So many good things have happened to me in the last three days, I can hardly take it all in. When Mama came back from town this morning, she had a package for me. Inside were three pencils, a pencil sharpener, an eraser, two tablets of paper, a box of envelopes, and four candles. I almost fell over. Three pencils, all at once! What a windfall. She said, “It’s an early birthday present. You’ve always got your nose in a letter, writing with nubs of pencils, and trying to see by stubby little candles.” She put her hand under my chin and said, “I’m proud that you are a writer. Keep it up.” Great buckets of butterbeans! Mama is proud of me.
Yesterday, Mama made a johnny cake for our lunch. She made an extra one, and she asked me to take it to Miss Melman. It was her way of saying thank you for sharing her tickets. Then today, Miss Melman walked along with the train and caught up with our wagon. She gathered her skirts and climbed right up on the seat with Mama.
Mama smiled when she saw Miss Melman had come for a visit.
“I’m having to walk extra today because that johnny cake you made was so good, I ate every bite of it. Thank you kindly,” Miss Melman said.
I was feeding Dylan right behind them in the wagon, so I could hear their talk. I wanted to be out there so bad, but I knew I had better stay right where I was. Mama left all her friends behind in Mississippi. It was nice that Miss Melman had come to call.
Mama said, “We had the best time at the opera house. I thank you again for inviting us.”
Miss Melman said, “I’ve been thinking, Mrs. Bodain. I know you love music. Theodosia tells me you’ve always wanted to learn how to play the piano.”
Tarnation. I didn’t mean for her to go and tell Mama what I said.
But Mama said, “I’ve considered it, yes. But I never had a piano.”
Miss Melman said, “Well, I’ve come to suggest a trade. I hate to admit it, Mrs. Bodain, but I have no cooking experience to speak of. Somehow, I’ve gotten by with not cooking all of my life. I lived at home, where we had a cook, and then I attended college, where we took our meals in a cafeteria. I’ve lived in boarding houses, where the food was provided. But now that I’m going to live on my own in Florida....”
Mama said, “You’ll need to know how to cook.”
Miss Melman said, “It’s a bit embarrassing, I’m afraid. Would you teach me, Mrs. Bodain? Theodosia tells me you are a terrific cook. I can tell from the johnny cake you sent over that she’s right.”
Mama said. “That girl runs her mouth too much. But yes, I’ll teach you.”
Miss Melman sounded excited. “Then, I’ll teach you to play the piano.” Mama must have looked shocked, because Miss Melman said, “Yes, I will. You can learn on my piano in the last wagon. By the time we reach your new home in Florida, you’ll be able to play most hymns and a few solo pieces.”
Mama said, “Do you think so, Miss Melman?”
Miss Melman said, “I certainly do. And please call me Cassie.”
Mama said, “It would give me something to look forward to. I get so tired of sitting up here on this seat all day, bouncing around, following the wagon in front. Maybe Teddy—Theodosia—would watch Dylan for me while we have lessons.”
Martha, I couldn’t help myself. I shouted, “I WILL!”
Mama called, “Are you back there listening to our talk?” But she wasn’t mad. “We’ve got a trade,” she told Miss Melman. “And please call me Grace.”
I am so happy when a good thing happens for Mama.