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“Emma finally went into labor?”

A smile broke out across my face at my boyfriend James’ absentminded question as he flipped through the TV channels. For a person who tried his best to minimize contact with my family (swearing that they were a bunch of snobs), he sure inquired after their wellbeing a lot.

“No, not that I know of,” I replied, putting down the Montgomery Advertiser that I had been flipping through. “I just got home from the cleaners. You are the one that has been home all day. You should be the one giving me updates, silly.”

He answered me by rolling his eyes.

The last time I had seen my sister, she had thrown me for a complete loop when she dropped the bomb that she was going to name her long-awaited daughter after me, her absolutely polar opposite sister. I’m sure my both of my parents, whom I know were absolutely tired of the way we were constantly at the other’s throat, would have been happy at the thought.

Leaving James to the lure of the TV, I got up and walked into the epic disaster that we called a bedroom, my heart heavy at thinking about them. It had not even been more than a month since we had lost Momma; more than a month since me and my sister had parted ways in our home in Chicago.  When I think of Daddy, she surely comes to mind.

Questions that never held a definite answer for me kept crossing my mind as I picked up the last picture I had of them together. Do I still feel guilty for striking out on my own?

I knew to this day, that I never meant for any of my family to think that I was ashamed of where I had come from. I just wanted the chance to be myself, without being crushed under what was expected of me. I could remember just clear as the beautiful sunny day when we buried Daddy when I left home for good. He had almost scared me for a while there. I had thought that he didn’t understand where I was coming from, which was odd. We had always been like one mind. But, of course, he came through for me at the end.


October 1961 – Naperville Neighborhood, Chi-Town, Illinois

“Where do you think you’re going?”

Louise pursed her lips, the expression on her face conveying that the bags strewn around her and tossed into the receiving area were a pretty good signal as to her plans. I had just found the letter with her acceptance to Hampton University shredded up and thrown into the garbage.

Too bad, she had just been disabused of the notion that her brother, Alexander, had kept her secret plans to get out of Naperville, and therefore, away from us, her family to herself

She was foolish with the boldness of her reply. “I’m on the midnight train to Georgia.”

My wife Ava’s eyes narrowed dangerously at our daughter’s breezy tone. “I’m not in the mood for your sarcasm, Louise. Where do you think you are going, trying to steal off into in the night like some common hoodlum?”

Louise just merely threw her hands up in the air, frustrated beyond words. “There you go again, Momma…saying common hoodlum with every bit of distain you can manage. Your nose is so stuck up in the air, it’s not even funny anymore. You act as though you didn’t grow up in hard times, and in bad neighborhoods yourself.”

Ava’s eyes flashed at that reminder. “Child —.”

Louise whirled on both me and her brother, who had been staring at the floor, sheepishly, trying to stay out of the brewing argument. “Daddy? Alex?”

I rubbed my head and sighed, feeling the beginnings of a headache coming on. I didn’t know what Louise was thinking, throwing that in her mother’s face like that. It was a sore spot with Ava, being reminded of the hard times we had grown up in. Back in our hometown of Kinston, NC, I had sworn to her that I would give her the best of everything, if she would just give me a chance to prove it. I would like to think that I had kept my promise, in the twenty-five years we have been together

Too bad, one of the children that we had done everything for, didn’t seem to appreciate it. “Louise—“

“Oh, don’t give me that, Daddy!! I thought —-.”

Now, it was my turn to raise my voice. “Now young lady, watch your tone with me. You know better than that. You will talk to the both of us with respect.”

Even from across the room, I could see her furious expression and a heavy frown settled on her face. She crossed her hands over her chest, slamming herself in the nearest armchair. The crystal chandelier over our heads (the highlight of our greeting room) tinkled with the force of it. “Sorry, Daddy. I thought you knew how I felt. We had talked about this.”

Ava turned to me, eyebrow raised in that cutting way that I despised. “Samuel?”

“You know she told us that she didn’t want to go to Hampton, sweetheart.” I replied, staring at Ava. “You didn’t have the most polite reaction when she told us the first time, remember? I didn’t think she would resort to these tactics.” I wanted to smile at Louise’s furious expression as she glared at her brother. We wouldn’t have known about this attempt to escape if Alex hadn’t come to us, “but you know, she has always been unhappy. Unlike Emma, who even you have to admit has taken to this life like a duck to water, Louise has always wanted to make her own mark on this world…without our help…”

“But, Samuel…”

Emma, whom I had not even notice, had walked into the room, sighed and took a seat by the open window, her earrings catching the light of the sun as it came up. She was already cranky with the best of them in the mornings, because of her duties of assisting her mother with household chores. Being forced to listen to this racket probably didn’t help the case. “Momma, would you just let her go? She wants to turn her back on us…on what you’ve both worked so hard for. Just let her be.”

“Mind your own business, Emma!” Louise hissed. “You’re always sticking your nose where it doesn’t belong. You’re the oldest one. Alex is the only boy. Of course, neither of you can do no wrong. You’re the perfect high society girl, Emma, born and bred for this. I’ve always been the disappointment of the family. Why change routine now?”

I just stared helplessly at my youngest daughter. I would never say this out loud, but she had always held a special place in my heart. She was stubborn and contrary much like my own mother had been. Underneath all of the bluster, there beat a heart that was easily bruised when they felt as though they were being misunderstood. And boy, Louise must really feel misunderstood.

My main goal in life for all of my children was to protect them from life’s ills. I know that I have to let them learn life’s lessons on their own but that didn’t stop me from trying to protect them.

I never meant to make Louise feel as though she wasn’t valued. She was loved just as much as everyone else in our family

Before I could get my thoughts together to even say something in reply, my wife held up a hand, effectively silencing everyone. “You know what, Louise,” Ava began, in a low, clipped tone. That never boded well for them. We have been married for so long, I would like to think that I always knew what is on her mind, but sometimes, she catches me off guard.

Now was one of those times.

“Do what you want.” Ava said, calmly. “But know once you walk out that door, that’s it. You want to absolve yourself of your responsibilities to this family. That’s fine. That is your decision. But this going back and forth, being unable to make up your mind, high and mighty attitude of yours will bite you in the behind one day.”

I couldn’t help but inwardly cringe at both the bright light in my daughter’s eyes and the cutting tone in Ava’s voice. “Your father can give you your share of the inheritance,” Ava continued. “Do what you want with it. Once it is gone, it is gone. Don’t come back to us, begging for more.”

All three children stared at her in shock. “Excuse me? You’re giving me the money NOW?” Louise choked out, rocking to her feet. “You’ve always said that neither of us would get a dime until you’re both dead and in the ground. This … is…”

“That is not what I’m going to do.” I broke in. It was my turn to glare at my wife; she must have known that she had pushed this whole issue a bit too far because now, it was she who lowered her gaze. How was she going to make that decision without talking to me first? Now I know I’m more inclined to letting her run most things in the domestic area but this is taking it a bit too far.

“Emma, it is almost eight o’clock. Your piano teacher is going to be here soon and I’m sure you can use some more practice. Alex, I also thought that I told you that the ledgers have to be reviewed. They are not going to do themselves.” I said.

“I have something to say to your sister before she leaves.” Both of them looked as though they wanted to argue with me, but with a raised eyebrow from me, each pressed a farewell kiss upon Louise’s cheek and gave her a pitying look before heading off to do their given chores within the house.

All three of them fought like cats and dogs but in general, they stood as one. When one of them got in trouble, all three were usually in the same mess. There was love there, even though Ava and I sometimes swore that they couldn’t stand each other.

“I know.” Just when I think that we are out of sync, sometimes, we come back together so easily. “We’ll talk later.” She pressed her forehead against my own, trying to convey her apologies, and sighed as she walked out of the room. “I’ll give the both of you privacy.”

I took a deep breath before looking back at my daughter. She in turn looked back at me, questions evident in her eyes. “You’re a grown woman, Lulu.” a smile crossed her face at her nickname. I only used it when I wanted to make a point; when I wanted her to listen to what I was saying. “You have to live your own life. You have to make your own decisions. Just know for sure what you’re doing, sweetheart. There are no take backs in life.”

She picked up her bags and gave me a nod. Obviously, nothing I would say would convince her to stay her path. That free spirit that so annoyed my own father would do the same in this generation. Let her go, Sam. Let her go. She will learn.

“I’m not your little girl anymore, Daddy.”

And I’m not sure she will ever be again. She has to grow up.



Montgomery, Alabama – December 1975

“Louise? Henry just called. There was a bit of a surprise.”

I brushed a gentle hand over the picture I held in my hands while on my absent minded circuit of our bedroom. In it, my parents were clutched in a fierce embrace, dressed in their Chicago finery, as they smiled into the camera on their 35th wedding anniversary party.

I did learn something from them; how to be independent. Even though they would deny it, even with all evidence to the contrary, them ‘kicking’ me out of the house did me a world of good. I will always be grateful to them for that.

“What’s going on?” I stared at him, my heart leaping into my throat at the mere thought of something going wrong with my sister. In all of his nervousness about whatever he was about to tell me, he was absentmindedly twisting a dreadlock of his long hair around a finger. She wanted this so bad. Please.

“It turns out that there were two babies.” I stared at him in shock, positive that I must have misheard. “She had a little boy and a girl. I guess there is more eccentricity in your family than we ever dreamed because you’ll laugh hysterically at what they named them.”

I was so surprised that I was still sure I had misheard him. That didn’t stop me from asking him. “Oh, God, what?”

“Carolina Ava Louise,” he broke out in a bigger grin as he gave me the boy’s name, “and Henry Samuel Chicago. They thought that they would pay tribute to all aspects of who they are. Henry said that Emma was a little worried about what you would think, especially at the Chicago one.”

I couldn’t help it; I burst out in laughter. “Chicago? Really? Oh, I can’t wait to tease her about that one. Really, that one is even beyond me.”

I bet it was you, Momma, praying for her on the other side. I love and miss you both. Me and Emma…we will find our stride. It is thanks to you we are content in our lives now. See ya’ll on the other side….well, obviously, later than sooner.

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