When I was twenty years old, my second job was in the credit department at Sears, Roebuck & Co. I knew nothing about credit but because I had never missed a day of work at the telephone company or school, they hired me.
Back then (way back then), there were two kinds of credit offered. One was an SRC (Sears Revolving Charge) which worked pretty much like credit cards do today. The other was EP (Easy Payment) which meant you had to pay an agreed amount every month.
My family never talked to me about anything or anybody so I always had a natural curiosity about other people. I loved to hear their stories and learn things, like where they got their name. I never knew where I got mine.
One day a lady walked up to the counter just as I was about to go on break. I asked her if I could help and she said she wanted to pay her bill.
“This won’t take long,” I thought, so I took her money and asked her name.
“Easter B. Monday,” she said. I wasn’t sure if she was teasing me but I looked at her and said “what a cool name.” Sure enough, when I looked up her account, there was her name. Easter B. Monday.
After I marked her account, I told my supervisor that I was taking my break. I loved to walk around the store, silently punishing myself by looking at the things I could never afford to buy, like clothes and shoes.
I walked over to the escalators and sitting on one of the many benches flanked by huge metal ashtrays, sat Easter B. Monday. She looked at me, gave me a smile and waved.
Sometimes I think my daddy was right when he said “you’ve never met a stranger, have you?” Without so much as a by your leave, I brazenly plopped right down beside her.
I had seen some strange and unusual names. Names like Hiram, Harlan and Horatio. They didn’t pique my interest, although if Horatios’ last name had been Hornblower, I might have felt the need to find out more.
I came right out and said, “I’m curious. Would you mind telling me how you got your name?”
“Chile, I was born at home on Easter morning,” she said. “My mama said she knew right away that if I was a girl, my name was going to be Easter.”
“What does the ‘B’ stand for?” I asked.
“Basket. For the first few weeks, I slept in a basket at the foot of mama and daddys’ bed and my daddy named me for it. After a while, I slept in a dresser drawer. Then, I remember sleeping on some quilts that had been folded up and put on the floor. I don’t know how old I was when I got my first bed.”
She repeated her name. “Easter Basket Monday.” She let out a genuine, jovial laugh and said “I’ve been after trying to find me a husband whose last name is Sunday but I ain’t never found one.”
She went on as if hungry for conversation, as was I. “My mamas’ name was Sunny Ray Munroe. When she married my daddy she became Sunny Ray Monday.” She was straight-faced when she said “and my daddys’ name was Poke Salad Monday.” I couldn’t help but giggle and I thought she must be pulling my leg but she went on.
“His mama was a slave down in New Orleans and she named him after one of her favorite dishes. He wasn’t sure how old she was when she jumped the broom with his daddy but he thinks she was pretty young. Neither one of them could read or write so there aren’t any records.”
“He never knew his daddy and his mama never talked much about him. She only told him that before he was born, his daddy fell out of a tree and two days later, he died.”
“She died when my daddy was about 15. She got something wrong with her lungs and after she died, my daddy made his way up here. That’s where he met my mama.”
I didn’t come along until he and mama were might near too old. When I did, she named me Easter. She said I was a miracle and I was special because I was born on the day Jesus was resurrected.”
I asked if her mama was still alive. “Yes’um.” she said. “She sure is. She’s nigh onto ninety-eight years old. I take care of her. Why do you think I’ve never been able to find a husband?” Again, she just hollered.
Even at the tender age of twenty, I appreciated the sacrifice she was making by looking after her mama and I hoped that someday her “Mr. Sunday” would find her.
She told me that her daddy had died some years back and they couldn’t hardly get anybody to make him a tombstone. The stone mason thought they were being somewhat sacrilegious and turned them away at first, when they wanted the name “Poke Salad Monday” inscribed on it.
“Did they do it for you?” I asked.
“Yes’um. They sure did. He’s buried up there at the colored cemetery. Mama says she wants to lay down right beside him when the Good Lord calls her home and someday, I reckon I’ll be there too.”
Suddenly I looked up and saw my supervisor coming toward me. I had been gone for more than an hour. I got a severe reprimand but I didn’t care. I had no plans to have a career at Sears.
I will never forget that lovely woman who gave everything so freely. I admit that I secretly wished that she had been my mama. She gave me the gift of her smiles, her laughter and her stories. Although it has been more than forty years since that chance meeting, I have never forgotten her.
I never saw her again after that day. Maybe she came in to pay her bill on my day off or maybe our paths were only meant to cross once. Sometimes the briefest encounter can have the greatest impact.
Everybody has a story. This is hers. The story of Easter B. Monday.