Marriage and Babies
The big red and grey bus pulled up to the curb, its sides plastered with advertisements. I stepped on quickly, grateful to be in out of the crisp spring air. Wedging my way into a seat between an old man and a boy about ten years old., I settled back against the seat, glad to have time to think over wh Ms. Brooks, one of my teachers, had said to me earlier.
"Sara," she had said, taking me aside after class, "have you decided what you'll do after graduation?"
"No, Ms. Brooks." I shook my head. "Isaac wants us to get married, but I want to be a singer." I knew it must sound crazy to her.
She looked startled. "But, Sara, singing isn't a very secure career."
"I know, I know" I had heard that before. "Papa"s been telling me for years to talk, not yell. But Brother Ray says I do a fine job singing in the chorus at church."
"Singing in the chorus isn't like singing on the stage, Sara. You must know that." Ms. Brooks put her hand on my arm.
I smiled at her, grateful that she was interested in my future. 'My brother, Todd plays the drums for the Black Skins, and he makes pretty good money."
"That's a rock band, isn't it?"
I nodded. "Yes, Isaac's brother, Jess, started the band. Now he wants Isaac to join and play his bass guitar. And he said something about maybe letting me sing with the group.;" It was hard for me to keep the excitement out of my voice.
"You'll have to choose, Sara, but singing with a band would be quite a change from singing in the church. I hope you'll consider that, and also consider the fact that there will be little job security."
"Thanks, Ms. Brooks." I was anxious to go. "I have to be getting home now or Mama will be out looking for me!"
The rocking of the city bus lulled me as I considered my options. The one thing I am sure of is that I love Isaac. But I want more than housework and babies. I"d watched Mama and Papa grow old from worrying about us and from trying to provide for us, always seeming to do dirty work for other people. Mama has worked for Mrs. Brown ever since right after I was born, eighteen years ago. She has cleaned for Mrs. Brown Green for the last ten years.
Papa takes care of the boilers and air conditioners in a huge complex of corporate offices. Am I wrong to want more than my parents have?
My brothers and sisters are all so different as can be. Todd, the oldest, plays the drums in Jess's band. I'm next in line, all set to graduate from high school in two weeks. Carrie, a year younger, has her life all planned. Adam's next, and he's a heartache to Mama and Papa. He quit school and uses drugs, and can't seem to hold a job. Abby quit school, too, but she works with Mama for an hourly wage. Willis, the baby of the family, is a smart boy and pulls good grades in school.
I was so deep in thought I nearly missed my stop. The cool air hit my face as I climbed down from the bus and headed up our street, and in a few minutes, I was entering the front hall of our big old house. I hung up my coat, peering into the living room to see who was around.
I collapsed on the sofa, ignoring Adam's comment.
"Well, Smarty, what're you doing just sitting?"
"Shut up, Adam. I'm thinking." He's a hard one to ignore for long.
"With what," he sneered.
"Why do you come home?" I slammed my books onto the coffee table, "You just make people feel bad."
"Make people feel bad how?" He was in an especially bad mood. "Leave me alone, Creep. Why did I have to end up with a sister like you? Can't you act more like Danny's sister?"
"Oh, you'd like a hooker for a sister, would you?" I was fuming.
Adam snickered. "Sure, why not? At least she isn't always telling Danny what to do and say."
Hearing a car, I glanced at the window.
"Todd just drove in. You'd better watch your mouth." I was relieved when Todd walked in, his usual smile across the face.
"Hi, gang. What's up?"
I smiled back at him, "Not much, Todd. Adam just wishing I was a hooker like Danny's sister."
Todd laughed, "Adam wouldn't know the difference and I like you the way you are. By the way, I saw Isaac. He asked me to tell you he'll be over around seven."
"Do you think Mama and Papa will let me go Saturday night? Isaac wants me to sing--my big chance, he calls it." I was eager to hear Todd's opinion.
"I think so, Sis. They trust Isaac. And you." Todd was about to say more when Carrie walked in.
"Hi, big brother. What're you talking about?' Carrie flopped down on the sofa beside me, and suddenly it seemed as if everyone was talking at once, people coming and going from the room.
"What are you going to do, Carrie?"
"Me? What do you mean?"
"What are you going to do after you finish school?"
"All I want to do is marry Moses and have a lot of big, beautiful babies!" Carrie grinned at me. "I know you have bigger plans, Sara."
"Is that really all you want, Carrie?"
"That's all Mama had and it's good enough for me."
"Todd! Can you help me with math?"
"After supper, Willis!"
"Abby where have you been? Mama said you were supposed to start dinner at four o'clock!"
"Where is Mama?"
"Can we eat early? I have a ball game."
"Willis quit yelling!!" Todd finally decided to take control of the situation. "Mama won't be home until six. If you need to eat early, we certainly will!"
Papa and Mama came home tired, as always, and ate supper in silence. Mama went right to bed, every day was a workday for her. Papa said very little to the kids unless it was important, and this night was no different. He settled into his chair with the evening paper.
Isaac came over and we sat in his car, talking, making plans for the weekend. I never tired of watching him as he talked, his dark good looks always made me feel a little weak. I guess love can do that to you.
He left early and I crawled into bed immediately, glad that Carrie, in the next bed, was already asleep. The whole household was asleep, only Adam was still out and it was hard to say when he might come home. Maybe not until the next meal was served.
I pulled the comforter up under my chin and sighed, thinking of Isaac. Will I make a good wife! I want to sing! Will I be good at that? Finally, I dozed off, dreaming of a beautiful girl in white, singing to an adoring audience. As if observing from a distance, I could see it was me. I had made it! But who was that girl in the wedding dress, standing next to Isaac?
"Sara, I want you to meet my wife."
Struggling to wake up, I could hear Isaac calling to me, "Sara! Sara!'
Todd poked his head into my room, and at last, I was really awake.
"What is wrong, Todd?"
"I heard you crying. Are you okay?"
"I'm all right, Todd. I must have been dreaming."
Sleep was a long time coming. My thoughts raced. Am I wrong to want more than marriage? What if Isaac finds someone else? I"d die. I love him
I was determined to make a singing date on Saturday, to see what might come of it. After hours of tossing and turning, I finally slept.
The alarm clock woke me early and struggling out of bed, showering quickly to beat the rush in the bathroom. I was tired but eager to get on with my plans. It seemed as if the whole family was congregated in the kitchen that morning.
"Todd, what should I wear to sing tomorrow?" I was counting on him to give me some good advice.
"From what I've seen, tight pants and a bright blouse are the things, along with some boots." Todd took all my questions seriously, giving them careful thought. "Do you have anything in your closet that will do?"
"Not really. Since there's no school today, I thought I might go down to the mall and check out the stores there." I looked at Todd, trying to ignore the stares coming my way from the other family members. "You want to go with me?"
"Sure, Sis. Sounds good."
"Boy, you really think you're something, don't you?" Adam had to butt in. "Trying to make people believe you're a singer!"
"Shut up, Adam. When you have something important to say, we'll listen." Todd rushed to my defense.
"God," Adam scowled, "you guys think you know everything."
"We don't need to know much. We finished school."
"Don't start that again," Adam yelled, shoving back his chair and starting to rise.
"Then shut up and mind your own business!"
Papa will worry.
Adam's eyes flashed. "I'm leaving! Don't look for me to come back for a while." He turned toward the door.
"Where are you going?" Todd stood up.
"None of your business!"
"Mama and They'll want to know where you're at."
"Tell them it's none of their damned business either." Adam was on the rampage.
Todd had had enough. He grabbed Adam's shirt and I could tell there was going to be a big battle.
"Listen here, you little punk. You may think you're a big man, but you've got a lot to learn." Todd was so angry I could see his shoulders shaking, "You think keeping Mama and Papa unhappy all the time is funny? Well. it isn't. They're tired and they're getting old. The last thing they need is any more of your damned foolishness. Papa won't say anything to you, but I will. I've had enough of it." He gave Adam a hard shake.
I couldn't help but stand there, watching my two brothers, comparing them. Papa was so proud of the odd, if Adam could be a little more like him, life would run a lot smoother for all of us, including him.
"Act like a man!" Todd wasn't finished. "Leave the drugs alone and get a job!"
"I can't get a job," Adam whined.
"Who'd want to hire you, a smart-mouthed kid who's high on drugs half the time? Get yourself together first, then you can get a job. Or go back to school. You've only been out a year, it couldn't be hard to catch up"
"I wish I had stayed in school." A wistful look crossed Adam's usually defiant features.
"Well, think about it, and try behaving yourself." Todd slapped Adam on the shoulder.
Adam turned and walked out with a smart remark. We heard the front door close softly.
"Gee, Todd, I think you got through to him."
"It's about time someone did." Todd dropped the subject, and we all went our separate ways.
Thirty minutes later, Todd was unlocking the door of his Trans Am, and I climbed in, eager for our shopping trip. On the way to the mall, we talked about many things: the family, Isaac, the future. Only an hour later, we were on our way home.
"That outfit's great, Sara. You'll dazzle them."
"Thanks for your help." We'd chosen silk, a lavender oversized shirt to go with some skin-tight black pants I already had at home. And I'd splurged on a pair of leather boots that hugged my feet and legs like nothing else I had ever worn. I felt terrific. Now, if Isaac is pleased...
Todd dropped me off at home and went on to practice with the band. I barely reached the front door when Abby flung open the door and rushed to meet me. She was crying and I had a hard time making out what she was trying to say.
"Mama's in the hospital. I think she's dying!" Tears were streaming down Abby's face and she was gasping for breath between words.
"Slow down, Abby. Tell me what happened."
"I went to work with Mama this morning because she wasn't feeling well. I was cleaning upstairs when Mrs. Green called me to the basement. Mama had fallen down the steps, and she was just sprawled out there on the floor. I called the doctor, and he called the ambulance."
"Did you call Papa?" I was scared and upset because it seemed as if I was always someplace else when trouble hit.
"Not yet, but I'll call him now."
Her thin mouth quivered as she dialed the phone and waited for Papa to answer. I could see her shaking as she talked.
"Papa, Mama is in the hospital. I don't know what is wrong; she fell at work." There was a pause. "Okay, we'll meet you there."
Quickly I called Isaac's house. He answered the phone, and I could hear the band rehearsing in the background.
"Will you send Todd home right away, Isaac?" I tried to keep my voice calm.
"What's wrong, Baby?" Isaac knew something was amiss.
"I don't know yet, Isaac. Mama's in the hospital. Something happened while I was gone shopping with Todd." He didn't ask any more questions.
In minutes Todd was home. Adam was with him. Abby and I were waiting outside for them, silently standing by the curb with our jackets zipped against the cool breeze. We piled in and a few minutes later, we pulled up in front of the hospital.
We found Papa talking with the doctor. Our father was pale. Tears were streaming down his wrinkled cheeks. We listened to the conversation. The doctor, our family doctor for years, was saying the Mama had suffered a heart attack. The next thirty-six hours would be the test. She might recover and she might not.
Todd took Papa's arm and guided him to a comfortable chair. He looked so small and old and sad to me. He wiped his tears away and looked around as if taking inventory. His eyes rested on Adam for a moment, and I wondered if he was thinking that maybe his own son had something to do with Mama ending up like this. I wondered myself.
"Where are Carrie and Willis?'
"They're over in the park, Papa."
"You'd better go get them."
We did and before long all seven of us were gathered in the lobby of the hospital. We sat there, mostly in silence, all through the night. I think our presence was a comfort for Papa. In the morning, Mama asked to speak to each of us in turn. Todd was first, and he came out of the room looking shaken. I was next, It was frightening seeing her hooked up to all the tubes, so helpless. She didn't say much, just reassured me that everything would turn out all right. One by one, we filed in, until only Adam was left. Mama didn't ask for him. He just sat there, looking hurt.
Finally, Papa took him aside, "Adam, you've caused Mama a lot of heartaches since you quit school. Seems like you're always in some kind of trouble. I won't have you hurting her any more than you already have. Find a job, go back to school or move out." Papa had a look on his face that indicated he meant business.
"I know, Papa." Adam hung his head, "Todd and I talked about it this morning. I plan to go back to school. Could you tell Mama for me?"
Papa put his arm across Adam's shoulders for a moment, then disappeared into Mama's room. When he joined us again, he looked proud and happy. Adam was beaming too.
"Dr. White says Mama's going to be all right. But we'll all have to work hard to keep her from getting upset and from worrying."
We all heaved a collective sigh of relief.
"Tell Mama I'll take care of her work until she's able to do it herself."
"I'm sure she knows that, Abby. Thanks."
We all said a quick good-bye to Mama, then returned home. I fixed breakfast for Papa and the kids, everyone had huge appetites, I suppose because of the relief they were feeling, and there wasn't a pancake or piece of bacon left at the end of the meal. Soon after breakfast, everyone was asleep, except me. I sat staring at the phone, knowing I had to call Isaac. I dialed slowly and waited for him to answer, still unsure of what I would say.
"Hello?" He answered on the third ring.
"Hello, Isaac." I filled him in on the events of the previous night and then continued, "I'm going to have to put off singing for a while. And I don't think marriage is the answer right now either, Yes, I'll think about it...Yes, Todd's here."
I called Todd to the phone, too upset to talk to Isaac any longer.
The next few days and weeks passed quickly. I"d already taken most of my final tests at school, and it was easy to get permission to be excused from the rest of my classes so I could be home with Mama. Adam found a job and enrolled in school for the fall term. It wasn't long before Mama as home, happy to have the family together again, and we quickly settled into a routine.
One bright summer morning, just as I finished the breakfast dishes, the phone rang.
"Sara, it's for you," Abby was on her way out the door, headed for Mrs. Green's house to clean.
"Hello," it was Isaac."Hello, Isaac. How are you?" My heart was pounding. "Yes, I think I can get away for a while. One o'clock? That's fine." My spirits soared as I hung up the phone.
Mama and I worked on thank-you notes most of the morning--she had lots of friends--and the time went quickly. Shortly after lunch, I heard Isaac at the door. I had been thinking of him constantly the past few hours and knew some decisions would have to be made today.
"Hi, Isaac." we hugged each other, a little self-consciously. He smelled great, he was wearing my favorite after-shave lotion, some I had given him for his last birthday.
"Hi, Sara. Are you ready?" He was grinning. I guess we were glad to see each other. It had been too long.
"Yes," I turned to Mama, "I"m going with Isaac, Mama. I won't be gone long. Carrie! Come out here with Mama, will you?"
"Coming," she yelled from the other room.
Isaac drove to our special spot by the river and pulled the car in beneath a grove of trees, where we could have a little shade, and carefully set the parking brake before turning to me. He looked excited and apprehensive at the same time.
"Sara," he paused and cleared his throat, "Sara, I love you, and I want to married real soon. I know things at home aren't quite right, but...."
I interrupted. "Isaac, I want to marry you too. You know I do. I love you just as much as you love me but I want to be more than just your wife. I don't want babies right away. And I don't want to be bogged down with housework and laundry. Can you understand that?"
"Sure I can, Sara." I could tell by his voice he had cooked up some sort of a plan.
"Let's get married this weekend, Sara. Jess wants me with the band, and he wants you to sing with us, too."
"Isaac!" I knew I was beaming. "You mean it?"
"Of course I do! What do you say?"
"I....yes...I love you and want to be your wife. I just wanted more. This sounds great!" I rattled on and on. "We'll have a quiet wedding. Mama isn't up to more than that just yet."
I threw my arms around him, happier than I had ever been before.
By Sunday, Abby, Carrie, and I had the house sparkling, and an assortment of small sandwiches made and goodies baked to serve to our wedding guests. We even made a small wedding cake, nothing fancy. Brother Ray, who would marry us, Isaac's family, and my own would be our only guests. It wouldn't be a big party, anything that would put stress on Mama. But Sunday, the day I was to marry my true love, would be the most important day of my life.