Running Home: The Introduction
My mother was the center of my universe, my best friend, and the most loving and faithful person that I knew. Momma was bold! She loved Jesus, and you could tell how important He was to her by watching the way she lived. Momma was not afraid of death. She never wavered; her faith remained strong until she took her final breath. I wish my faith was as strong as hers. My emotions grew deeper every second.
I love you, momma.
Thoughts and memories are all I have left now. The funeral service was scheduled for today and I didn’t know how I was going to face one person, let alone a crowd. I wanted to escape and got lost in my thoughts so completely, I wasn’t aware of what was going on around me. I could barely see the silhouette of a man coming my way through the milky fog of the winter day.
“Excuse me, sir, I’m looking for someone who can tell me a little bit about Melda Lemaster,” the man announced. He stepped quietly, inching closer to where I was. “I don’t know her that well and a lady pointed me in your direction.”
He stepped quietly, continuing to come towards me.“Sir?”
When I didn’t respond, the man started to walk away.
“Call me Gordon. I’m her son.” I called out in a loud voice, surprised I had responded at all.
“I’m Pastor Perry,” he replied, shaking my hand nervously. “Pastor Brown is out of town this week, and I was asked to take over the funeral service for your mother. He looked at me sympathetically.
“I can only imagine how difficult this is you, and I hate to impose, but I need to know a little bit about her life before the service begins.”
Tears welled up in my eyes as words slowly began to form in my head.
“Of course, you do, my momma was a fighter! It’s the one word that describes her. She was a true warrior!” It amazed me how a woman who had gone through so much could still serve the Lord and live her life to the fullest.
As I looked up, I realized that Pastor Perry was patiently waiting for me to say something else. He was a gracious man, motioning me towards a wooden bench under a nearby tree. We sat side- by- side and I found myself scrambling for words.
“We have plenty of time. Why don’t you tell me about this fighter of yours?” he prompted gently.
Setting-1931 (Poor Farm-Melda Speaking)
“Melda, come inside before your supper gets cold!” A familiar voice echoed from the shack several feet away. I had always been somewhat of a daydreamer. I liked to come outside in the evenings just to sit and ponder over life, wondering what awaited me. There isn’t much to do around here, though if you’re looking for country living, then I suppose these parts are somewhere you’d want to be. West Virginia is a beautiful place. I’ve grown up on what’s called a poor farm, where farmland stretches as far as the eye can see. Everybody works on the land just to keep roofs over their heads. Daddy drives the school wagon, while Mama takes care of all ten of us kids. The older boys help tend the farm, but us girls help Mama with all the housekeeping, cooking, and washing. I’ve been learning to sew; it’s my favorite thing to help with. My brothers’ clothes are always getting torn, or becoming too small.
“Coming!” I replied quickly, as soon as I recognized my Daddy’s voice.
As I walked past the tomato garden, I noticed a new plant that had somehow been broken. Its remains laid lifelessly on the ground with strings attached to its limb in an attempt by someone to fix it. I said nothing but greeted my father warmly as he led me into the tiny one-room house. I could smell the familiar scent of pinto beans and cornbread. Mama’s bean pot was big enough to feed an entire army. Sylvia, my mother, who grew up as the next to the oldest of fourteen kids, only knew how to fix large suppers. Cooking and sewing were her favorite parts of the day. Everyone was already seated at the dinner table as I sat down beside Mama. All of them probably wondered what I had always found so interesting to spend my evenings before supper aimlessly staring outside. To be honest, the fresh air of nature and the atmosphere of the farm felt comforting. It was home. The quiet was a nice escape from the noise of so many in such a tiny space. My youngest brother, James, spoke up before anyone else had a chance. He was always the first to speak his mind.
“Mellie, quiet is boring! Playing in the creek is so fun!”, he playfully poked at me, wearing a slightly puzzled look on his face.
“What? I found a spot with some nice clouds. I like to have time to myself sometimes. “ I replied, slightly defensive.
“You two, hush and eat,” Mama ordered.
My siblings and I always picked at each other like that; nothing was ever meant by it. Six girls and four boys are the heart of this family: Clara, Georgia, Sarah, Della, Grace, and myself plus Johny, Will, Jack, and James. It was a fun-loving bond we all had as a family. That’s one thing Mama and Daddy taught us: we always needed each other. My Daddy was the huge teddy bear I could count on, and Mama was quiet and not as worrisome over me, but we bonded over sewing and spent a lot of time together.
“Has anyone seen our tomato plants lately?” John said, quizzingly. “A pesky squirrel got into one of ‘em. Took my spool of string too. Darn thing must’ve tried to fix it himself.” John let out a laugh.
“Oh really?” replied Mama. “I never noticed it went missing.” She looked over to Jack and James at once and winked, reassuringly. My mother was the keeper of all secrets. No matter how firm she could be, you could trust her with anything. Us girls helped clean up after dinner, as the boys returned to play outside until dark. As quickly as the day had come, nighttime came around and it was time for bed. Little living space made for tight quarters, but all were situated well. We were always comfortable and slept without complaint. We were lucky to even have what we had; Mama called it a true blessing.
As everyone was settling in, James cautiously stood beside Daddy. I wondered what he had done this time. They were always into mischief, being the two youngest boys. Mama was always loving on the two of them the most. James was the child with the biggest heart of all. He couldn’t tell a lie, and he most certainly couldn’t keep a secret. I suspected Mama knew something already- I was sure of it. Anytime James tried to hide something, Mama always let him know she knew by winking at him with a smile to soften his nerves. Even though Daddy was a soft person, he loved his garden, and James knew he couldn’t live holding onto a secret. He had to tell him the truth of what had happened.
“Daddy, can I tell you something?” James asked.
“Well, sure!” John replied, scooping the boy in his lap. “What’s the matter?”
“Me and Jack sort of tore up your tomato plant. We didn’t mean to, honest.” James looked apologetic.
“Oh, your Mama already told me!” He confided with a hug. “I got another one. We might be a little late having tomatoes this year!” With that, Daddy scooped James up in his arms and put him to bed. Coming back to be with Sylvia, he suddenly felt an overwhelming tiredness; he had a busy day, he reasoned. The farm was hard work, but he loved it.
“What a day, Sylvi.” he kissed his wife on the cheek. “These kids of ours are something else.”
“There’s never a dull moment. Why don’t you rest? You look awfully worn out.”
“Ah, farmers never sleep. There’s too much work to do. Sylvia looked at him with a hard glance.
“For a few hours, of course” he relented, forever caught by the wind of Sylvia’s dazzling smile.
As the days would go by, the story would continue, with each day or week bringing its own set of challenges. One reason I was always so proud of my family was because we loved each other and knew that family was the most important part of life. It was the foundation of all great things, the foundation of a home we could run to. A foundation of love and laughter; no one person or thing could come between us as a family. The best part of living each day was the journey that we shared on the run to our loving home.