SINCE THE SEVENTIES, "BLACK" HAS TAKEN ON A NEW MEANING.
My brother, Jerry, had one child, a daughter named Margo. From childhood I included Margo in swim classes, charm/modeling classes, voice lessons, and volunteer efforts but—nothing inspired Margo more than boys and marriage. I’ve lost count of her many marriages—there were four, maybe five—but the first one was most memorable.
During high school, Margo had a boyfriend down the highway from Pine Bluff, in a wide-place-in-the-road-kind-of community called Grady. Margo and her boyfriend were both young, barely seventeen, when they announced their upcoming marriage. Still in high school, the bridegroom-to-be was a farmer’s son with no job and with no future prospects. As old-timers would say, “He’s just a kid, still wet behind the ears.”
In Margo’s honor, I hosted a Bridesmaids Luncheon at the Pine Bluff Country Club (using a friend’s membership) for her bridesmaids and female family members. By now, I was divorced and living in Little Rock so I arranged the luncheon on a Saturday, when I didn’t work.
I don’t remember the exact year, probably in the mid-seventies, and it was hot. Everyone was decked-out in sheer fabrics, pastel colors, and drinking frosted lemonade while complaining about the heat. When the mother of the groom arrived—everyone stopped talking and stared. The serious-looking woman was wearing a black wool dress with long sleeves, black heels, carrying an over-sized black bag and a large piece of heavy plastic—what contractors call Visqueen. She apologized for being late and asked which seat would be hers once the luncheon began.
Trying not to look surprised, I pointed out the place card with her name and asked if sitting between the mother of the bride and the bride’s grandmother would be all right? Without a word, she unfolded the piece of heavy plastic and carefully spread it over her assigned seat. Without any explanation—surely she felt the stares and questioning looks—she began chatting with several women close by. In a few minutes the chef announced it was time to serve lunch and everyone took their seats. Again, carefully smoothly the plastic on the chair, the groom’s mother was the last to be seated.
It was impossible for Margo’s grandmother, Mary Alice, to go unnoticed at any gathering. She was a very naïve yet blunt-talking woman with a unique voice pattern....I sometimes described her accent as a Southern Baptist/ Southern Twang, set-to-music. She’d greet people with “Hi, girl! How ya’all do-in?” Sure, it was a routine greeting, but every word of the greeting was broken into at least three syllables and every syllable represented a different note on the musical scale. Mary Alice’s greetings managed to cover at least two octaves.
The meal had barely begun when Mary Alice turned to the groom’s mother and blurted out: “Girl, why are you wearing a black winter dress at a summer party? And, why in Heaven’s name did you bring that big piece of plastic to sit on?” Everyone stopped talking; the quiet was deafening. The groom’s mother, unsmiling, and speaking in almost a loud whisper said: “I don’t want to offend anyone here or shock anyone but since you’ve asked me those questions I am obliged to answer. I’m having my monthly—you know, the curse—and sometimes the blood just gushes out and goes everywhere and runs down my legs and in my shoes so I wear all black cause that way, the blood won’t show up on black so bad and....I bring my own plastic to sit on so I don’t bleed all over people’s upholstery or on their carpets. I try to be prepared by keeping a couple of damp dish towels in my bag to wipe the blood off my legs and shoes and off the floor and all the other places blood goes.”
Everyone stared down at their plates for a few seconds more, waiting. Then, as if on-cue, the ladies lifted their heads, picked up their forks, and began eating. What can one possibly say— when everything that should or shouldn’t have been said—has already been said?!?!
+From my book: THE BEAUTY QUEEN, Let No Deed Go Unpublished.