Sweet Home Alabama
Copyright© 2013 by Robert McKay
After a bit Daddy came out, and he and I woke Cecelia up and walked her up to bed. I fell in beside her, and slept like the proverbial log – at least, I expect logs sleep so soundly and dreamlessly. I've got a whole series of silly questions in my head, like How sick is a dog? and How much fun is a barrel of monkeys? I could add to it, How soundly does a log sleep?
As always Cecelia was up before I was, even though I saw when I checked that it was only 6:30. Normally I'm only up that early when the clock wakes me up, but I'd gone to bed early the night before, and so even at that hour I'd gotten plenty of sleep. I put on my shirt and jeans, but left off socks and boots – I'd probably go out later, but for now I wasn't going to put forth any more dressing effort than I had to.
I walked down the stairs, which lead into the living room, and decided to prowl the house before I headed for the kitchen and a morning snack. It's a big old house, which goes back to the early 20th century – somewhere around World War I, I think. The people who built it originally must have been about the richest in Leanna at the time. The living room's huge, as big as our living room, dining room, and kitchen put together in Albuquerque. It's on the left side of the house as you go in the front door, with the stairway in the right rear corner of the room. In the left rear corner there's a doorway that leads to what we all call the parlor, though whether that's what it actually is I have no idea. None of us grew up in fancy houses with parlors and drawing rooms and such – Cecelia's childhood house was a shotgun shack, and mine was an Airstream trailer and a plywood shed even though Tony and Anna, the uncle and aunt who raised me, had plenty of money. But we call it the parlor, and when there are big gatherings, or when special company comes, Mama and Daddy press it into service as a sort of second living room, or a place to eat, or even a place to bed down two or three extra people.
The dining room's to the right side of the house as you're coming in the front door, and you pass into it from the living room through a doorway in the middle of the right-hand wall. It's about the size of our dining room at home, with a hutch of some sort – I know nothing about furniture – against the rear wall in which Mama keeps her good china. The table is dark, not an antique like Cecelia's, but solid and heavy and up to serous use. The kitchen is through a door in the right rear corner of the dining room, but after poking my head into the dining room and finding no one there, I headed back upstairs. Who said that my impulse to prowl was logical?
At the top of the stairs I could look right, to where there's a room that Mama and Daddy use for storage, and a trap door in the ceiling that leads to the attic, where I've never been and which, as far as I know, no one has ever used for anything. To the left are the bedrooms. As you face that way Mama and Daddy's huge bedroom is on the left, along with their equally huge bathroom. And on the right – which is the rear of the house – are the kids' bedrooms, not in alphabetical order. First there's Albert's room, then Cecelia's, and then Bella's. All the kids use their rooms on occasion, Albert and Bella most frequently since they still live in Alabama.
There's a window at the end of the hall, and I walked down and looked out of it. The tops of the trees that border the fence line between Mama and Daddy's property and the neighbor's field were just at eye level, and over them I could see, off in the distance, the hazy buildings of downtown Leanna, none of them more than three stories tall, and most of them dating back to around the time the house went up. The newest building downtown is the bank, and it's older than I am – the cornerstone dates it in 1957.
Leanna itself goes back to the 1870s – 1873 if I remember right. Freed slaves, still wary of whites, settled on land that no one else was currently using. Being uneducated they weren't able to build much of a political structure, and by the 1890s the town was under white control, but still with a majority black population, which is still the case, though the majority's down to just over 50% these days. All those buildings I could see in the humidity that already, so early in the day and in the year, made a haze over the land, were the result of white financing and white impetus. The bank's got a black member on the board of directors today, and there's about an equal number of black and white businesses in town, but the history is one of blacks doing all the heavy work, while whites had and kept the money and power for a very long time.
I turned and went back downstairs, this time passing through the dining room into the kitchen. It's the only room in the house which doesn't strike me as extra large, but then when the original owners built the house the kitchen had been out back, so that the heat of the wood stove wouldn't make the stickiness worse in those days when there was no such thing as air conditioning. Originally the kitchen I was in had been a pantry, which someone had reworked when gas and electricity had come in.
Mama was standing by the stove, while Cecelia cooked. I walked up behind Cecelia, wrapped my arms around her, and gave her a kiss on the cheek. "You sleep good?" I asked.
"Very well indeed, beloved. And I'm sure you slept equally well – when I awoke you were flat on your back, looking like a sarcophagus figure in some European abbey."
"I guess the dead do sleep well, physically at least," I said with a grin. I looked at what she was doing. "What's in the omelet?"
"Hearing you move about, I quickly diced onions and ham, and grated some cheese. I have here as well bacon, fried crisp and crumbled, and hash browns left over from breakfast. The only spices available are a bottle of La Victoria taco sauce, which is on the table, and a bit of garlic – not too much, just enough to provide a distinct flavor."
"I don't know that they's such a thing as too much garlic."
"And I do not know that there is such a thing as a grammatical utterance from your mouth."
I looked over at Mama. "You see how she picks on me?"
Mama grinned. "You 'spect me to do somethin' 'bout it?"
"Well, I'd thought of it, but I don't guess you're gonna, are you?"
"Cissy give me lip I'll swat her good, but if she's just pesterin' you, that's your lookout."
"I see how you are," I said, and leaned over to give Mama a kiss on the cheek.
"How I am is a ol' woman with a smart mouf son."
"You shouldn't ought to talk about Albert thataway."
She swatted me on the arm. "I meant you, Darvin!"
I laughed. "Well, I guess it's better than being a dumb mouth son."
Just then Cecelia deftly slid the omelet out of the skillet onto a plate. "Darvin, go eat, and cease to harass my mother."
"My mother too," I said, taking the plate in one hand and a fork in the other as she handed them to me.
"I will grant that – but she was mine before she was yours."