The face that appeared was not attractive. It was difficult to tell if the face had ever been attractive, so severe was the expression on it. The thin white hair was pulled back so tight in a bun knot at the back of the head that the hairline had gradually receded as hairs gave way under the tension of being pulled into the knot. Teeth long gone, allowed the mouth to fall in on itself. The eyes never laughed. The eyebrows were never there. She was not mean. She was not kind. She merely was. Her name was Elizabeth, never Lizzie nor Beth. Elizabeth, which was a concession made from her full given name of Abigail Martha Elizabeth.
Not surprisingly, her chair was the most rigid. A straight up and down, ladder back chair with a tough rope woven seat. There were no arms and no cushions. She moved her long black, never wrinkled skirts into position and lowered herself into the chair. She sat rigid in the chair and said a terse, “Good morning.”
Leta and Abby replied with a well practiced and polite, “Good morning, Mother, Good morning, Grandmother.”
“What have you seen this morning?” Elizabeth asked, as Leta picked up the china cup and saucer for Elizabeth’s morning coffee, pouring the black liquid into the cup and setting it before her. Abby relayed the actions of the young girl, trying to leave out all mention of anything that might imply dirt. A difficult task when relaying a story of a mud pie.
Elizabeth merely nodded. It was impossible to tell if she approved or disapproved given the line of her sunken mouth never changed. Leta mused that even though she herself would be forever 59 years old, far from being a girl, that she would always feel like a flighty, silly awkward child in the presence of this Grandmother.
Elizabeth nodded at Abby. “Bring me the Bible.” Abby stood and went to the far wall, pulling the large book from where it lay large and imposing on a desk too small for it’s bulk. She walked it over to her mother and placed it before her.
Elizabeth opened the book, leafing through it while licking her fingers to assist her with turning the old frail pages. Leta and Abby were silent as she did this. Slightly apprehensive as to what she would find this morning. Elizabeth tended to find the more difficult passages, ones that induced one or both of the women to squirm a bit, feeling as if Elizabeth were attempting to skewer at least one of the women. She settled on a passage and began to read.
“Romans, Chapter One, Verses 28 through 32. ‘And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and, although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.'”
She closed the book with authority and somehow induced her mouth into an even sterner line. “The girl needs to respect her mother and her grandmother. Just because her parents failed to maintain a marriage under God is no reason for her to already begin sinning against her family.”
Leta inwardly rebelled. Mud pies were not disrespectful, and how dare this old biddy try lump a mud pie in with “haters of God?”. No wonder her mother was as off balance as she was when it came to black and white issues. All these years and Leta still had difficulty coexisting in a world with Elizabeth. It was her cross to bear, and she tried her best … or at least she tried.
Abby said mildly, “I’m not sure we are in a position to do much of anything, Mother.” She glanced at Leta, caught her eye and glanced at the book. Leta followed Abby’s gaze and thought she knew what she was thinking. It was not going to be a morning to ask any questions, for Elizabeth was even more irritable than was typical, but she might at least be able to get an idea of things.