فصل 21

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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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21

That week my mother went crazy cleaning the house, while I waited for something to happen. I thought it would be a telegram saying they weren’t able to come after all. I was sure God only wanted to punish me for a little while. Not for the whole spring vacation.

“Cheer up, Margaret,” my mother said over dinner. “Things are never as bad as they seem.”

“How can you be glad they’re coming?” I asked. “After all those stories you’ve told me about them- how?”

“I want to show them how well I’ve managed for fourteen years without their help. And I want them to see my wonderful family.”

My father said, “You can’t expect Margaret to be overjoyed when her plans have been changed at the last minute.”

“Look, Herb,” my mother said. “I haven’t forgiven my parents. You know that. I never will. But they’re coming. I can’t say no. Try to understand… both of you… please.”

My mother hadn’t ever asked me to do that before. Usually it was me asking her to try to understand.

My father kissed her on the cheek as she cleared away the dishes. He promised to make the best of it. I promised too. My mother kissed us both and said she had the best family in the world.

On April fifth my mother and I drove to Newark Airport to meet them. My father didn’t come. He thought it would be better if he stayed at home and greeted them there.

All the way to the airport my mother briefed me. “Margaret, I’m not trying to make excuses for my mother and father. But I want you to know that your grandparents have their beliefs too. And fourteen years ago… well… they did what they thought was right. Even though we know it was cruel. Their beliefs were that important to them. Am I making any sense to you?”

“Some,” I said.

When they announced the arrival of flight #894 from Toledo I followed my mother to the gate. I knew it was them right away. I knew it by the way they walked down the airplane stairs, clutching each other. And when they got closer I knew it by my grandmother’s shoes-black with laces and fat heels-old lady shoes. My grandfather had white hair around the edges and none on top. He was shorter and fatter than my grandmother.

They looked around a bit before my mother called out, “Here we are-over here.”

They walked toward us, growing more excited as they recognized my mother. She gave each of them a short hug. I just stood there feeling dumb until my grandmother said, “And this must be Margaret Ann.” When she said it I noticed the cross around her neck. It was the biggest one I ever saw. And it sparkled!

I didn’t want them to touch me. And maybe they could tell, because when my grandmother bent over, as if to kiss me, I stiffened. I didn’t mean to. It just happened.

I think my mother knew how I felt because she told them we’d better see about the luggage.

When we got home my father met us at our front door and carried in their suitcases. They had two of them. Both brown and both new.

“Hello, Herb,” my grandmother said.

“Hello, Mrs. Hutchins,” my father answered.

I thought how funny it was for my father to call her “Mrs.”

My grandfather shook hands with my father. “You’re looking well, Herb,” he said.

My father pressed his lips together but finally managed to say, “Thank you.”

I thought, this is harder on my father than it is on me!

My mother and I showed my grandparents to their room. Then my mother went down to see about dinner. I said, “If there’s anything you need, just ask me.

“Thank you, Margaret Ann,” my grandmother said. She had a funny way of scrunching up her mouth.

“You don’t have to call me Margaret Ann,” I said. “Nobody does. Just Margaret is fine.”

My mother really made a fancy dinner. The kind she has when she’s entertaining friends and I’m sent to bed early. We had flowers on the table and a hired lady to wash the dishes.

My mother changed into a new dress and her hair looked nice too. She didn’t look like her parents at all. My grandmother changed her dress too, but she still had the cross around her neck.

At dinner we all tried hard to have a conversation. My mother and my grandmother talked about old friends from Ohio and who was doing what these days. My grandfather said mostly, “Please pass the butter… please pass the salt.”

Naturally I used my best possible manners. In the middle of the roast beef course my grandfather knocked over his water glass and my grandmother gave him a sharp look, but my mother said water couldn’t possible hurt anything. The lady from the kitchen wiped it up.

During dessert my mother explained to my grandparents that she had just ordered all new living room furniture and she was sorry they wouldn’t be able to see it. I knew she hadn’t ordered anything yet, but I didn’t tell.

After dinner we sat around in the den and my grandfather asked my father such questions as:

Grandfather: “Are you still in the insurance business?”

Father: “Yes.”

Grandfather: “Do you invest in the stock market?”

Father: “Occasionally.”

Grandfather: “This is a pretty nice house.”

Father: “Thank you. We think so too.”

While my grandmother talked to my mother about:

Grandmother: “We were in California over Thanksgiving.”

Mother: “Oh?”

Grandmother: “Yes, your brother has a wonderful wife.”

Mother: “I’m glad.”

Grandmother: “If only they were blessed with a child. You know, they’re thinking of adopting.”

Mother: “I hope they do. Everyone should have a child to love.”

Grandmother: “Yes, I know… I’ve always wanted dozens of grandchildren, but Margaret’s all I’ve got.”

Then my mother excused herself to pay the lady in the kitchen, who signaled that her taxi was waiting out front. So my grandmother turned to me.

“Do you like school?” she asked.

“Most of the time,” I said.

“Do you get good marks?”

“Pretty good,” I said.

“How do you do in Sunday school?”

My mother came back into the den then and sat down next to me.

“I don’t go to Sunday school,” I said.

“You don’t?”

“No.”

“Father… (That’s what Grandmother called Grandfather. He called her “Mother.”)

“What is it, Mother?” Grandfather said.

“Margaret doesn’t go to Sunday school.” Grandmother shook her head and played with her cross.

“Look,” my mother said, trying a smile. “You know we don’t practice any religion.”

Here it comes, I thought. I wanted to leave the room then but I felt like I was glued to my seat.

“We hoped by now you’d changed your minds about religion,” Grandfather said.

“Especially for Margaret’s sake,” Grandmother added. “A person’s got to have religion.”

“Let’s not get into a philosophical discussion,” my father said, annoyed. He sent my mother a warning look across the room.

Grandfather laughed. “I’m not being a philosopher, Herb.”

“Look,” my mother explained, “we’re letting Margaret choose her own religion when she’s grown.”

“If she wants to!” my father said, defiantly.

“Nonsense!” Grandmother said. “A person doesn’t choose religion.”

“A person’s born to it!” Grandfather boomed.

Grandmother smiled at last and gave a small laugh. “So Margaret is Christian!” she announced, like we all should have known.

“Please… “ my mother said. “Margaret could just as easily be Jewish. Don’t you see-if you keep this up you’re going to spoil everything.”

“I don’t mean to upset you, dear,” Grandmother told my mother. “But a child is always the religion of the mother. And you, Barbara, were born Christian. You were baptized. It’s that simple.”

“Margaret is nothing!” my father stormed. “And I’ll thank you for ending this discussion right now.”

I didn’t want to listen anymore. How could they talk that way in front of me! Didn’t they know I was a real person-with feelings of my own!

“Margaret,” Grandmother said, touching my sleeve. “It’s not too late for you, dear. You’re still God’s child. Maybe while I’m visiting I could take you to church and talk to the minister. He might be able to straighten things out.”

“Stop it!” I hollered, jumping up. “All of you! Just stop it! I can’t stand another minute of listening to you. Who needs religion? Who! Not me… I don’t need it. I don’t even need God!” I ran out of the den and up to my room.

I heard my mother say, “Why did you have to start? Now you’ve ruined everything!”

I was never going to talk to God again. What did he want from me anyway? I was through with him and his religions! And I was never going to set foot in the Y or the Jewish Community Center-never.

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