A New Christmas Story For You

the_return_of_the_prodigal_son_[detail]-largeThe Return of the Prodigal Son by Rembrandt c1669

I stood on Mary Jean Summers’ front porch, reluctantly knocking at her door. My knees were knocking much louder, for I was more anxious than ever before. Would she recognize me? Would she remember? She came slowly to open the door. She looked like Albert Einstein in the midst of an explosive lab experiment gone bad. A little frightened and uncertain what to say, my childhood speech impediment slipped out, “Wha..wha..what’s your name?” If this weally stwange woman didn’t pass my mini-mental health exam, I was jumping off the porch and getting the hell out of Stony Point. Pointless, I said to myself,  this is pointless. “Jean,” she rightly answered. Dang it, I thought, and I started compulsively snapping my fingers. Then she politely asked, “Are you from the church?” I smiled, looking up into the sky, my thumbs stuck deep inside my tear ducts. Before I could answer, she invited me in for a glass of Sassafras tea. As I crossed the threshold of _______, she stopped me)))))) to get a closer>>> better>>> level>>> look in my eyes.
“I see you. I know you. I know who you are. You’re Rhonda’s daughter!” she exclaimed.

She was so happy to see me that she called her brother and sisters who all settled on the same old cotton farm they inherited from their parents. Her identical twin sister, Martha, came walking up the hill just to hug my neck. The two of them whipped up a proper Southern dinner fresh from the garden and off the fruit trees: corn, cornbread, biscuits, green beans, black-eyed peas, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, salad, and apple pie. My arteries turned a blue, blind eye toward the heaping handfuls of Crisco shortening in the dough, because it was ~~wonderful~~, like having two new mothers loving on you, and I would have eaten anything they made…except pig. Or fish…or squirrel…or frog legs…or fowl of the air…or rabbit…or deer…or cow…or… It still upsets me that my mother would kill and grill my wilderness pets. This stubborn, self-sufficient child starved by choice rather than circumstance.

That was the Summer of 2014. It’s now Winter, and I miss my favorite Autumn Season, and I wonder where the time passed. I telephoned Jean Summers, aka, mamaw, to wish her a Merry Christmas and to make amends to her for running away 28 years ago. I imagine it was very painful to lose a daughter and a granddaughter in the same day, at least that was her sterile, subjective statement while drinking down some super, super sweet Southern tea off her antique table. I told her I was willing to make things right between us, and that I wanted her to think about a very special way for awhile, maybe a couple days, or weeks even. “Come spend the summer with me,” came out loud and clear over my speaker phone as I was baking Christmas sugar cookies. “Cookies, mamaw, I was thinking about sending you some COOKIES!!,” I cried. Now, I have heard of good Christian folk selling *everything* and giving it to the poor, but I ain’t ever, ever heard of no story about spending an entire summer with someone. This woman is—-out—-of—-her—-mind, yet more alert and oriented to person, place, and the passing times such as these than I think, and oh, I think I’m going to love her, love her more than I know.

~ §tacy §weeney

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