Prologue Part Two

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Today I’m sharing the last part of my book’s Prologue. I pray it will draw you to want to read more. In case you missed the first half you can read it here.

I was trapped.  As I plopped into the black leather seat, something crunched beneath me.  It was the gift I had seen on the table! I couldn’t deal with it, so I tossed it aside, not interested in the who or the why questions that had incensed me before the service.

Mama picked up the gift, “Gracelyn, this is for you.  Don’t you want to open it?”

“Um, no! Not now.”

“Why on earth not?”

“Oh, Mama! It’s just not right.”

“Gracelyn, I insist.  The giver may be at the dinner.  You’ll want to be sure to thank them.  I really think it best to open it now.”

Mama usually had the last word, and this time was no exception.  I had learned it was best to do as she said.  Picking up the gift I slowly ripped the paper away, revealing a stained wooden box smelling much like the old church we had just left.  Lifting the lid I discovered a worn out leather journal.

“What’s this?” I asked casually, hoping my excitement didn’t show.

“I’ve seen this before; why, it belonged to Mama.  See the engraving – Grace Stella Oswalt?”

As I opened the cover a note fell on the floor.  I picked it up to find Big Mama’s handwriting addressed to me.  The brief excitement drained from my fingertips as if the dead were calling my name.

“M-Mama, you read it.”  She took the slip of paper from my hand.

Dear Gracelyn,

I am an old woman now, and time is running out for me to share with you my story.  I’ve waited for you to ask, but now the waiting ends.  You are my youngest granddaughter, and one who reminds me so much of myself.  It is my prayer that as you read this journal you will grow in your understanding of who you are and to whom you belong.  Your life is not your own to live as you want.  I learned this the hard way, and I pray this journal will help you after I am long gone.  Read it well and remember although life is brief, love is forever.

Affectionately,

Big Mama

I sat there in disbelief as the limo came to a stop.  I wasn’t sure if I was happy to have this gift or angry she singled me out as needing special help.  Maybe it was a little of both, but as hard as it was to admit, I was comforted.

As we filed out of the limo and gathered around Big Mama’s grave, the familiar hymn began to play once more.  This time my voice sang through the tears to the grandmother I loved.

Amazing Grace how sweet the sound

That saved a wretch like me

I once was lost but now I’m found

Was blind but now I see.

My grandmother had offered me her hand with this gift, allowing me to see and learn about life through her eyes.  That night, alone in my room I opened the musty journal and began to read.

Teasing Comes Naturally, I’m Afraid

Uncle Billy teasing Norah

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.

Prologue

June 1979

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.