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Sometimes I can’t fall asleep. The cold wind coming through the draft downstairs makes me shiver, even under the quilt mama made me. I used to never feel that draft – mama would call me her personal fireplace, always warm and toasty, and she would cling on to me with her soft thick fingers, put her head against mine. Now I feel cold all the time. I told dad that and he said he would do something about it, but he ain’t fixing it anytime soon.
Mama and I – we had some good times together. If we were both in the kitchen working our parts, we could whip out an entire meal with all the fixins in about fifteen minutes. It took me one minute and twenty-eight seconds to get to her work from school – if I ran. She timed me once. She used to tell me, “ Run Lessie run. Run fast Lessie, wherever you want to go, wherever you got to go. You run ahead and just keep on going.”
It wasn’t easy losing her, especially since she passed away in autumn – my favorite season. Kids at school kept on saying things like, “Lessie’s gonna be a whole new person without her mama.” and “I feel horrible for that girl Lessie, Lessie Hays.” Once I opened my locker and a pink envelope fell out sealed with a frog sticker. I had never really gotten a letter before, all folded up on real nice paper. I showed it to daddy and he said I would be getting a lot of those things, and come November I had a three-foot pile of sealed shut “Dear Lessie” letters. People cared.
In March I broke my ankle. I was climbing the old willow tree and fell hard. Daddy, who was at the Winn Dixie Mart getting some bread, came home and found me lying on the ground crying. Daddy asked me why I was crying as he held me tight in his arms. I couldn’t reply, but it wasn’t even the pain that was making me cry - it was the thought that I couldn’t run for mama.
Dinners were real quiet. All I could here was dad chewing on his potatoes and me scraping my peas together and never putting them in my mouth. But then in June daddy met Clara. Clara worked at the public library from Tuesday to Sunday and had a little art gallery at the edge of town. I hated to say it but she was real pretty, long blonde hair that she would put up in interesting ways when it was hot outside and big cheekbones. She was only a little bit shorter then daddy and he’s 6’3”. Dinners weren’t quiet anymore. Clara would have the funniest jokes to tell, and the most astounding stories to go on about. She wasn’t anywhere near as good as mama, but she sure could keep us laughing. She would bring me the best books that I couldn’t put down once I started reading them and showed me how to paint the willow tree and the lilacs growing out of the ground. In the fall, Clara moved in with us, bringing along nothing but an old brown trunk with a couple of her belongings in it.
I didn’t like it when she slept where mama used to sleep – it wasn’t right. One night I cried till midnight into my pillow. The wind coming through the draft smelled like mama and I could here Daddy and Clara laughing downstairs together. I remember when mama and daddy used to laugh until sunrise – daddy squeezing mama’s feet, mama telling a story about when they first met. It would put me right to sleep that sound.
And then in January it happened. Clara was pregnant. I couldn’t really put words to the thoughts running through my head – it all happened so fast. And daddy knew I was upset. He started coming upstairs and reading me poetry books until I fell asleep to make me feel better. He held my hand until my hand slipped from his grasp in slumber. He made his homemade tomato soup for me and took me on long drives down the dirt road – let me stick my feet out of the passenger seat window. And after I got a little more used to the whole situation Clara knocked on my door and came over to sit on the edge of my bed. She gave me a pencil drawing of a bird flying out of a tree and handed me a couple of books about cooking cause she knows I love that. She told me that Daddy’s never going to stop loving me when that baby came, and she told me that I probably hated her for all that was happening. I told her I didn’t hate her. She gave me a rub on the back and then got up from my bed and walked out.
In October I was asleep when I heard a wail. Clara had been having contractions all night but this one was the strongest. I knew it was time and I heard daddy yell my name from downstairs in a different way, like he needed me. I jumped out of bed and threw on my jeans and sweater then ran downstairs to see Clara sweaty and panting. It was scary. She looked ill. Daddy told me to grab his car keys and the overnight bag he packed for the hospital. I grabbed Clara’s shoes and slid them on her and picked up her feet and daddy and I helped her out the door. It was pitch black out side so we had to feel around for car key slot to open the doors. We helped Clara into the back seats and she laid down there. I sat up front with daddy. He squeezed my hand and I squeezed back and he put the car in gear and we drove off.
In the hospital I sat in the waiting room. It was all white with fluorescent lights and I could here the squeaking of wheelchairs and stretchers. I heard wails similar to Clara’s and cries from the ones who had lost someone. The last time I had been at the hospital was for my broken ankle. The time before was when mama died. The truck hit her straight on as she was driving to pick me up from Lucy’s house across town. She was out in a flash - no waking up. I started crying after mama had been an hour late for picking me up, sobbing when it reached two. Now I sat waiting for the new life of someone I had never met before. It had been about three hours when I woke up on the waiting room chairs from a woman who poked me and asked if the seat I was laying on was taken. I got up quickly and shook my head. It was five thirty in the morning. I looked at the exit sign above the door and began lacing up my shoes. Before I knew it I was pushing the double doors open and running out.
I ran down the highway and made a right on to Weebly Lane. I ran underneath the arch of the maple trees where I could just barley see the sun peeking out through the leaves. I ran down Sycamore Street, and I thought as I ran. I love running, I love cooking - even if it takes me more then fifteen minutes without the help of mama. I love five thirty in the morning, I love daddy, I love mama, I love sealed shut envelopes, I love tomato soup, I love my name Lessie, I love mamas thick fingers when she rubs them on my back, I love the draft in our house, I love Clara, I love the books she gives me and the paintings she draws and shows me. I love the baby. I thought about mama. Then I thought about Clara and Daddy and the baby I’ve never met before. I looked out on the water and the mountains and the sun coming up.
I stopped for a moment. Then I turned around, and ran ahead until I reached the point, where I wanted to be.