“Ugh, the spam has run amuck.”
I gripe to an empty house and start deleting. My extermination is halted when an ad containing feather accents for hair appears.
“I’m listening, Father. Gel and I do need to talk. A good heart-to-heart with laughter, heavy doses of Your Word and prayer is long overdue.”
Two weeks later, classical chimes echo through the vintage Victorian in which I am grateful to reside with my husband, Mark, and our daughters. Trashing propriety like spam, I sprint past the wall flanked by custom-made bookcases bulging with hardback treasures. Squealing all the way to the grand entrance, I fling wide the ornate door to my flamboyant friend, Giselle Goldston.
She stands on the painted slats of our rocking chair porch with a huge white smile contrasting her rich skin. My family members resemble pale peaches, so I adore Gel’s chocolaty caramel skin. But really, it’s her heart I enjoy the most.
We grab each other in a swaying bear hug, hopping, laughing and yelping. Two walkers pass on the section of historic sidewalk in front of our home. With such commotion taking place, they crane their necks to view the action. I hardly notice.
“Gel! I’m so happy you’re here.”
“Ooo, jus’ look achoo, gir’.” Giselle lives in Summit, Tennessee with her husband and five children, and has just completed her master’s in business administration. Her family owns a fleet of restaurants across Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama named South Roast, voted Best of the South. They roast pigs, birds, veggies, and organic coffee beans. Giselle is also an adjunct literature instructor at Summit University with a PhD in English. I love it when she speaks slang.
Through the garden path flanked with fragrant flora, I lead her to an iron table set with sweet tea, sandwiches, and mini muffins. For a leisurely hour, we catch up. Just being in company with my former college roommate brings deeper thoughts out in the open. With her, there is freedom to be transparent.
“Gel, I laughed and cried three times through Southern Sixties. You see it?”
“Love. It. My brave ancestors came to mind and I cried, but I also thanked God for their faith.”
“I wept over my family too, not because of their faith, but because of their prejudice. Not just prejudice, but they were ungodly in their attitude toward folks of color. Gel, this is painful and embarrassing for me to say, but my Dad’s parents and grandparents had the audacity to claim heaven is for whites only. The shame of this dogged me for forty years.”
“Phoebe, you know an apology isn’t necessary. It was them, not you.”
“I know, but the sins of my fathers interfered with our friendship. You know when I moved out the fall of our senior year at Three Rivers College?”
“Yeah, you needed to save money and moved back home, right?”
“There’s more to it. Dad strongly disapproved of our friendship and didn’t speak to me or look at me when we were roomies. I couldn’t bring myself to tell you. I was hurt and angry. For so long, I was bitter toward him. But God is good. Through the surgery of Romans 8:28 and a most mysterious and perplexing circumstance—which is another story for another day—God excavated the shameful heaviness from my heart and worked out pains of the past for good. So, the only natural thing to do was extend the love and forgiveness to Dad.”
Gel grasps my hands and prays. “Loving Father, forgive Phoebe’s Dad, for he knows not what he does. Free him from the sins of his fathers and open wide his horizons to share Your goodness with a love-starved world. May he see beyond appearances and into the hearts of people.”
We walk the garden path toward her car, and by the front gate, she pins me in a headlock.
“Whew! It’s junior high days again when you bullied me all over the place.”
“Couldn’t help it. You were easy prey with those everyday dresses made by yo Momma and that nappy long hair stringing down yo back. But I’s just jealous of all that hair, with mine in corn rolls plastered to my head.”
“Jus’ look at yo big hair now.” She snickers at my impersonation. I hand her a box.
She pulls out a package of hair feathers in a cheetah pattern. “No way! Ooo, gir’, I be lookin’ good.”
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