Academic journal article African American Review

Ambrosia and Pure Spring Water

Academic journal article African American Review

Ambrosia and Pure Spring Water

Article excerpt

Every summer she and her husband drive down to the country to spend time with her mother and grandmother. She looks forward to these visits, especially now that the children are grown and gone. No alarms, flailing limbs, and roller coaster emotions that require constant, patient tending. The time now has slow, rich, unclocked rhythms. She and her mother peel potatoes, shell peas, polish furniture. Or she sits through long, soft, blue summer evenings with her astringent old grandmother, half-listening to Grandma's thin old-lady voice (which sounds much like the fiddling of the crickets) and half-listening to the silence beneath the country rustlings and creakings. Lately, Bill seems merely to tolerate these visits. He has acquired an aimlessness, sleeping in chairs and under trees, wandering around the yard; and they always have to call his name three and four times before he answers.

"Nadine! Nadine!" Their mother's voice pealed down from the second floor of the house, and Eleanor lifted her head. Nadine, perched on the wooden porch banister, her eyes riveted down the block, did not answer.

"Nadine! Nadine! Come in here, I'm calling you!"

Eleanor pinched her sister's leg. "Answer her. Or she's just gonna come get you!"

Nadine snatched her leg away and heaved a huge, shoulder-rolling, neck-twisting sigh. She stumped to the door and yelled through the screen, "What?"

"Don't answer me'what'!"

"Ma'am?"

"I asked you to fold clothes earlier today and I come in here--" Their mother's floating voice was coming closer and they could hear her heels thumping on the steps, so they knew she was coming down to them from the second floor. Nadine muttered, "Oh, damn!" and Eleanor raised her brows.

"I come in here and find two baskets of clothes just like I took them off the line. Girl, get in here and get busy!" Their mother stood in the screen door, hands on hips.

"Mom, can it wait? Bill and Antoine and Shubby're just now coming down the street with Sharon and Nika. I promised I'd go to the store with them. I'll fold clothes when I get back--"

"Who gave you permission to go?"

"Mom, I'm fourteen. It's just around the corner--"

"I didn't say you could go. Who'd you ask if it was all right for you to leave this house?"

"Mom--"

"Get upstairs!"

By this time Nadine's friends had arrived, but they didn't greet her immediately. They stood uncertainly around the steps, familiar with Nadine's quarrels with her mother and not wanting to draw her mother's attention. Nadine's mom had a way of looking at you that made you wish you were down the block and, if possible, behind a big tree.

"Mama," interposed Eleanor softly, "I'll help Deen fold clothes when she gets back. I was gonna ask her to buy me something. And Grandma said something earlier about a Cocola."

"Hey, Mrs. Andrews," Nadine's friends finally chorused.

"Hello." Their mother gave Nadine's friends her straight stare, then said to her older daughter, "Hold on, I want you to get me something. Let me get some money." She left the doorway.

Nadine turned her monkey grin on her friends. "Hey, y'all. Let's take the long way there."

Bill looked at Eleanor. "You coming?"

She shook her head.

Their mother came back with a list and a few dollar bills. Nadine grabbed the paper and the money and scampered down the steps. Eleanor watched her go. She really didn't want to go; their father would be coming down the sidewalk soon, and she preferred to wait for him rather than trail along behind Nadine and her friends. Besides, Nadine wouldn't want her along. But her father would rub his bristly cheek against hers and say, "Hey, sweets." Eleanor liked what she was doing, sitting on the top step in the blue summer dusk, waiting; and she saw no reason to go anywhere. Everything she wanted seemed to come to her. …

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