I asked mama if I should just play along. “Wouldn’t that be like lying?” I said.
Now mind you, I could lie without compunction, given they were just little white lies but somehow it seemed almost sacrilegious to lie to Miss Emmogene.
Mama said “there’s a difference between lying and pretending. Miss Emmogene isn’t lying. She’s pretending and you’ll just be pretending with her.” She smiled and said “as you get older and wiser, you’ll learn the difference between deception and pretension.”
Mama always used big words like that. When I asked her what they meant, she would point to the dictionary and say “look it up. If I tell you, you’ll remember it for a day but if you look it up, you’ll remember it for a lifetime.”
Mama had a lot of wisdom. She was by far no pushover and nobody would ever accuse me of having her wrapped around my little finger but I knew she was one of those mama’s who would stand up and roar if anybody messed with me.
On the way to Miss Emmogene’s house the next day, I ran into the terror twins. True to form, they were trying to rattle me by singing “J-Lee’s got a girlfriend…J-Lee’s got a girlfriend.” Using my quick wit, I responded “and the terror twins don’t….the terror twins don’t.”
As they were walking away, giggling, I heard them mumble something about “dried up.” With a sense of superiority I had never before felt, I walked up to them, looked them square in the eye and said “careful. There’s a spell for that.” With an exploding gesture of my hand and a forceful blow from my lips, I sent them running home screaming for their mama.
When I got to Miss Emmogene’s house, our cookie and brew fest turned from jokes to serious questions. She asked me what I wanted to be when I got older. I thought it was interesting that she didn’t ask the same, tired old question, “what do you want to be when you grow up?”
I told her that I wanted to make a difference in the world. “I want to be a leader,” I said. She asked if I wanted to go into politics and perhaps be the president. I told her that I really didn’t care what I did as long as I was a leader.
She looked at me and said “leadership is about submission to duty, not elevation to power. Remember that.” I laughed and told her that sounded like something my mama would say.
“My mama says that it really doesn’t matter if you’re rich or famous. It doesn’t mater if there are monuments or statues or airports named after you. What matters is that you leave your own unique mark on the world. A mark that will make somebody someday say “they were a truly extraordinary person and they will never be forgotten.”
Miss Emmogene said “your mama is a wise woman.” I looked at her and thought, real or not, her beau was that kind of person. He had left his mark on her and even amidst the sometimes hint of sadness, I could see the sheer joy in her face when she spoke of him. To her, he was that truly extraordinary person.
I changed the subject and asked Miss Emmogene if he would like to come to our house for supper sometime. “I’m sure it would be okay with mama,” I said. “She’s a pretty good cook and can make fried green tomatoes that will, as she puts it ‘grow hair on your chest’.”
Miss Emmogene laughed out loud and said “well, I’m not sure I would be wanting hair to start growing on my chest and I’m not sure my beau would like it either.” She walked over and patted me on the cheek and said “thank you J-Lee but I mustn’t leave my house.”
When I asked her why, she said “what if my beau should arrive and I wasn’t here? He might think I had abandoned him.” She sat down in her rocking chair and said “no. I will wait right here until the day he walks through my front door and when that day comes, I want to be standing here in my red satin dress, waiting for him.”
To be continued_________________