Mama was there for me from the time I was born until I was almost sixteen. She was Mama Divine Serenity Usher. It was mostly from her that I learned about my daddy. Even after his murder, her love for the man transcended time and circumstance. She’d been just eighteen when she married him. Of course, he was ten years her senior, but age didn’t matter to them. They loved each other with a love so pure that nothing could ever bring it to an end. She felt as if he was always meant to be in her life…even after death. So they married.
She was the youngest of twelve girls, all of which had married very well to wealth. Mama was no exception. She, too, had caught a wealthy man. But she hadn’t married for money. She’d married for love, and it paid off far more than a marriage of convenience like what my aunts had entered into. While they cheated on their husbands, and their husbands cheated on them, mama and daddy were totally and completely devoted to one another. They could only see being with each other, and that was how it always would be…even until daddy died.
They were married, happily, for three years before I was born, and another five thereafter. In mama’s heart, though, they were married up to the day she died. She never once went on a date with any other man after she married daddy. She said that it wouldn’t be proper for her to do so. I suppose that she was right, but I didn’t really understand. She never again tried to explain it to me either.
She was a beautiful woman, my mama was. Her jet-black hair and milky white skin offset her ruby red lips and deep green eyes. Her fine facial features, thin wisp of a body, and ample assets tempted many a man, but she never gave in. She’d married Calvin Usher. No other man would ever have her. She belonged to daddy in her mind. No one else could have her. She could never bring herself to love any other.
She often told me that I looked more like her than I did daddy, even though I had his nose. I had her body, her hair, her lips, and her eyes. She doted on me. She showed me off to anyone on the street who would stop long enough. Many times, people—later on, when I reached my teens—mistook us for sisters. This amused her greatly, and, I think, kind of fed her vanity to think that she still looked young enough to pass as a teenager.
I grew rather close to her in the latter part of our time together. She did become something of a sister to me. She was my best friend. She was my confidant. She was my only companion. She raised me alone, without any help. I owed her so much more than I could ever repay her for. And, yet, our time together was all too short.
After daddy’s murder, even though a handful of the perps had been caught, tried, and convicted, she felt that justice had not been served. She spent her last day in church cursing the town and all who lived in it. Never again would they ever taste success or togetherness as a community. Until the whole town confessed to their part in daddy’s death, the town would rapidly disintegrate. And it did.
Soon, there was no town, and by the age of fourteen, I could walk to the pond on our property without worrying about being accosted by any of the local boys. But that would be a long way off in her stories about her and daddy. They led such an extraordinary life together before I was born. And even after I was born they seemed to have a wonderful life. I just seemed to add to their joy and happiness.
She watched me grow. From the age of five until I was almost sixteen, she watched me blossom into a young woman. She tried her best to teach me right from wrong, but I didn’t always pay attention.
I would do what I wished, when I wished. I was, indeed, a typical teenager. I drank, I smoked, I grew curious about my body, and most of all…I grew curious about boys. But, still, I did remain in school. On weekends, I partied. During the week, I studied. And I was smart!
I was the youngest person in accelerated classes when we, mama and I, moved to Akron, Ohio. At the age of fourteen, I was thrown into city life. I found myself taking senior classes as a freshman. I graduated at fifteen, and found myself able to stay home and help mama, whose health was beginning to fail…and at such a young age. Young, indeed. She was only in her thirties, and already she was growing weak. She was coughing profusely, and prevalently finding it hard to breathe.
But, before she fell ill, and just shortly after we moved to Akron, she decided to turn our home into a boarding house. And I, being supportive, was all for it. After she fell ill, and after I graduated, I began taking care of the needs of the house and our boarders. I continued to do so up to the day mama was hospitalized. It was then that I knew that she was going to die. Everyone tried to tell me that I was being brave, but all I knew was that I was scared. I knew that I didn’t have much time left with her, and I didn’t want it to end.
When the day finally came, I was at her bedside. She reached out her hand and placed it on my bare knee, smiling. She knew her time had come, and she welcomed it. As I looked into her deep green eyes, I knew she was ready for the end she now faced. But I wasn’t. I didn’t want her to go. But I knew that she had to.
“Don’t worry, Maggie,” she whispered, “I’ll be fine. I’m ready to see your daddy again. All the money is yours now. Let no one take advantage of you. Aim high…go for the gold…live your dreams. Don’t settle for less than what you know you’re worth, and then ask for more. Take your new life by the horns and make a better life for yourself.”
I watched as she gasped. I grasped her hand, praying that she’d live. Then came the rattle, and I knew she was gone. The tears flowed like a river, then, as I buried my face into her stomach…sobbing loudly. I didn’t care if the nurses thought I was going to extremes. I had just lost the only person in the world I had left. I was alone.