Grandmother’s House: Excerpts from Chapter 8

…Soon after we got to Jacksonville, Momma checked into the hospital for depression.  “What’s depression?” I asked Billy as we sat on a bed in our grandmother’s front bedroom.

“I think it means you cry a lot and are always sad,” Billy said. He began to describe the room we were in. “This room has eight windows and two walls,” he said. “It has a fireplace with another fireplace just below it in the living room. They share a chimney.  Grandmother has Oriental rugs in this bedroom and they are really old.”

“Peggy, Billy, come eat your supper,” called Clara, my grandmother’s cook. Billy ran down the stairs toward the front hallway with me in hot pursuit. I counted five familiar steps to a landing, then three final steps to the hallway. I made my way to the sitting room and felt for my TV tray, then felt for my place on the sofa to sit with the tray in front of me.  Clara always served us on TV trays with newspaper underneath to catch any spills. “I’m putting the newspaper under your TV tray right now,” Clara said. I heard the newspaper crinkle and the light thud of the tray as she set the legs on the newspaper.

I smelled fried chicken and in a moment Clara put a plate on my tray. “You have fried chicken and rice and gravy and squash and string beans and a hot biscuit all buttered. Don’t that sound good, darlin? Now, I’m gonna go get Billy’s.”

“Oh, go on, Billy,” Clara said. I knew he had jumped up and untied her apron. Billy and I ate in silence. I could hear my grandmother’s voice in my head saying, “Chew with your mouth closed.” My favorite part of supper was dessert. “Here’s your vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce,” Clara said. “The spoon is in the bowl on your right.” “Thank you, Clara,” I said. I stirred my vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce together until I had soup.


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