Kinder, Kirche, Kuche (Children, Church, Kitchen)

Part Three - Chapter One Hundred Seventy-Nine

Mary Jane's graduation day - May, 1964.

The heat, according to the weather forecaster,had lessened a little bit (a cool ninety degrees) but the atmosphere inside four walls was still almost unbearably sticky and humid.

Robert,Bobby and I all took tepid showers, all with the same results - by the time we stepped out of the shower,our faces were coated with moisture from the humidity,making a second face scrubbing necessary. I was sweating and swearing alternately as I attempted to smooth on foundation, which the underlying moisture rolled off my face. After four attempts, I gave up and put the bottle down.
I tried to put on eyeliner. I looked into the mirror with a frown and felt like I looked like a raccoon. "Damn," I muttered for the Nth time as I wiped it off. Maybe I could get by with just a layer of pressed powder and a touch of lipstick...

The lipstick felt greasy and smeary, almost runny, too. The powder pilled into little hard granules that sat on my cheekbones and refused to smooth out properly.

I put down the compact and gazed at my reflection, sighing. I tried to smooth what powder remained on my face over the dark circles under my eyes. All it did was irritate my lower eyelids and burn slightly.

"This infernal heat," Robert muttered as he came from the bathroom for the second - or was it third? - time. Then, suddenly, "Hey, honey, what's the matter?"

Unexplainable sudden tears had sprung into my eyes. I hadn't slept too well all last night - or hadn't since Bobby worried what happened to Mary Jane and Paula behind their closed front door the night we dropped them off.
He had attempted to call about midmorning the following day - and Eugene had answered the phone and refused to put either daughter on.

"They're on probation," was all he would say.

"Probation? What do you - "

"You heard me. They disobeyed my orders, so - they're on probation." CLICK, went the phone.

Subsequent tries to call got a busy signal. Bobby was frantic and just a bit hysterical. He had no idea if the girls were all right or not,or what had been done to them, if anything. He was bright enough to realize that showing up on their doorstep and demanding to see them could get a no answer or refusal by their father to allow it. If
Eugene were so inclined, he could call police and have our son arrested for trespassing and harassment. Bobby had no wish to compound a bad situation by making it worse.

I felt very badly for him. Here his almost-wife was, as close as she'd ever been across town, and he couldn't see her for love or money.

Robert knew about the situation - he had been briefed at the breakfast table the following morning by both of us after the aborted telephone call. He, too, was outraged and had no patience or sympathy with Eugene any more.
He thought Mary Jane was "a sweet girl" and "better than you deserve" - this last to Bobby.

My husband came to me now, and gently placed his arms around my shoulders. "Honey,we're just going to have to wait it out. We have no other choice. You'll see her in a little while - her and Paula, too - and I'm sure everything will be all right."

The voice of reason. I sighed and eased out from under the loving but still sticky embrace.

I wasn't so sure, however, a few hours later, when the ceremony had been completed and the sun was like a burning dirty brass ball smothered in mares'-tail clouds and unrelenting in its heat.

I looked for Mary Jane, who I hadn't seen since she and the other graduates had marched in. She had seen us, of course, knew we were there - as she passed us, a couple of tears tracking down her face, she looked quickly to her right and saw us sitting in the back row - we thought it wise not to sit with or near her parents and sister. The smile of relieved pleasure on her face was unmistakable. She just as quickly re-faced front again - but not fast enough to escape the attention of Eugene Michaelsen, who was sitting up front and had stepped into the aisle to take a picture of his daughter coming down toward the stage. He saw the expression of joy on her face, discerned almost immediately the reason for it, and the look in his eyes told us, Mary Jane, and himself that he had been defied by inviting us - and he knew it,too. His expression was one of unbridled fury as he snapped the picture as Mary Jane looked his way. As he lowered the camera, his eyes told her they'd have their reckoning later. Her expression changed as she mounted the stairs, serious and somber then.

There were several box fans, all running at top speed, lining the side walls, and all the windows were wide open to admit the non-breeze. It was still brutally hot, and worse under those robes. Two girls fainted from the heat. Taking them away in ambulances prolonged the ceremony. My only graduate of interest was Mary Jane, who shifted a few times in her own folding chair.

Once the graduate received his or her diploma, he or she was permitted to rejoin his family in the audience. As Mary Jane crossed over to them, the precious document in her hand, her father took her wrist and firmly sat her down between him and her mother. She turned so white I thought she would faint.

At the conclusion, the graduates, parents, guardians,and assorted relations pressed forward to get out first. I caught one brief glance of the Michaelsen family, on the far side of the auditorium, her father still firmly holding his oldest daughter's hand to his side. They disappeared into the crush of people.

I saw her now, a few feet away on the sidewalk, her father still holding on to her wrist like a vise. That and the fact that Eugene and Alice were talking with another couple of families kept me from approaching them directly.

I looked around for Bobby - and saw him a few feet closer to us, talking to Paula. He was doing more listening than talking, his face a grave mask of concentration. Occasionally, he nodded his head.

Either Eugene didn't notice Paula was consorting with the enemy (us) or didn't care. He didn't look in our direction, just dragged Mary Jane along in his wake as another couple hailed them.

I decided to wait for Bobby. He had sent Paula back to her parents and was returning to us now.

MaryJanine MaryJanine
61-65, F
Sep 2, 2014