The flush of spring-like weather over Lake Norman has opened winter-shut windows, allowed hibernators to walk, jog, or begin early lawn work, and more: a splinter of hope relished for its promise. This morning Mary Ann and I drank our coffee on the screen porch, enjoying the bird song that surrounded us. Wrapped in warm air, hot coffee, sweet conversation, and the call of a cardinal from the near-by berm, I thought of the announcement of the weather, but most of all a memory from childhood arrived because of the cardinal’s call.
My five siblings, mother, and I lived at 709 Applewood Street, in Shady Brook. Mother worked the second shift in one of the local cotton mills, so she was gone to work when we six came home from school. The house had two bedrooms and no bathroom, but we had the outhouse. The house had a long, wooden staircase that led from the kitchen to the back yard. Drinking coffee and hearing the cardinal in the berm, I remembered that day some sixty years ago, and it was that set of tall steps that I walked to as I came home for lunch, invited by mother. A treat all for me because seldom did mother have the time or energy for just one of her six children. However, for some reason, she told me to walk home for lunch. My siblings would eat at school.
The day remembered was a glorious one of spring as I walked across Mr. Brindle’s field and the back yard of our neighbors, the Kidds. My memory as I came to our back yard is one of cardinals calling, and as I approached those high steps, the smell of frying bacon floated to my young sense of smell. Mother, for her own reason, was treating me to a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich with a glass of milk and her presence. Why? My memory does not have the answer. It was not my birthday because that is in the fall and this was spring. Perhaps I had done something bad, and mother was correcting me. Or, perhaps I had done something good, but in my short eight or ten years, that was unlikely.
Parenting is difficult, and especially if you, like mother, were a divorced woman during the 1950s rearing six children on the salary of a washcloth hemmer. My memory of that lunch is one of a small frame of time when I, with excitement and anticipation, walked towards those steep, long steps to be served a rarity: a BLT and mother all to myself.
But I must ask my siblings about their special treat with mother. I know I was not alone to receive that gift.