Running Home: The Comfort Of His Refuge (Part 1)
December 1943-Charleston, West Virginia
The twists and turns that come with a new chapter in life are something to embrace. There’s always room to grow from every situation. That’s the true definition of adventure. As Gordon sat in silence for the next few moments, he could feel Pastor Perry watching him. He wasn’t sure how to continue. The words just wouldn’t come. The story was deep enough now that his childhood memories carried their own set of emotions. A cold wind blew right threw his coat as he spoke. He knew that Pastor Perry was hoping his prodding encouraged him to keep telling the story. It worked like a charm. The weather became too much for them, so they decided to move inside the church for a bit. The two men found a small, unoccupied room and sat down on the red cushioned chairs.
“I’m surprised that your dad never made a fuss about up and movin’ like that.” Pastor Perry said, wearing a perplexed expression on his face.
The last story had been a lot to take in. Life in the city was an adjustment.
“Oh, Dad did feel a bit uncomfortable at first. Once his lungs started recovering, he started feeling like his normal self.”
Gordon tried to push back the memory of a conversation he overheard one night. He and Mavarine were supposed to be asleep. It was one of the few times Frank ever challenged Melda’s independence.
“Ya know, I just don’t know why you didn’t talk to me first. You just up and decided. You didn’t even consider that we’re a family!” Dad’s voice rang more of frustration than anger.
Momma didn’t back down.
“We was in town for your doctor visit, and I thought it’d be a nice distraction for me. You know I don’t handle stress that good, and the kids could use a change of pace. Why can’t you just be happy?” Momma stomped her foot, and talked about the shop, as if trying to convince Dad of its magic. “Oh, honey if you’d just come meet the shop owner, you would just love her. Hillman’s really does make me feel joy. I haven’t ever felt that kind of happiness.”
Dad’s voice grew cold as he continued to listen.
“Well, what is that supposed to mean?”
Mavarine and I froze. We’d never heard them argue like this. Momma took a breath, thinking her next words over carefully.
“Nothing dear, it’s just that I wanted to do somethin’ a little for myself.” She patted Dad’s shoulder, attempting to soothe him. “I know you ain’t felt the same since you got sick, but there’s no sense in gettin’ yourself all worked up.”
Dad sat down on the living room couch in silence and after a few minutes, stomped off to bed. Mavarine and I hurried back to our beds before he saw that we were awake. The living room light stayed on as Momma took out her sewing and continued work on a dress. That’s what Momma always did late at night. Especially if she had a lot on her mind.
Despite the initial tension, Momma and Dad soon settled into city life quite well. Both parents working was not all that common, but Momma and Dad were always out to make the best life for their family. Even if it meant living a life that was a bustling sort of busy. Farm life seemed like a lifetime ago for them now. Momma loved the women she worked with, and she felt a sense of peace knowing that she was using something she knew to help the family.
As December rolled around, the Christmas parade came to town. Our baby cousin Anna would be in it this year, and Aunt Della thought it might make Dad feel more at home with his new surroundings. Even though he had gone back to work, he met all the changes with hesitance.
“Awe, look there she is!” Aunt Della said, her voice ringing with joy. Momma and Mamaw Sylvia smiled with as baby Anna made her appearance.
The whole family had come to watch her, and then later Momma and Dad planned to go Christmas shopping. Mavarine’s eighth birthday was just around the corner as well, and she was still begging for the Molly doll. The night was pleasant. The family was together. Time stopped for a moment. Life was great.
“Ain’t she adorable?” Aunt Della shouted over the noise of the crowd.
As the parade ended, and the crowds returned to the normal kind of busy. Momma, Dad, Mavarine, and I started walking down the street. Momma and Dad went on with their plans to do some Christmas shopping.
“I’m so excited!” Momma said while looking into windows. She enjoyed the sights around her. Christmas music playied on the street. Store shelves were filled with so many toys. Momma and Dad took us into several stores where children were laughing.
In the blink of an eye, chaos erupted
Dad caught Mavarine as she plummeted to the ground. Momma let out screams of terror as she and Dad noticed blood pouring out of her chest, forming a thick pool of dark red that surrounded her tiny body. Mavarine became and lifeless in an instant.
Time froze. I heard nothing but Momma screaming. Mavarine fell backwards right before that. I could feel my heart pounding. At five-years-old, I didn’t understand a lot, but I knew something terrible had happened. I was terrified. I started to tremble.
“My baby! My baby!” Momma screamed in horror as she embraced Mavarine. “Someone help my baby!” Grief stricken, Momma sobbed. Her words were incoherent. “What happened?!” Momma collapsed in to a ball on the sidewalk. Realizing her sudden loss, Momma went into shock.
A nearby toy store owner called the police. They arrived quickly and tried to calm Momma down.
“You don’t understand. We was just walkin’ and then she is gone. What happened to my baby?” Momma cried.
“Ma’am, we’re doing everything we can to figure out what happened. But, you’re little girl is gone. A bullet went right through her chest cavity.” The policeman said, his hands gripping her shoulders gently as he faced her. “We don’t know where the bullet came from. But we will find out.”
The policeman ushered us away from the scene. Momma held onto me as tight as she could. I felt her shaking body and the pounding of her heart. She didn’t let me go that night. As I stopped trembling, I felt the tears rushing down my face. I buried my face in Momma’s chest. She held me so tight that moving was a struggle. But I didn’t care. I didn’t know what to do, so I cried.
My sister was gone. Just like that. Smiling and laughing one minute, lifeless the next.
“Woah.” Pastor Perry’s face was pale as his jaw hit the floor. “That poor baby. That just breaks my heart.” For the first time, we both started to cry sorrowfully. “Gordon, I am so sorry for your loss. What a tragedy.”
I wiped at my eyes that were now flowing with tears. They continued to pour out.
“Did they find out how it happened?” Pastor Perry asked after a few minutes.
“An investigation revealed that it was a freak accident. A guy was cleaning his gun when it went off. The bullet ripped through the building and ricocheted, hitting my sister.”
Pastor Perry let out a horrified gasp and put his hand over his mouth. “Oh my goodness!”
I grew overwhelmed by the memory of the loss. I never forgot that. It shaped who I became.
“How do you get over something like that?” Gordon asked, staring blankly. My face was wet and blotchy.
“There’s no way you can.” Pastor Perry replied, sadly. “I am so sorry.” He hugged me as we stood in silence for a few more minutes.
“In God is my salvation and my glory; the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God” (Psalm 62: 7 King James Version)