Flowers Out of Bone
by Ethel Morgan Smith
“All I want for graduation is you to go home and see Gram. She’s an old woman, you know,” Emma said after she received her acceptance letter from Princeton.
“Of course, but we have to celebrate now. You’ve worked so hard for this marvelous opportunity,” I reminded my daughter.
“You’ve worked hard too.”
“We’ve worked hard.” I looked into my daughter’s honey-colored eyes. Not sad like mine, but eager and intelligent like her daddy’s had been. She glows with confidence and opinions.
“Mom, don’t you get it? Getting into Princeton doesn’t means as much to me as my mother going back home to see her family.” She placed her acceptance letter in the center of the kitchen table.
I planned the trip, thinking I could deal with surviving it later. Truth be told, I needed it too. Maybe it would help me to move toward dreaming of love again. I am young enough to love again and old enough to know what I want.
After I graduated from college in the mid-1970s, Emma and I moved to Atlanta, a city on the rise, ‘too busy to hate.’ Times had changed; Southern Black folks didn’t have to go as far as New York, Detroit, or Chicago anymore for better paying jobs and other opportunities. With the new highway, Atlanta is only a five-hour drive from Bone and other nearby small towns, most folks could come home on the weekends if they wanted to; but the longer they lived in the city, the less they wanted to come home. I had stayed away a lifetime, nearly twenty years.
Sunlight floods through the car window. I pull the visor down on Emma’s side. She has fallen asleep with her headset in her ears. I smile. What will her life be like at Princeton? She’s grounded and not afraid. Only mother love is strong enough to steer me in the direction of Bone. Raising Emma on my own had been difficult in the beginning, being a single parent with limited resources and no family around for support, but somewhere along the way, the struggle had blossomed into joy. I don’t mind the smallness of our family. My life is easy and manageable, at least on paper.
Other than family, I’ve never been in contact with anybody from Bone since I left. I’ve played the routine role by remembering birthdays and holidays, and calling if somebody was ailing or was in some kind of trouble. I had long ago given up on searching for thoughtful gifts, when my sister Ruby told me, “They’d rather have the money.” After I stopped feeling hurt, I appreciated how easy it made my life.
To Be Continued