people who have died and are up there with the Good Lord?”
“Ooo-yie!” Marraine chuckled. “Now, I never thought of that, Tite Melee, but you might be right. You might be right. Now, you gonna shush and let me finish this here story?”
I pressed my lips together and nodded, eager for her to continue.
“Well now, where was I? Oh yes! That little girl, you see, pointed to the other children, walking ahead of her and she said, ‘the others, their parents have accepted their deaths.’ And she said to her momma, ‘Their parents don’t cry, and so their candles stay lit. So, you mustn’t cry for me like that. You must accept that God wanted to take me. He wanted me. I belong to God now.’ And she said, ‘He took me when he was ready, and so,’ she said, ‘you must accept this cross to bear.’”
When Marraine had finished the story, she petted my head for a while in silence, then she leaned in and whispered softly,
“Tite Melee, you must accept that God took your momma. You mustn’t cry for her. If you do, you will put out your mother’s candle and she won’t have any light there in the after life.”
I thought about my mother, alone in the dark. I decided to no longer cry for her. We sat in silence for a while longer. The fire in the chimney crackled and hissed. Finally Marraine reached into her pocket and pulled out something bright and shiny that sparkled in the firelight.
“Here,” Marraine said, “This is a keepsake from your mother.”
It was a silver necklace with a simple braided chain and an oval pendant. Engraved on the pendant was the face of a woman, her bent head covered with a scarf, her eyes closed.
“Your mother was wearing this when you were born. She prayed for you, up until the end of her life. I took this necklace after she died. It’s yours now. You can wear it, and like that you will always have your mother with you.”
She put the necklace around my neck, and I have worn it ever since.
When I was five years old, my father came and took me away from Marraine. I remember how I cried and clung to her, and she said “Shush, now,” and wiped my tears with her apron and wiped her face with the back of her hands. She told me that she’d see me again real soon and that I mustn’t cry. I needed to be a big brave girl and go see what it was like in the city and bring her back a present. She held me real tight for a moment and kissed my head and then she let my papa pull me away and put me in his truck.
My father drove me to Lafayette to live with my grandmother, my mother’s mother. She lived in a big, fine house. I was scared and excited as we drove up to it. I had never seen a house so big. When we arrived, my grandmother came running out to the truck to meet me.
“Thank the Lord!” she cried, “Oh, darlin’ I’ve been waiting so long to see you! Oh my, how pretty you are! How you do look like your momma!”
Grandmother held my hand and walked with me back to the house. She twirled me around and fussed over me.
“My goodness!” she laughed, “That dress is frightful! We need to get you some new clothes, child! We’ll go shopping tomorrow.”
She gave me a slice of lemon pie and a tall glass of sweet tea, and she chattered away to me as I sat across from her at the big kitchen table. I understood most of what she said, though my English wasn’t very good then. Gladys, her maid, was busy washing some okra in the sink and she turned around and smiled at me from time to time.
“Gladys, doesn’t she look just like her momma!” Grandmother cooed.
“Yes ma’am. I believe she do!” said Gladys. “She just so pretty!”
The next day, Grandmother took me to town and bought me several new dresses with matching hair ribbons and two pairs of shiny new shoes: one black pair and one white. I had my own room, with a pretty poster bed, a little white dresser, and a vanity with a