Dumb, dumb, dumb! I wanna be outside with my brothers, Sam and Clovis, but here I am embroidering a rose. I never seen a rose my whole life so why does Ma want one to hang on the wall?
My name is Addeline Monroe, but everyone calls me Addy except Ma. I like to be called Addy. Ma says since I turned six it’s time I act like a lady. She wants me to play the piano and embroider. It is dumb! I want to be outside with my brothers, help Pa with chores, and ride horses. Ma says it’s unladylike, ‘specially to get so dirty. She says I need to be an example. Hogwash!
We live close to the church cause Pa’s the preacher. That’s why I’m to be an example. Ma says preachers’ kids is held to a higher standard. I hate when grown-ups use words I don’t know, but I reckon higher standard has to do with example. Sometimes I think Ma wishes I’d be more like snooty Claire whose dad owns the mercantile.
Claire has frilly dresses, bows in her hair, and talks dumb. “Yes, ma’am, no sir, excuse me, pardon me,” and the like. Humph! She is eight and I hope I am not so prissy in two more years. Sam says all the boys at school like Claire cause she’s so pretty. I tell him when folks ain’t looking, she makes ugly faces at me and sticks out her tongue. She ain’t so pretty then.
Claire has these blonde curls all over her head. I guess part of being an example is for me to have hair like that. For two weeks Ma put my hair in rag rollers at night, but in the morning most would be on the floor. Ma says it’s cause I sleep like a tornado. Says I have unruly hair.
I ask Clovis what is unruly. He says like that mean horse which took Pa a long time to tame. Makes no sense how that could be about my hair.
I am thinking on all these things as I sit here while I hear Sam and Clovis rounding up the chickens that got loose. Now that’s fun! I have stuck my finger three times and I am getting so mad I could cry. If looking like Claire, staying indoors to sew, play piano, and bake makes me an example, then no thank you. It is hogwash.
Pa just came inside, takes one look at me and says, “Maggie, I’m taking Addy with me to visit Mrs. Jenkins. The boys worked hard today, so they’re going to the creek for a swim. Me and Addy will call them home after prayer with Mrs. Jenkins.”
“John, let Addeline finish. She’s just getting the hang of it.”
Pa chuckles, and kisses Ma all over her face til she giggles and says, “Go on, now. Hurry back, though.”
Pa winks at me and I run outside like the house is afire. Pa swings me onto the saddle in front of him, and I couldn’t help it, I bust out bawling like a baby.
“Ah, Addy girl, what’s wrong?”
I hold up my fingers still with blood. “I hate being an example, Pa. It is too hard and no fun. Ma is so mean.”
Pa sighs and kisses the back of my head. “When your ma was a little girl, they were very poor. Her pa was a mean drunk. She didn’t have a happy life.”
“Was her pa like old man Tatum?” Mr. Tatum is always drunk, but he’s more silly than mean.
“Well, sorta. Except her pa beat on all of them. Got killed by a gunslinger for his meanness, leaving his family to do without. Your ma was always hungry, didn’t have decent clothes, and kids made fun of her. She hopes for something better for you because she loves you. She just wants you to be more genteel, that’s all, Addy.”
I ask Pa what genteel meant, so he explains, and says how being an example is more about how kind and good we are.
“So I don’t have to look like Claire?” I ask. Pa laughs so hard, he almost falls off the horse.
Ma having a mean pa makes me real sad. I reckon I won’t gripe so much anymore. When I get home, I’ll be good and kind by hugging her extra tight, and later I’ll play her favorite tune on the piano. It’ll make her smile.
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