A Childhood Memory
Updated: Nov 8, 2019
This is a story I wrote a few years back. Hope you enjoy.
I can't sit down. Daddy and Mamma have been gone all night. I am so scared. I got up at dawn, after a sleepless night, and cleaned the kitchen. Robby went out and milked the cow, and I strained the milk and put it in clean jars in the refrigerator. For once, we didn't fight about anything. Usually, since he's four years older than me, at sixteen, he thinks he can boss me around and tell me what to do. But not this morning. He looks scared too. He goes out and works off his worry chopping wood.
The little kids get up. I'll feed them cold cereal and get them dressed in their everyday play clothes. They don't talk much. I figure the four of them are scared too. I'm not sure whether they know what's happening. Mostly, I figure they just know something is wrong. They're so quiet. Finally, Sissy, seven, asks, "Where's Mamma and Daddy?"
I gather them around me and hug Katie, age five, and Danny, age three. Jerry, age nine, watches me solemnly.
"They're still at the hospital. C'mon and have something to eat. Don't worry, they'll be back soon." . But I'm not so sure. I wish we had a phone. I hate the phone company for not running the line out our way. I don't know what's happening. I feel the fear churning in my stomach.
After Mamma cried out the night before, Daddy had quickly picked her up, blanket and all and carried her out to the car, shouting, "You kids be good and take care of things. I have to get Mom to the hospital. I'll be back when I can."
She's spent the whole summer in bed, trying not to lose the baby. What if there's something wrong? What will we do? Robby takes care of the outside chores and I clean up the dishes. We managed to get the little ones to bed and then ourselves. The night lasted forever.
The house feels cold. I prowl the crowded place, looking for things to do- sweeping the floor, picking things up. I'm too restless to read and I can't concentrate on anything. The little ones play quietly.
Finally, around ten o'clock, I hear a car coming down our gravel road. I look out the window and see Daddy pull into the muddy yard in the old black Plymouth. my heart jumps. "Dad's home," I shout.
The six of us rush out the door and down the steps. We stop and wait as Daddy slowly gets out of the car and walks with dragging steps up the slope to where we are waiting, quiet and tense. His shoulders are slumped and his head is hanging so we can't see his eyes. What has happened? Definitely something bad. Is Mamma dead? Why does he look so sad? We are frozen in place on the bottom landing of the porch steps. Finally, he stops in front of us and looks up. There are tears in his tired eyes and still he hesitates.
"Is Mamma all right?" I ask faintly. My voice shakes and my knees feel watery.
"Your Mamma's goin' to be okay. They want her to stay there for a few more days." His voice cracks. "But the baby died. They couldn't save her."
Sissy begins wailing. "I wanted a baby sister. I wanted the baby to live."
I pull her into my arms and try to comfort her. "Don't cry. It'll be okay. Don't cry. Mamma is goin' to be all right."
She sobs loudly and I can feel the tears flowing down my own cheeks. Poor Mamma and Daddy, I think. All these months in bed and she still loses the baby.
Daddy looks so defeated and worn out. But I am very relieved that Mamma will be all right.
We all huddle together for a while, Daddy patting us awkwardly on the shoulders. He picks up the smallest, Danny.
"We're goin' to have the funeral for the baby on Monday," he says. "I'll go into town later today and pick out a casket and make arrangements. You can come with me if you want."
He gently shepherds us into the house.