Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Up From Sorrow - Ch. 1

Mama Gray,” Kristin yelled upstairs. “We’re going to be late for church.” She stood at the bottom of the stairs, looking at her watch and tapping her left foot lightly on the shining hardwood floor of the corridor.

When Jana and Kristin removed the old brown carpet in the hallway five days ago, they discovered a wealth of exquisite hardwood underneath just begging for the proper attention to be given to it. Answering the floor’s plea, the two women promptly went to work on it until they finally had it shining like a brand new quarter. That became one more thing they had to feel good about these days. Every little piece of happiness counted when trying to overcome grief.

“I’m coming. Just hold your horses, gal,” Jana yelled back. That daughter-in-law of mine can be so bossy sometimes, she thought with a deep dimpled smile, loving every minute of their time together. They were so close that sometimes it seemed as if Jana had given birth to Kristin herself.

* * *

At the red brick church, Kristin got a chance to meet more of the Gray clan. The church that they were attending today was actually named after one of the Gray ancestors who had donated the fertile land for such a righteous cause. Gray Grove Baptist Church stood situated among magnificent green trees that provided wonderful shade in the summer with very little undergrowth to maintain in the spring. On each side of the church were beautiful gardens of various blossoms that aligned the side exit walkways. In back of the church, lay several family cemetery plots on well-kept grounds. All in all, the church was inviting inside and out.

During the service, Kristin felt truly embraced by the Gray family as Jana’s relatives sang songs of encouragement and promised to help them any way they could. Even the minister was in line with this family outreach, delivering a timely message from the inspiring book of Ruth.

On the way home, Kristin asked, “Who was that girl with the big shiny hair?” She referred to a mahogany-skinned woman who’d worn piles of hair extensions twisted and mounted up on the top of her head like a thick black crown.

“Oh that’s my cousin Tina. She does hair. I think she owns a beauty shop somewhere in town.” Jana laughed, because as usual Tina was a walking advertisement for whatever business she happened to own this year. When Tina sold cosmetics, her heavily made up face could be seen from a mile away. Without saying, she wasn’t very successful in that venture. But the beauty salon seemed like a better investment. Flamboyant hairstyles were in this season, especially among the young folks.

“It looked nice, but I guess I’m too conservative for a hairdo like that. You know how I love my ponytail.” Kristin looked out the window at the passing green landscaping. Rows of brown wheat could be seen off in the distance and in another field, a small herd of cattle leisurely grazed.

I don’t think I ever seen live cows in New York. This is definitely different for me. But maybe this is just the kind of change I needed, Kristin thought, before returning her attention back to Jana. “And who was that lady singing?”

“That was Viola. I love the way she sings. She made a couple of demos recently. I think her tapes can be found somewhere at the mall. At least that’s what I heard,” Jana replied, relaying some of the things she’d been told by her sister during one of their family update calls. I’m going to get this thing paved one day, she mused, turning onto the gravel driveway.

“I know I’m asking a lot of questions, but I just love your family. I especially love how close they are. They’re so different from mine. My family doesn’t go to church much at all anymore. And ever since my mom died, my sister Kambria and I have just grown apart,” Kristin said, opening the car door to get out.

What was most interesting to Kristin about Jana’s close-knit family was the fact that some of them weren’t even related by blood. Most of them were in-laws, joined by Sam Gray and Jana Rogers’ union.

Many years ago, Kelly Gray and Johnnie Mae Rogers, both newlyweds at the time, found themselves as neighbors in the same rural community. With things like knitting and preserving in common, the two women soon became fast friends. As a result of their friendship and close proximity, their children grew up together, even going to the same church and schools.

Over time it became a widely known fact among their relatives that Kelly and Johnnie Mae hoped that some of their children would one day marry each other. As fate would have it, the only ones that did were Sam and Jana, but that was enough for their happy mothers. In fact, many years later, Johnnie Mae and Kelly went to their graves still smiling about that union.

“Kristin, they’re your family now, too, so start talking like it’s so,” Jana gently scolded. Then she thought of something else. “Hey, where do you want to eat tonight? My sister Lena said that we could stop by her house for supper.”

“I’m all for that, but let’s change first,” Kristin said. She wanted to get out of her church clothes and into something more casual.

* * *

After they returned from supper at Lena’s, Jana and Kristin sat relaxing on the whitewashed wooden porch swing, allowing the back and forth motion of the swing to soothe them, listening to the active crickets playing in the yard beyond them.

“Hmm...I love rural areas,” Kristin sighed, enjoying the fact that she could actually see the stars without tall, obstructive buildings in the way as she breathed in the crisp night air. Even though it was still summer, it seemed as if fall was approaching fast. I wonder what kind of autumns they have in Georgia.

“I know. I do, too. In fact, the sound of these crickets was what I missed the most when we stayed in New York,” Jana said, closing her eyes so that she could hear them better.

Taking another deep breath, Kristin began to talk about what had been plaguing her mind all day. “Mama Gray, as you know, our savings are getting even smaller and our monthly allotments just aren’t enough to make ends meet anymore. So I’ve decided to expand the scope of my job search. I still want to continue to work in my field, but right now I’m willing to take a job as a typist or even work as a cashier somewhere just to help out. We need the money.”

Jana’s eyes fluttered open. A frown creased her brow. “Kristin, I’m so sorry that more wasn’t left for you to live off of. Sammy’s father and I were just beginning to reduce some of that business debt, I was finally getting him to save a little money for our retirement, and Sammy's partnership and innovative ideas were going to give the business a much needed face-lift, possibly bring in a broader customer base. But that’s all over now,” she said with fat tears rolling down her mahogany face.

Jana tried hard to fight off the bitterness that had been trying to plague her mind since that tragic night. She didn’t want to be angry at God. Besides the fact that she loved Him, she needed His help in order to get out of this mess her life was currently in. Neither did she think it productive to be angry with the other driver for losing control of his vehicle. The man had no idea that one of his truck’s tires would suddenly blow out that night, at that exact time. Besides, the heartfelt letter of apology they received from the truck driver made blaming him fruitless. The man had enough guilt on his plate to deal with without any unforgiveness from them adding to it.

Lord, only You can get us out of this situation, Jana mused, feeling the need to pray.

“Don’t worry, Mama Gray. We’re going to be alright. We have to be,” Kristin said, cutting through Jana’s thoughts as she embraced her. We just have to be.

© 2007 by Suprina Frazier

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