Momma slipped the orange dress over Rebecca's head. Pulling the dress down to cover Rebecca's petticoat, Momma leaned back in her chair to get a better look at her daughter. Reaching down to her lacy, orange socks Momma turned them down over her white patent-leather shoes.
"You don't have to be a genius to figure out your favorite color," Momma said shaking her head. "It's a good thing the color compliments your dark hair and eyes."
Ever since Rebecca was old enough to have an opinion about such things, she had always liked the color orange. Momma recalled the first time she expressed that opinion too. For a few minutes, Momma allowed herself to remember. It was Easter Sunday when Rebecca was two and half years old.
Yanking pink bows out of her black hair, Rebecca yelled, "No, yucky!" Throwing the ruined bows on the floor, she jumped up and down on them. "No like!" she cried.
Running to her child-size wooden chair, Rebecca sat down and grabbed onto the arms of the chair. Gripping the arms with her little hands, she held on tightly even when she got splinters in her palms. Anything to keep Momma from making her wear the fancy outfit.
"No like dress!" she protested when Momma held up the white eyelet dress with a pink pinafore.
"Well, I declare," Momma said throwing her hands up in air. "What do you want to wear, girlie-girl?"
Rebecca dragged her chair through the closet door. Standing on wobbly toes and reaching the rod with her fingertips, she pulled down an orange dress with dancing pumpkins on the skirt. With eyes sparkling Rebecca declared, "Purty!" while holding it up for Momma to see.
Momma smiled remembering the looks of the parishioners when Rebecca proudly wore her pumpkin dress that Easter Sunday eight years ago.
Shaking herself from the past, Momma said, "It's almost time for the service to begin. We'd better get busy fixing your hair."
Parting her hair on two sides, Momma began weaving three strands of hair together. Once again lost in her memories of Rebecca, she recalled other instances where orange had won out.
"But Momma, I want an orange bedroom. Not pink, not purple, but orange. Orange is my…"
"I know, I know," Momma interrupted, "orange is your favorite color." Giving her 6-year-old a kiss on top of her head, Momma finally relented. "And orange it will be."
Momma couldn't help but think back to last spring when Allie had come into Rebecca's life.
"Momma, Momma, come quick. Hurry, he's hurt!" Rebecca screamed. The slam of the screen door shook the entire house. Running to the kitchen, Rebecca tugged on her mother's soapy hands.
"Girlie-girl, what's got into you?" Momma asked.
Pulling her mother through the house to the front porch, Rebecca explained. "Ol' Yeller got a hold of a stray kitty and he's hurt real bad, Momma. Hurry!"
Rebecca and her momma ran to the barn. Kneeling in the hay, Rebecca gently lifted an orange tabby kitten to her chest. Red stains covered her shirt and hands while she stroked the kitten to calm his meows. "It's okay Allie, Momma's here now and she'll know what to do."
"You already named him?" Momma asked.
"Yes, isn't he the most handsomeness little fellow you ever did see?" asked Rebecca.
"Handsome? We'll have to wait and see on that one. Mangy is probably a better word."
The tabby cat began rubbing up against Momma's leg bringing her back to the present. "Allie, you are indeed a handsome cat," Momma said reaching down and giving him a good scratching behind his ear. The cat arched his back in approval.
Picking up a few lose strands of hair, Momma gently clipped the orange barrette to hold back Rebecca's bangs which were almost as long as her hair. Stiffly rising from her chair, Momma rubbed her neck and shoulders while rolling her head round and round.
"I must've been at that longer than I realized. Guess that's just about all I can do for now," she said. "I declare, you're as pretty as a Gerber daisy in one of them fancy pictures."
Tapping Momma on the shoulder, Pastor Dean softly said, "Theresa, it's time."
Momma wiped at the tears while she leaned over and kissed Rebecca on the head one last time. "I love you girlie-girl," Momma cried while tucking a stuffed tabby kitten into the frilly orange lining of the coffin.
Slowly she closed the coffin's lid.
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