bedroom down the hall, she had already given up on the day and was curled in a ball asleep. That lasted about three weeks, I believe. All of what transpired thereafter started the first Sunday in September, the Labor Day holiday, which was also the first weekend since we in Florida that Aunt Nattie didn’t volunteer for double shift at the hospital to earn back what she lost when she take the week off to come get us, which is the reason altogether everything that happen happened. Bein a pious Christian woman, and Sunday bein the Lord’s day a worship, Aunt Nattie let it be known Saturday night that we was all goin to church, and that this included Mama. I remember sittin at the picnic table, watchin and waitin for Mama to laugh derisive or utter profanity or jus go off to sleep. Instead she jus push her vanilla ice cream around with a fork, which had melted into a thick puddle aside the cake she hadn’t eaten either. There ain’t no ifs ands or buts about it when it come to your sister and church, Uncle Sewell tell Mama when Aunt Nattie gone inside with dirty plates. You know that. I know that. Then Uncle Sewell, he was sittin across from Mama, he kinda leaned closer. Now you do this tomorrow, he says in a way like there ain’t no question. Understand me, Florence? So Sunday morning I wake up, and Mama ain’t in bed with us. My natural instinct is to quick look for Ruthie. One night when Mama didn’t come home in Detroit, Ruthie had got up before me, somehow undone the locks and was already two flights down headed for the streets before I found her. She wanted Mama. But thank God we wasn’t in Detroit, and thank God there was Ruthie too, still asleep on our mattress, cuddlin her snuggle bear. It’s amazing how quick one’s mind can go off in a panic. I musta sat up in that bed a minute feelin my heart pound in my chest, graspin for air like I been runnin, when the door opened and in walk Mama. She flipped the light switch on the wall, looked at us, then walked away, didn’t say good morning or nothin.
I seen that she was already dressed up, a navy blue skirt and pale blouse that I later learned Aunt Nattie had bought her. She left the faint sweet odor a Aunt Nattie’s perfume in the room. Love of God Christian Church was about a ten-minute ride. I got to sit in the front, between Uncle Sewell an Aunt Nattie, who was bouncin baby Ephraim on her lap. Fact, it was the first time all of us was in the car together as I could recall. I turned round to look at Mama only once, when Aunt Nattie discipline Ruthie and Isaiah for jumpin like maniacs in the back seat. She was starin out the window like she was admirin the weather, however she didn’t look happy at all. She paid no mind to the bouncin children or their admonishment. I guess not having been in no church in my chilehood’s memory, I pictured that we was gonna pull up to this large, beautiful building with a tall, white steeple that would reach way up to the sky, bells ringin and choirs singin and all that. Instead Uncle Sewell turned the Dodge into what look like a old hardware store or some kinda fix-it place, with big plate glass windows all across the street front. Above them windows, mounted over the door, was a hand-painted, black and white sign that spell “Love Of God Christian Church” with a fancy cross. In smaller letters below were the words “Reverend Cartier J. Trumane” on the left, and “Sunday 10:00” on the right. We walked in, and that’s when my life changed forever.The place was full up with nice-dress folks, sittin close in row after row a old gray folding chairs. It was very warm and stuffy. The men all wear ties and a lotta ladies wore pretty hats. I seen many children too. Lotsa people was fannin themselves with the paper programs they got when they come in. There was this kinda low hushed excitement that I could feel. Somewhere was a piano playin softly. Up front in the center I could see a table, draped with white cloth, which I would come to know was a altar, upon which was candles and flowers and a tall, shiny brass cross. Then the music stopped and the room fell
silent. I was sittin at the end of our row, which was near the back, nexta the center aisle. Mama was aside me, aside her was Aunt Nattie, holdin Ephraim, then the cousins gigglin, then Uncle Sewell way down shushin them best he could. Suddenly the piano took up again, this time bangin out a up-tempo Gospel song like I heard the other night on Uncle Sewell’s radio. Folks began to clap in time to the music. The Reverend Cartier J. Trumane enter from the rear a the church. Even at thirteen years, I could tell he was a powerful good lookin man. He wore a flowin black robe that shined like silk drapes. He traveled slowly, helloin people with a smile or a nod, sometimes pausin to shake a hand, which he did with my Aunt Nattie. That was the first time I noticed the huge size a his hands, when he reach across me into our aisle and place em both around her slender right wrist. He did the same to Mama, then touched Ephraim’s little head and my head, too. He had a beautiful, radiant smile. I reckon he hadda be bout the same as Mama’s age, which’d make him thirty-two years or so. When I happen to glance over at her, she wasn’t starin off into space no more like the ride over, or the last three lousy weeks or, Sweet Jesus, years for that matter. She was sittin up, eyeballin that preacher as he work his way toward the altar. When Aunt Nattie whispered in Mama’s ear, they both laughed quiet in that, I don’t know, lusty adult way that kids my age somehow knew was sex talk. It made me feel funny. When Reverend Trumane reached the altar, he turned to face his gathering and smiled that beautiful smile again for all a us to enjoy. He raised his large hands. The piano stopped. Good morning, he proclaimed with great enthusiasm. Good morning, the people responded. This is the day that the Lord has made, he exclaimed. A number a voices shouted hallelujah.
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