The following is an excerpt from my newest novel, Reflections of Rosalyn, A Life of Victory.
"Rosie, get in here and help me," her mother yelled. They had been unpacking boxes since the moving truck had left at about ten that morning. Rosie was tired and hungry. Her mother was determined, unappreciative, and snappy.
"Can’t we take a break now? I’m so tired. Does all this have to be done today?"
"Yes, it has to be done today. I start my new job a week from today, and I don’t want to come home and unpack after working all day." Everything was a matter of urgency to Peggy.
"We could do some of it tomorrow."
"I can’t sleep if my house is out of order. Now, put those towels in the linen closet, and make sure the tails aren’t showing." Peggy liked the towels put away so that when the closet door was opened, the folds
were lined up in perfect rows. She called the selvage edge of the towel ‘the tail.’ Rosie could never understand what difference it made. No one except her and her mother looked in the linen closet, and if they did, who cared how the towels were stacked? They would still function as drying instruments, wouldn’t they?
"Fine. I’ll put the towel tails facing the back of the closet. I should probably show people how we stack our towels. Surely it’s worth a rung up on the social ladder," Rosie muttered under her breath on the way to the linen closet.
"Rosie, have you laid out your school clothes yet?"
"Mom, school doesn’t start for three days. I have plenty of time," Rosie answered, entering the room where her mother was working after what she called TTT duty—towel tail tucking.
"Yes, but we’re going to register you tomorrow. It’s very important you look right when you register. First impressions are important."
"I don’t think the registrar cares how I look. Besides, after I’m registered, I’ll never see her again."
"You don’t know that. I think you should wear that gingham skirt, with your white blouse. That will make a good impression." It was 1968, and girls were still required to wear dresses to school. Showing up at any event, including school, in too-casual attire was frowned upon. "When you get to school, make sure you don’t get mixed up with the wrong crowd."
"Mom, have I ever gotten mixed up with the wrong crowd?"
"Well, it’s my job to make sure you don’t. Before you’re allowed to go anywhere with a group of kids, I’ll need to meet them. I must approve of the company you keep."
"We have been over this before. I know you want to meet my friends. I don’t know why you can’t trust me."
"I don’t trust you because I was young once. I know what kids did then, and you can’t tell me they don’t do the same thing now. Let me tell you right now—you had better not sneak out of this house after I’ve gone to bed."
"Mom, I have never once sneaked out of this house. You always know where I am, and when I’ll be back."
"Well, just in case you think about it, you better think again. I will find out where you are, and come get you. And you can believe I’ll make a scene in front of your friends."
Rosie hung her head and quietly went to her room. She was a good kid. Her grades weren’t amazing, but she passed her classes and never caused problems in class. Throughout her entire elementary days, she had never missed a recess, stood in the corner or in the hall, or been sent to the principal’s office. In junior high school, she had never been sent to in-school suspension, or detention. Her mother had never been called to the school for disciplinary reasons. Rosie was rarely disciplined at home. She did what she was asked, and wouldn’t dream of openly defying any authority. It broke her heart when her mother started threatening her about things she hadn’t even thought about doing. Sometimes Rosie thought pleasing her mother was an impossible feat.
After she laid out the outfit her mother wanted her to wear to register the next day, Rosie organized her closet and dresser drawers. She wasn’t much of an organization freak, but with this activity, she could satisfy her mother’s demand to work and avoid her ranting at the same time.
Peggy couldn’t refuse the promotion, even with the stipulation of relocating. Being a single parent didn’t give her the luxury of turning down promotions, no matter what the condition. Rosie’s father hadn’t stayed around long enough to see her birth, and certainly hadn’t shown his face since then. It was all up to Peggy to raise Rosie into a decent adult.
Peggy hadn’t forgiven her husband for leaving her. She couldn’t even call him her ex-husband because he hadn’t bothered seeking a
divorce. Single parenting was rare and she had long ago become accustomed to the stares and whispers. She was determined to make the world pay for the injustices she felt had been dealt her when her husband left her saddled with a child She interacted with people, including Rosie, in bulldog fashion—always on guard and ready to attack.
"Rosie, are you hungry?"
"Yes, what’s for dinner?"
"Let’s grab a burger. I’m too tired to cook." One advantage of the larger town was the variety of fast-food places. The raise wasn’t sufficient to eat out on a regular basis, but Peggy didn’t have to worry so much about making ends meet. An occasional splurge would be a nice treat.
The fifties-style diner was not as clean as Peggy would have liked and smelled of old grease. She and Rosie passed several empty booths because Peggy found something wrong with each; one bench had a rip in the far corner.
That would change the taste of the food, Rosie thought. One table was chipped on the edge. Mom please, find a table already. She refused another because a couple of boys sat in the adjacent booth—she didn’t like the way they looked at Rosie. No different from the way any other man looks at me. Another table wasn’t acceptable because it was still wet from being cleaned.
"Why don’t we sit at the bar?" Rosie made the mistake of asking.
"Ladies do not sit at the bar. Only women looking for a pick-up sit on a barstool."
"Even at a diner?"
"Don’t argue with me. We are not sitting on a barstool. We will sit in a booth, like ladies."
Finally Peggy decided on a booth which met her standards.
Good thing. It’s the last one, Rosie thought as she sat down. The young waitress headed for their table with menus in hand.7
"What can I get for you today?"
"Rosie, what do you want?"
"I want a cola, and small burger with fries, please."
"And for you ma’am? What would you like?"
"I will take the same, but I require a straw with my drink."
Rosie hated it when her mother talked to people that way. She couldn’t say,
May I have a straw, please? She had to demand everything. The quick look of disdain from the waitress wasn’t missed by Rosie. By the time her mother looked up, the waitress had composed herself. Rosie knew it would be pointless to try to discuss the matter with her mother. Peggy never thought she was wrong, and certainly would never admit she was wrong to Rosie. She believed parents were never wrong, and should accept nothing less than 100 percent respect from their child.
The burgers were fair, the French fries cold, and the colas warm. Peggy left a small tip and then complained to the management. Rosie had the pleasure of hearing the encore performance on the way home. Arriving at the house, Rosie feigned exhaustion and went to her room for the rest of the night. She actually was tired—of her mother. Peggy could talk more, and say less, than anyone Rosie knew. Sometimes when she was tired and had listened to Peggy for what seemed an eternity, Rosie was sure she would scream if she heard another human word.