It's funny how close I had been to my oldest older sister. Ten years apart she was my idol, so beautiful so popular. I wanted to be just like her. We remained close until I was about twenty, even taking day shopping trips together-making sure we always had an outing around Christmas time. She had been so distant in the past couple of decades. We really didn't have much in common and had a hard time communicating. Charlotte had become so angry at the family, especially Mama and Daddy. I'm not sure she was even aware of her bitterness, but it had destroyed so much of her charm and life. She was only certain it was all the things that had been done to her or not done. That she was the only one in the family to have truly found religion.
We had all gone to church as a family growing up. My mother saw to this. Way back she had made my father go. He had been quite the rounder before marrying my mother at twenty, mom just eighteen. We attended a small Baptist church, where my parents are charter members. We all were active in the church. My parents always teaching Sunday School, heading G.A.'s and R.A.'s, leading vacation bible school. You name it they did it. Everyone always remarked what a close family we were and they all think it's still that way.
My sister Ellen is even a co-pastor at a small Christian church, much to her husband's objections, as he doesn't believe in women ministers (they almost divorced over it)
They live in a rural area of our state in a house that Ellen's husband Craig grew up in. It's a neat old house with gargoyles on the roof. It has a lot of charm, but still needed a lot of work.
Ellen was always the brain girl of the family. Charlotte used to tell this joke to anyone who'd listen (in a country southern hick accent). She would tell this story of a family that couldn't blow out the family candle- "Pa would try but he blew up, Ma would try but she could only blow down, Brother would try but he could only blow to the side, then Sister would lick her fingers and putting them to the flame, extinguish it". I always thought of Ellen as that smart sister.
Ellen and I had not liked each other much as little girls. Me being the baby girl and her stuck in the middle. Charlotte teased her unmercifully and I doing whatever Charlotte did would chime in. I remember on one of our trips to the beach we decided to put sand in her bed. She was very fair skinned and blood red from sunburn. It was really mean. We also had nicknamed her "bugger ball Betsy" for some reason. We were cruel-oh well.
Ellen and I did manage to become close in our twenties, doing everything together but when she moved away, an hour trip proved to be enough to change all that.
Craig was Ellen's second husband. A good looking man with quite the gift of gab and a heart of gold. Still he was very much an old fashioned man in much of his thinking, having been brought up in the country. He was quite different from Ellen's first husband Gary.
Gary was the rebel. The rebel that took my sister away to Biloxi Miss. To where he was stationed in the air force. Their first week of marriage found them in the middle of hurricane Camille.
My mother nearly died when Gary started coming around. Ellen had not dated much and certainly no one like Gary. I'll never forget when I first saw him. There he was parked in the street in front of our house, Ellen hanging on his red neck souped up car, bleached blond long straight hair, chain smoking and tattoos to boot. My father refused to come to the wedding and my mother cried for months.
Because of their marriage I did get to travel as far as I'd ever been at that time. I was sixteen and flying for the first time to stay with them in Biloxi. I loved it. My father had tried to bribe me not to go, with the promise of a whole new wardrobe, but nothing could have stopped me.
Ellen and Gary divorced after she caught him with a girlfriend of hers. The last time I saw him, he was at my sister's apartment trying to retrieve some of his belongings. My mother was there and told him off up one side and down the other, chasing him off yelling as she was fond of calling him to me "and don't ever let me see you around here again you sawed off hammered down runt".
It was time for the reading of the will. We were all to meet at the lawyer's office. My mother had always said we were going to be surprised how much money Grandmother had, Mama said it was no telling where she had money tucked away.
Once my grandmother had been staying at my parents house. My mother was putting her things away and discovered my grandmother had brought $5000 in cash just sitting in the bottom of the suitcase. She told my father she didn't know when she would get to her bank again so she wanted to have enough cash on her for the stay--a week.
If she did have money you wouldn't have known it by what she gave you. She had long ago given up Christmas presents. She would give my father five dollars on his birthday and my aunt and mother three. I guess it was how she was brought up.
Queenie was in the middle of ten children, the oldest girl. She didn't have much growing up. My grandfather, never made much money. Queenie would make corn-shuck mats and patch work quilts to sell. They had their own garden and sold some of their crops. It was hard to see how there could have been money to save.
We pulled up to the lawyer's office. There was Ellen and Craig and Mama and Daddy. We got out greeting one another, each of us kissing the other. That was one of the strange things about us. Even though we weren't very close anymore, we always had to kiss and hug each other and again when we would leave.
We walked into the old office building. It had been the old city hall where my grandmother lived. Rudy and Charlotte, William and Joanie were already inside.
"Sit down all, let's get started--I think you are all in for a very great surprise" Paul Angers said. Leaning back in his leather chair putting his glassed on, taking too much time. I guess enjoying his moment of power. We all leaned on the edge of our chairs, trying to appear calm. He read "I Queen Elizabeth Chambers Hargrove being of sound mind and body on this the first day of July in the year nineteen and eighty do hereby bequeath.