I can’t say I felt much love for my Mama. There was nothing wrong with her. She took care of us and fed us and sent us off to school. But much of the time she always seemed to be mad about something and never passed up the opportunity of finding fault. So it was a big surprise to all of us when Mama started having an affair with Deacon Cunningham, the substitute deacon at our church. Even Daddy seemed surprised.
Of course no one was supposed to know about it. In our small town lies spread like wildfire and the truth even faster. At first none us believed it. My sister Dede was the one that told me about it and I started laughing. But she told me that it was the truth but not say anything for Daddy’s sake so I stopped laughing and kept my mouth shut. I knew it was true when Mama started acting a little strange. She would hum and Mama never hummed. She also started dressing a little better even around the house.
She acted like we were supposed to treat her different. She told me “I don’t the tone of your voice young man” when all I said was yes. I hardly ever gave her more than one word answers if I answered her at all. She told Daddy “it’s about time I got some help around this house.” Daddy worked twelve hours a day, six days a week so he was not sure what she meant by that. My sister and I did about two hours of chores after school and we both had jobs on the weekend. Mama didn’t work and stayed home all day and she said she needed help.
After she started the affair she wanted to go out to dinner every Friday night at the town restaurant. She put on airs with the waitress who ignored her most of the time. Mama would say how hard it must be to get good people to work in these places. She talked the whole time and even got Daddy to talk and he was a man of few words. One time at dinner Daddy told a story of something that happened at work and my Mama leaned her head back and laughed and laughed and laughed. It was the oddest thing. We heard her laugh before but never did we hear her laugh so long and so loud. It was almost scary. The story was funny but I think Daddy had told it before and the last time she acted like he didn’t say anything.
One Thursday night I got home from baseball practice and Daddy was watching TV. Mama wasn’t there so I sat down. During one of the commercials he said that there was some food warming in the oven and that Mama was at a club meeting. He sort of shook his head. It was then I realized that my Daddy didn’t love Mama either. No one loved her except for maybe Deacon Cunningham.
Friday before dinner I heard Daddy tell Mama we got to eat and since nothing is cooked it made sense to go out and that she would feel better once we got there. When my sister Dede came home she told me that Deacon Cunningham was starting to see this single woman from the church and he had dumped Mama. That was why she didn’t want to do to dinner. We all sat quiet in the restaurant and Mama didn’t even say a word to the waitress. She didn’t put on a stick of make-up and she had on one of her old house dresses. She looked so sad. Daddy, Dede and I looked at each other from time to time and I could tell from the way we looked that we all wished that Mama would find herself a new man.
Chay Lemoine is a Halldor Laxness scholar with articles and stories published in Muscadine Lines, Mannlif, Grapevine, and Logberb Heimskringla. He currently lives in Edwardsville, Illinois.