better.
I was looking at all the dishes and wine glasses in Mom's china cabinet when Elizabeth came in. "What are you up to, Jessie?"
"Just wondering what we're going to do with all this stuff," I said. "I suppose we'll have to get rid of it somehow."
"I was thinking about that. My church has a rummage sale every July – maybe we can donate some things."
"Yeah, that sounds good. In the meantime, let's encourage everybody to start bringing home the things they want to keep. We have to start discussing these details while we're all together."
"Maybe we'd better put stuff we want in our old bedrooms, to start with," Elizabeth suggested. "In case we have to make lottery decisions."
"Oh my God, I haven't thought about the lottery in years."
She giggled. "I don't know why I thought of that."
When we were kids we used to have lotteries – who gets to sit in the front seat, who gets to go grocery shopping with mom this week, who has to help dad mow the lawn, who has to clean the bathrooms.
"I wonder where the name bag is," I mused.
"I don't know, but I bet we find it somewhere."
Our mom used to carry the name bag in her apron pocket. It was a black velvet bag with five metal circles the size of fifty cent pieces inside. One coin for each kid. They had our names engraved on them. I think our dad had them made for our mom – probably for Mother's Day, when four of us were small, way before Josie was born. If ever there was a chore or privilege we argued over, Mom would reach into the name bag to settle it. Josie's coin was added much later, and we all suspected it was different than the others because she got more privileges and less chores than the rest of us. Wasn't that always the way, with the baby?
Our mom used that bag to assign everything. "The garbage needs to go out," she'd say, reaching her hand into the bag, "and the winner is... Melanie." Or, "Let's see, who gets to set the table? Ah, that would be Jessie."
We'd hop to it. There was no arguing with the name bag – it was random, relatively fair, and squelched a million arguments.
Josie breezed in. "So. I have to move out of the dorms, like, ASAEO."
I laughed. "ASAEO?"
"As soon as exams are over," she said.
"Which is when?" Elizabeth asked.
"June sixth. And I only get that long because I volunteered to help with clean up."
"Not an emergency then, Jose." I sighed. "We've got 3 weeks to get you moved."
"Yeah, but moved to where?"
Ding, ding, ding. I finally got it. She'd always lived here with mom in between semesters. Ah. Me see all things clear now. "We'll figure it out when everybody gets here," I said, hoping for a good idea. "You could stay at my house," I offered, although I seriously hoped she wouldn't take me up on it.
"Superior?" She feigned horror. "No thanks. Superior is an old bar whore – dressed to the nines but still showing her age. And that's on the weekends. During the week she's a bleary-eyed wreck."
I cracked up. "Wow, did you think of that yourself?"
She grinned. "Actually, I stole it from Sam."
"Figures." My husband, Sam, often came up with interesting descriptions. Usually crude. The one Josie just tossed out was cleaner than most.
The back door banged, and Melanie stalked in, looking exactly like a bleary-eyed bar whore the morning after a busy night. She must have really tied one on.
"Jesus, Mel, you look like shit."
"Excuse your mouth," Elizabeth said.
"Sorry. She does, though."
"Thank you very much," Melanie said, voice dripping sarcasm. "I had a hell of a time getting this asshole from the bar last night to effing get out of my apartment this morning."
"Nice," I said. "Sounds like a rough morning."
"Oh, Melanie." Elizabeth shook her head. "It's not right to expose Caleb to this kind of behavior."
"He's at his dad's, thank you. I don't go out when I have him."
We knew she tried not to drink when she had Caleb. Actually, she was court-ordered to stay sober during her parenting time. Now, Melanie was my sister, and of course I loved her, but I still thought it was pretty sad that a court would have to order such a thing. She got a lot of credit for being a single parent, but she didn't actually parent all that much.
"Do you have room for Josie for the summer?" I asked, in my ultra-sweetest voice.
"No, I don't. Sorry, Jo-Jo. It's too small as it is, even with Caleb only there every so often."
"No worries, Mel," Josie answered with a shudder. "Your neighborhood makes me nervous."
Melanie laughed and waved a hand in the air. "Aw, it's not that bad. Nobody ever bothers me."
"Except for that one time when your car stereo was stolen," I reminded her, "and the next time, when your whole car was stolen."
"Yeah, except for that stuff."
"My point, exactly," Josie laughed. And then she sighed. "I'll just have to stay here. By myself."
"Something will work out," I assured her, as they started to help me sort and box the dishes.
Melanie lasted almost five minutes before lifting a hand to her head.
"Okay, enough china clinking for this girl. Oh, my head. I'll go sort through Mom's dresser drawers." She wobbled up the stairs. I suspected we'd find her asleep somewhere later.
"She's not doing well since mom died," Elizabeth commented.
"I know," I said. "I hoped she'd be able to keep herself together, but it doesn't look good."
Silas's voice came then, from the direction of the front door.