We gathered ourselves and got out of the car. The Ruby waiting expectantly, but properly at the top of the porch steps, clasped her hands against her plentiful bosom. One by one she hugged us as we came up the steps. Welcome she said many times, and I think she said to each one of us that we were pretty. When I reached her I was reminded of nuzzling into my grandma’s soft thick mattress, only her hug smelled like fragrant talcum and her dress was an ever so soft fabric. As she released me, from a hug I could have taken a nap in, she kissed my forehead and mumbled something in French, I heard “mon plus joli t choux” something like I was the prettiest little cabbage. It was only then that I noticed uncle Gus had been standing just behind her. He had been almost diminutive in her shadow. He was as welcoming as her but in a two handed handshake manly sort of way. I again realized as I had once before just what a happy couple they were.
My nose was snared just in the door by the wonderful aroma of coffee, bacon, and some enchanting pastry. It was a familiar scent. I knew it just on the tip of my memory…the smell of powdered sugar on a freshly fried beignet. Ahh… heaven awaited us. I rudely followed my nose on a mission. Flashes of the pleasant house passed as I found my way to the kitchen and the table. Then in splendor, the setting of coffee cups, saucers, bacon and sausage on a platter, cut up melons in a glass bowl, and…oh the beignets in the center were shining like the rising sun on a huge plate. I could think of nothing else at the moment but for all the folks to quit socializing and get in here and eat!
My memory deludes me next except for pleasure. We were all eating our doughnuts and coffee. In my bliss I recall the adults speaking in French, the taste of the powdered sugar, biting off each of the coffee dipped corners of my beignets, then I heard, “Well why don’t you stay with us for the day and for supper?”
“oh please, please can we stay.” I attempted through a mouthful of paradise.
“No” my dad said without ANY hesitation, which seemed so abrupt it truly shot me down…not even a chance to try and talk him into anything. But then he continued, gesturing towards my mom, “We have to get over to her brother’s place and get the papers signed. And then were going to go into Lake Charles to shop.” My uncle Cleo lived in some even tinier small town past here though his dealership was back in the even larger small town where we mostly stayed (with my maternal grandmother and cousins) in the summer.
I waited anticipating the next word… then aunt Chin did just as I was hoping, “Well then let the kid’s stay, and stop by for supper on your way back.” Immediately, “please, please, please, please” was interrupting from my mouth. My mother gave me the look and I hushed at once.
My parents looked at each other and seemed to be debating the idea, I felt like I could burst with impatience. Then my sibling saboteurs had to add that they wanted to go to Lake Charles. I couldn’t blame them. It was a sizable city compared to all the small towns where we usually stayed most of the summer. This was excepting the yearly trip to New Orleans for a few weeks to see family there. But as for me, something, and not just the beignets, but the whole soft welcome of this place and this couple, made me gladly forsake Lake Charles. I wanted to stay with aunt Chin, and so my mouth again expressed my feelings before my brain thought of restraint. “Shut up you stupids” I yelled, “I want to stay here.” My mother calmly took me by the arm without a word and escorted me to the hall where she abruptly put my nose in a corner. Then she walked back in the kitchen. This was not fair. I wouldn’t be there to fight my case!
My parents were debating the merits of taking the interstate back instead of ‘these old country roads’. “It would be quicker.” My dad said.
“And cooler, since we have no air-conditioning in THIS car.” my mom added with a tone that let me know then that even she did not like my dad’s new purchase. My dad sighed and for a split moment I kind of felt sorry for him. It seemed everyone was ragging on his new car.
Then uncle Gus interceded with, “Aww let de t-man stay, he can be our little helper. Den de rest of you can shop, and stop back by her for supper on de way back. He’ll jus be bored wit chu shoppin’ .” Great! He had just thrown me a floaty with a rope and was pulling me out of the deep end. I think he could see I was getting in hot water and figured to give my parents and me both a break. I wriggled in the corner waiting a response…would this work or would my floaty rope get cut?
“Ok.” My parents both agreed. I made a small leap.
“Noooo, It’ll be a HOT ride back,” my sister chimed in
“Do you want to join your brother in the hall,” my mother cautioned, “there’s another corner.”
So it seemed settled, I’d get to stay the whole day! “Can I come out of the corner now.” I yelled from my place. Being sure to keep my face buried deep in the corner, hoping the sound of my muffled voice would make my parents feel a little guilty in front of my aunt and uncle, and reprieve me.
“Ten minutes.” was my mother’s only response. But that was fine I didn’t care. I spent the next ten minutes daydreaming about my day ahead, while everyone else it seemed were readying to go. Next thing I knew they were all in the hallway. “Now?” I asked. My mom answered with an affirmative, and I turned around to my aunt Chin picking me up and smiling.
“You can be with me today, cher.” And she kissed my cheek as she propped me on her ample hip and carried me to the porch. We all said by. My mom kissed me and cautioned in my ear to behave. My dad tussled my head. My siblings were already getting in the car. Then they all pulled out of the driveway and were off. And my adventure I knew was about to start.
Sunday Drive: Stand by Me
2 days ago