It was that time of year again. The little girl was told that she would be allowed to go back home, although it would only be for a limited stay. She would of course have to sign an agreement, stating that she would obey all the rules that had been set down by her mama and older sister, but she didn’t care what she had to sign. She would be at home!
The rules were strict. She wouldn’t leave her room unless she was told that she could. She would ask permission before she ate or drank anything, even if it was just a glass of water. It would be her job to wash the dishes after every meal and if she didn’t come to a meal immediately when she was called, she didn’t eat.
She would go to church. That was absolute law and she was not to question why she was the only one who had to go. It had been explained that she needed to go, so that maybe God could help her become a decent person.
It would be her duty to get up and fix her daddy his coffee every morning and make sure that her older sister got up in time to go to school but under no circumstances was she to enter her sisters’ room.
She was not to complain. She had willingly and eagerly signed an agreement and she was being given a gift. She should be grateful, she was told.
It was the only time of year when kinfolk would invade the house. Her mamas’ half-sister and brother-in-law would drive up from Florida. Granny would also be there.
Her daddys’ mama and papa wouldn’t be invited because her mama didn’t like them. Even though the little girl lived with them, she was too young to understand how sad they must have been to have Thanksgiving by themselves.
The kitchen would be a flurry of activity and wonderful smells would begin to waft through every room of the house. Her mama would be busy fixing turkey, dressing, sweet potato casserole, green beans, mashed potatoes and gravy, macaroni and cheese, and there would be cranberry sauce. Cranberry sauce was her favorite.
There would be apple and pumpkin pies and this year, there was going to be an added desert…one her older sister loved. Divinity fudge.
The table would be set and everybody would gather around to take their places. Her uncle would say a prayer. He was a Hell fire and brimstone Baptist preacher and acted the part, at least in front of the family. After everybody filled their plates and sat down, she would be allowed to fill hers. She wanted a taste of everything except the apple and pumpkin pies. She had never liked either one of those.
After her plate was filled, her aunt would say “your eyes are bigger than your stomach, I’ll bet. You should put some of that food back and not be so wasteful.” The little girl would put some of the food back and then sit outside the kitchen and eat. Her mama was a marvelous cook and everything was perfect.
She could hear chattering around the table. She could hear everybody laughing and heard her older sister ask if she could have some more turkey. She heard her daddy say “why, sure youngun’. Help yourself.”
After the feast, she was told to do her job. Everybody else went into the front room to chat a little more and savor some freshly brewed coffee. There would be moans and groans about how they were as full as a tick and praise for the wonderful meal they had just supped.
The little girl would take the wooden ladder that her daddy had cut in half and put it in front of the sink. Standing on that ladder was the only way she could reach it, and she had to wash the dishes. That had been in the agreement she signed.
On one side of the huge farm sink, pots and pans were stacked so high she could hardly reach them. On the other side were the dishes, glasses and silverware.
She carefully washed all the dishes, glasses and silverware and then dried them. They were put away in the Hoosier cabinet and she needed the ladder to reach it, too. The pots and pans were put in a drawer under the stove and it was to be done without making a “racket” as her sister had instructed.
It took hours to wash everything and by the time she had finished, her aunt, uncle and granny had left. None of them had come into the kitchen to say goodbye to her.
After the last pot was put away, she walked into the front room and asked if she could have a piece of fudge. Her sister looked at her and asked if she had paid for any of the ingredients. The little girl hung her head and said no. Her mama looked at her with an icy cold stare and asked her if she had helped in any way to make it. Again, the little girl said no. Her sister spitefully said “well then, you can’t have any.”
The little girl decided to break the rules and went into her mama and daddys’ bedroom without permission. She humbly asked her daddy if she could have a piece of fudge. When he asked her why she was asking him, she told him what her mama and sister said.
Her daddy got up and went into the front room and said “I pay for the goddamn groceries in this house and if this youngun’ wants a piece of fudge, she can have it.”
She knew she had angered her mama and sister and she knew that she would pay dearly for it later, but that piece of fudge was the most delicious thing she had eaten all day! It was even better than the cranberry sauce!
She received her punishment the next morning, when her mama woke her up by throwing the drawer of knives, forks and spoons in her face. She had left a piece of food on one of them, she guessed. After the little girl gathered up all the silverware and put it back in the drawer, her mama dragged her by the hair into the kitchen.
When she got there, every pot and pan and every dish and glass was sitting on the sink for her to wash again. The little girl guessed she had left a piece of food on everything.
She got the ladder out and put it in front of the sink. As she started washing them, her mama while sitting in the chair with a switch, snarled at her and said “if you’d use your right hand, maybe you could get something clean for a change.”
The little girl quickly switched the dishrag from her left hand to her right hand. She was careful to inspect everything she washed before she dried it and put it away.
When she went back to her room, all she could think was…Christmas was coming soon and she hoped that she would be allowed to stay until then. She prayed and asked God to make her mama and daddy let her stay.
She believed in Santa Clause and Christmas was her favorite time of year.