Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Need Be

Momma always told me to get a good education.

"LilyAnn," she chimed. "Don't do what I did. I've got nothing but your papa, and y'll know he's questionable at times. What if you don't find that with someone? A decent relationship? With that unbelievable head of yours—" And here she'd point the stained wooden spoon or threadbare dust rag she had tethered to her hand in my direction, "—you should be able to get a good, proper, and useful education. That Bachelor's degree, heck, maybe even a fancy Master's or MBA. So you'll be able to support yourself if need be. Cause sometimes, the need be."

I listened to Momma every time her beautiful pink lips released those words into the muggy Georgia air, strung together like her own personal mantra. I wondered if someone had said "the need be" to her at one time in her life and the truth was that she just hadn't taken that phrase to heart.

I tucked the thought into the back of my mind and made my way forward, pushing through the sticks and stones of elementary school, the pitfalls of middle school, and then the full-blown landmines that seemed to go along with high school in a small southern town. Somehow, my incredible head always got me past the obstacles that cropped up along the way. And when I was 16 (far too young, I can see now), with that unbelievable head of mine, I found myself a scholarship and enrolled full-time in college.

My head and all the rest of me spent four years getting a "good, proper, and useful" education, and by 20, I was to be a college graduate, ready to embark on the world, eager to find my place and make something of myself.

But as I look down at the mass of students gathered in the stadium, I'm worried. The sun glints off the metal seats and I find myself moving my hand to shield my eyes so that I can attempt to hone in on Momma and Papa among the multitude of families who fan themselves with the commencement program. I glance to the right, where two fellow graduates chirp and whistle to one another, their long highlighted hair spilling down their slender backs, their feet encased in four-inch heels. The only part of them that looks like me is the gown they wear, silky and soft, it drapes over their bodies in a way that I wish it would hang over mine.

Alas, the gown can't manage such behavior against my overly warm and bloated body. The velvety smoothness of the cloth starts out in the correct direction, lying over my heaving bosom in a wash of fabric, but then, it finds the huge bump of my belly, the mountain that cannot be contained beneath my graduation gown, the mound that is right now being pummeled from the inside by a tiny life I helped create.

I realize with a start that I have gotten the wrong kind of "good, proper, and useful" education. And now, Lord Almighty, the need be.


1 comment:

S. B. House said...

Good story, I like it :)