Ellen was elected to answer it. The knocking was insistent. We crowded around the door. "Who is it we asked". "It's Carrie, open up!." We flung the door open. Aunt Carrie flew inside, almost pushing Ellen over. "What's wrong" we asked. "There was someone walking around outside my house. I watched and saw them running down the other direction". She panted gasping for air between words. Carrie lived about two lots away, but it was still quite a little walk for someone her age, not in the best of health and to make matters worse, she had run! "I tried to use the phone" she continued, "but it's dead, have you tried yours lately?" Charlotte got the phone. It was dead also. "Did you get a good look at him" William asked? "Yes he looked vaguely familiar and before he knew I saw him he seemed to be just looking around, like he was lost. It scared me to death" Carrie cried.
Carrie stayed with us that night. We found out the next day that all the phones in the area were out that night, but we still hadn't a clue about the strange man Carrie had seen, or did we. From the moment Carrie told us of the stranger, my mind had gone to the recent visit of Rev. Quentin McDonald. The Rev. no one remembered. The familiar face could they be connected? I thought so.
It was September and the family thing was starting to grow old. Ellen was anxious to get back to her church. William was pretty much back to work full time during the days. Mother was sure no amount of money should be worth this. She was tired of cooking for so many as she usually ended up preparing the dinners. My father was probably the only one content to wait out the time. After all this was his boyhood home. Everyone was walking on egg shells at first, but now we were all too eager to give our opinion on just about everything. Of course most of the opinions were far and wide apart from the other. There were so many arguments, that one night we decided this was the time to get it all out once and for all. So what if anyone ended up not speaking for the rest of our lives. We'd had enough of each other for a life time.
Charlotte started the "discussion"- "I would like to know once and for all what's the problem with this family, why are you all professing Christians, but no one wants to ever talk about it. I don't get that." "Well maybe it has something to do with the fact it's all you ever talk about" I claimed. "She's right" agreed Ellen. That's all it took. IT ALL CAME OUT! One by one we let Charlotte have it. Each confessing our discomfort at her constant spiritual assessments of never being able to measure up. Daddy walked out of the room when Mother let it out that she'd been told by me, Charlotte didn't even think some or most of our family were saved. It was true, Charlotte had scolded me many times on the inadequate and lost condition of our family! Charlotte started to speak in "tongues" and that's when it really got crazy. Ellen started quoting the Bible, reciting parts that she believed said there were no more "tongues" today. Joanie began to tell about some woman "Lilith" that was Adam's first wife, while William, whom I believed enjoyed it all had the nerve to bring up evolution. I had to tell him that Darwin himself denounced evolution and had even become a Christian before he died. He was sure that wasn't right. Ellen confirmed it and of course he took her word for it.
These kinds of scenes were rare for our family, but always under the surface. We are all so different in our lives and temperaments . Charlotte is fiery and has the red hair to match, but there's a side to Charlotte that's calm peaceful especially when she's gardening or cooking, two of her passions. She and Rudy have four children. Andrew the oldest, he's like Rudy, very studious, quiet and gentle. Then there's Lany just the opposite of Andrew. Lany's Charlotte's spit. It's really uncanny. Then there's Shelley, a beautiful young woman, she is a model and lives in New York. Shelley's the black sheep of that family. Charlotte cried for a month when she moved to New York City with her boyfriend. Kelsey's the baby he still lives at home and goes to school where they live. Charlotte calls him twice a day. She really is a good mother in many ways.
Ellen the smart sister is also the quiet one, always in control always decisive always respected. Craig and Ellen have three girls, Debbie, Marsha and Beverly. They're all pretty much alike, great girls all in college away in Virginia. Ellen also has a son from her first marriage to the wild one. I'm afraid he took after his father, wild and aimless a real embarrassment to Ellen's almost perfect family.
My two oldest kids Brian and Doug, are both in dental school. they are great kids but did manage to give us plenty of grief in their teen years. My girls Kellen and Amy are both married already--way too young. They are both still in school though and Kellen still lives at home with her husband Kyle. Amy has a one year old little boy, Neal and that makes me the youngest grandmother of the sisters.
William will make a great grandfather but neither of their boys are even seeing anyone special that I know of. I know my mother regrets the fact that William and Joanie never had a child together. She always told me how much she wanted William to have a little girl. It's probably just as well they never had any more children. Out of all of us they are certainly the most social of the family. My brother golfs, belongs to mens groups that kind of thing. Joanie has more best friends than Emelda Marco had shoes!
The garden was starting to pop over with pumpkin, my father had planted in my grandmother's garden. We hadn't seen that garden produce anything in years. My grandmother used to work like a dog. I guess that's where Charlotte gets her love of gardening. It's funny the little things you find you have adopted from grandparents. It's like my grandmother always signing a Bible verse on any card or note she would send anyone. For years I thought it was so corny, but the last few years I find myself doing this.
Queenie was truly a sweet person, unassuming and long suffering, hardly ever complaining. If the truth be known, I think I'm more like her than any of us--humble too.
It was the middle of September and leaves were beginning to change. They always did change a little earlier here where my grandmother lived. I breathed in the crisp morning air, glad to be alive, even glad to be here in this house with all my family-almost. I really missed my kids who were not going to be able to visit as much now with the fall semester being tougher. We only had about three months left of our stay, and in a way I was sorry to be leaving here before Christmas. I remember so many Christmas dinners here. Huge trees, tacky ornaments, some of which are coming back in style now. Bubble lights, paper ornaments. I loved it all. The old house was beginning to feel the autumn chill. If you were in the living room you were toasty with it's massive oil space heater, but except for a couple of small space heaters for the bedrooms, that was the only heat in the house. We sometimes used the old wood burning cooking stove in the kitchen just for extra heat, it was really kind of neat. The air down in the country always had a smokey smell in the fall. It was intoxicating to me. What would it be like to live here all the time, I often wondered. I secretly fantasized about living in this old house permanently. John would have loved it, but the commute had already taken it's toll on him. Yes we definitely were creatures of convenience. Why was I becoming so romantic about this place and sentimental. I had always prided myself on how unsentimental I was, a trait I almost considered a virtue. But now I was melancholy, reflective. It was new for me.
I would look back in the field between Grandmother's house and Aunt Carrie's and I could see it plain as day. Sunday afternoon, hot and dry, everyone full from lunch, lazily sitting around the front porch. Then someone, Charlotte or Uncle Alvin would say "anyone up for baseball". We'd all run out, no one was any good and everyone wanted to pitch. Usually Daddy would get to or William. We weren't the "Kennedy's" but we did have our moments- that was one of them. We were great. Never did we imagine when we were playing at baseball, that those days would be no longer. That some would die and others would grow apart. That life would change.