Categories
By J.S. Hala Creative Work

Family Ties

Old House by Graeme Smith is licensed under CC-BY-SA 2.0

My favorite plants are the white ones that grow on the side of our bathtub. Whenever the wood underneath gets soaked from the leaks in our old copper pipes, the tiny, umbrella-shaped plants blossom. Mama says they’re called ‘shrooms, but not like the kind in our refrigerator. We couldn’t eat the ones that grew in the bathroom. Every time they grow, Mama puts on her rubber gloves and pulls them out of the splitting wood. I ask her why can’t get the floor fixed, or the pipes replaced. She says it costs too much. We don’t have that kind of money. And this house? This house belonged to my great-grandfather. The family owns it. And they wouldn’t be happy if we changed it in any way. Even though it’s literally falling apart. Instead of gossiping, you would think they’d help us fix it up. But no. We’re the laughingstock of the family. My cousins who live up the street say we’re too poor to afford iPhones like they have. The kids on the bus say we live in a chicken shack. I don’t ever tell Mama this, though. I know she’s trying her best. So, I do my part by bringing home straight As. So, I can go to college on a scholarship and get a good job. So, we can move far away from the family.

My favorite sound is the rain when it hits our tin roof at night. It reminds me of the drumline playing at my high school. I dance for the band. Mama saw the dance tryout flyer crumpled up on my bedroom floor earlier this year and asked why I didn’t want to try out. I told her I was afraid. But the truth is it would cost $500 to join the team if I made it. And our water heater had just broken. And the septic tank was full. And we were low on propane, so the heaters were barely working, and winter was coming. I didn’t think dance was more important than those things. Mama wanted to be a dancer in school, but they were too poor. And my great-aunts said she wasn’t good enough. She forced me to go to tryouts anyway. I made it.  So now maybe I can get a dance scholarship to go to Julliard. Or I can become a professional backup dancer for Beyonce. So, we don’t have to pick between water heaters and my dance fees. So, we can move away. So, we can get away from the family.

My favorite short story is A Rose for Emily by William Faulkner. Mama reads it to me from one of her old college textbooks. I like it because it’s strange, like me. She says if I read it now, I’ll know it before the other kids at school. She tells me that I must always be two steps ahead. I tell her we’re poor with money, but rich with knowledge. She laughs. People say money doesn’t solve everything. But they must’ve never been without. Money would literally solve everything for us. We could get the heater fixed. We could stop having to boil our bathwater on the stove (when it worked). We could buy our own house. We could get away from the family.

My favorite day is today. I applied to 13 colleges. I got accepted to all of them. And I’m getting presented with a bunch of scholarships. I was up all night calculating numbers. After paying for all my tuition, books, and housing, I still had thousands of dollars left over. Thousands. I had never seen so many zeros after a dollar sign before. I also spent all night crying. But not because I was too cold to sleep. Or because I heard my aunt say I was too dark to be pretty. No. I cried because I could finally help Mama. I could finally get her old car fixed. I could help her fix her credit. So, she could get a loan. So, she could move. So, she could finally get away from the family.