Yes, I’m prone to teasing, ask my family. I get it naturally from my brother who is the master! But I’ve learned my brother is a lot like my grandfather who died when I was only 4. I don’t remember much about him, except that he loved his eggs scrambled in a pan with hot sausage served over a bed of grits. And you know what? This is how I like breakfast as well. He also smoked a pipe and would let me help him light it whenever I was around. I still love the scent of pipe tobacco, I guess because it brings back fond childhood memories.
So what does teasing have to do with today’s post? I want to “tease” you with the first half of the Prologue to my soon-to-be published book. I’m hoping it will entice you to want to read more. All good stories have a strong hook–read the following and let me know if I’ve managed to tease you for more! If so, you’ll have to wait another week to read the rest.
With a nervous exhale I opened the heavy door. The clock tower struck one, two…fading away as the door closed behind me. The foyer was dark and smelled of centuries-old stories, never to be told. A hush followed each group of well-meaning guests as they entered the sanctuary. I was next. My hands were clammy; I felt nauseous. I wasn’t ready to see…her, not in this way. My eyes were darting back and forth, desperately searching for something when I saw it; right in the middle of the large oak table was a gift wrapped in lavender and lace. As my eyes adjusted, I noticed my name scribbled on the card; who on earth? I couldn’t believe…
“Miss?” The usher interrupted my questions with his extended arm. I supposed it was his job to escort me to where the rest of the family were seated.
My knees threatened to buckle under me as we started down the aisle. How often I had come to this church with Big Mama. She was a founding member and loved it dearly. And if she had anything to say about it, I would love it too.
As I passed one pew I expected to see Mr. Pemberton stand and greet me with a butterscotch candy from his white suit pocket. He always sat in the back, but not today; Mr. Pemberton was long gone, and now Big Mama was too–nothing would be the same.
“Greetings, friends! On behalf of the family of Grace Stella Oswalt, I would like to say thank you for coming to show your respects to such a God-fearing woman.”
I made it to the family pew just in time. Sniffles sounded in unison as I held my breath trying not to join in. I knew if I started I wouldn’t be able to stop. Mama knowingly slipped a handkerchief in my hand as the preacher continued.
“Grace, wife of the late William Marion Oswalt, was the mother of six but is survived only by her daughter, Claire; nine grandchildren and many, many great-grandchildren…”
Six children? I didn’t know Big Mama had six children. I knew my Uncle Vic and Aunt Ruby. What happened to the others?
“Please stand as we sing Grace’s favorite hymn on page 56 of your hymnals.”
Amazing Grace how sweet the sound…
What else didn’t I know? For a moment I felt a deep sadness for the stories that would be buried with her.
…I once was lost, but now I’m found. Was blind, but now I see.
It was true. Big Mama loved this hymn. When I was little she would often play it on her piano as I sat next to her on the bench. Her voice would crack, and I would sing off key, but the words never lost their meaning for her. When we got to the third verse, she always seemed caught up in another world.
…through many dangers toils and snares. I have already come. Twas grace hath brought me safe thus far. And grace twill lead me home.
Glancing at my watch, I hoped it was almost over.
“The family would like to invite you to join them graveside following this service, and then for dinner in the church social hall,” the pastor announced.
What? Another service and dinner, too? I hadn’t been to many funerals in my nineteen years, and this was the first in our family. It was as painful as I feared it would be.
My Mom knew what I was thinking without a word. Heaviness pressed against me; the back door offered my first chance to escape. I jumped to my feet ready to be the first one out the back, but a tall, sliver of a man appeared. I was unaware of the tradition–family is always escorted out separately. He said nothing, only pointed with his opened palm towards the side door. I had missed my chance and silently followed Mama to a waiting limousine.