Still mourning the tragic death of her husband, Eileen and her five children exited the train that ushered them from California to New Orleans. She immediately spotted Leila, her long time friend and new nanny.
Exuberant, Leila hustled her way through the crowd and over to Eileen as quickly as her rotund body would allow. Wrapping her arms tightly around Eileen, the two cried silently before speaking a word.
The children stood quietly by, attending to their twin brother and sister seated securely within their double stroller. Wide eyed, they watched, as their mother seemed to disappear within Leila’s massive embrace.
Stepping back and holding onto Eileen’s arms, Leila tearfully whispered, “Oh Miss Leenie, my poor child, don’t even want to think about what you and these beautiful children have been through.”
Turning to the three eldest boys, Leila stretched out her arms. “Come on over here boys.” With eagerness, she embraced them all at once. “I hurt real bad for you children loosing your father, but now you’re all here with me and the Good Lord, He will be your Father, as I tend to y’all and your mama opens herself that Import store.”
Moving toward the twins and bending over them, Leila smiled and gently spoke to each one. “You must be master Lannie,” she said as she stroked his tiny head. Smiling back at Leila, he grabbed hold of one of her fingers.
However, such was not the case for Mollyanna. As soon as Leila stroked her head, Mollyanna let out a wail and squirmed in an obvious attempt to get away from her.
“Ah, I see how it’s gonna be, yep, you gonna give old Leila a fit of a time, so I be calling you my little “Miss Prissy” from here on in.”
For the first time since her husband’s death, Eileen let out a burst of laughter, “Oh my goodness, Leila, she never reacts this way; I don’t know what’s got into her.”
“That be just fine Miss Leenie, I do, “Now don’t you be frettin. She just ain’t seen black folk before. One of my young’uns, he done that zact same thing when he first laid eyes on white folk. Scarred him so bad, you woulda thought for certain, he done seen a real live ghost.
Six months passed and although Mollyanna now tolerated Leila’s touch, allowing her to hold her was still not an option.
However, on one particular hot and sticky summer day, Mollyanna’s unfounded aversion was to be forever conquered.
As Leila sat on the veranda humming hymns, drinking her cherished sweet tea, and catering to Master Lannie’s favorite pastime of being rocked, a violent thunderstorm was on the approach.
Mollyanna too, was consumed with her favorite pastime of sprinkling fresh dirt within the colorful flowerbeds that escorted both sides of the serpentine pathway.
Numerous Weeping Willow and Scarlet Red Maple trees lavishly shaded the lush green yard, adding much needed protection from the scorching southern sun.
However, on this particular day, the sun was shielded by the overhead clouds that had lingered throughout the day making a hot and sticky day even more humid.
Unexpectedly, the clouds produced a thunderous clatter, catching Mollyanna outdoors instead of indoors.
Stiffened with paralyzing fear, Mollyanna was only able to lift up her doll sized arms to Leila and cry out, “La-La,” when yet another ground quaking belt of thunder announced itself and proclaimed an immediate crack of lightening.
“Leila’s comin child, just as fast the Good Lord will allow me to. Come on baby, climb up those stairs to Leila, you can do it.”
Laying Lannie, in the twin-sized stroller, Leila feverishly attempted to hurry to Mollyanna as she continued with her heart wrenching screams of terror.
“Now yous just lay there all quiet like Master Lannie and Miss Leila be right back.”
As Leila raced to the edge of the veranda, Mollyanna had just reached the top step after successfully scurrying up the steps on hands and knees.
With dirt stained tears soaking her tiny red cheeks, Mollyanna stood up and raised her doll-sized arms to Leila, who scooped her up without haste and pressed her tightly to her chest.
However, Mollyanna was not content to just lie upon Leila’s chest and like a ferret, burrowed her way between Leila’s gigantic bosoms.
Smiling with unabated contentment, Leila rocked her little Miss Prissy to sleep.
The warmth and safety of that embrace was the fondest childhood memory Mollyanna carried and treasured throughout her life.
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