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The Summer of My Pity Parties
by Melissa Martin
12/12/2011 / Short Stories
I had shamed my husband, shamed my family, and shamed my church. I had shamed myself. But most regretfully, I'd shamed God. That's how the summer of my pity parties began.
My mother invited me to stay at her home in Ohio during the summer. She needed to help take care of her sister in Florida. Aunt Lois had fell and broke her hip. Besides, I had no other place to go. Mom, not a fan of scandal, conflict, or the sharing of raw emotions, gladly left me to myself to deal with my personal crisis.
In return for room and board, I would help out with her rental houses and specifically, the Null sisters. My older brother, the favored one, inherited the family rental property business after dad's death and his favored wife was in charge of the bookwork. The last rental house to be renovated and brought up to city code was inhibited by the Null sisters. However, these sisters did not like change, did not want change, and refused change. Esther, the oldest sister, ordered the favored son off her property and the mission was given to me.
I arrived at the Null house with a goody basket and a fresh flower bouquet. Doris, the younger of the sisters, clapped her hands and twirled around the old paint-peeling wooden porch. Esther, being large and in charge, did not invite me inside. But I was determined, mostly because I needed to fill the days with something other then my own thoughts of self-loathing and sorrow. So after a week of sipping soda on the front porch and serious discussion by Esther, I was invited inside.
"Now you know I'm only agreeing to this because I like your mother. She's been good to me and Doris. I don't want to cause her no trouble."
Upon stepping into the house, I was transported back to yesteryears. The furnishings were a mixture of hodge-podge antiques, yard sale trinkets, and gaudy glassware. Peeling wallpaper coated the walls and worn carpet adorned most of the floors. Pictures of Jesus covered the walls with a variety of wooden and plastic crosses. But I felt safe and comfortable in the Null home. Memories of my grandmother's old farmhouse flooded my senses. I was special to grandma Parks. She knew my brother Dan was the favorite son and my younger sister, Kate, was adored by all. Kate, the beautiful one, was in California making TV commercials. I added jealousy to my shame list. I was the lost middle child to everyone except grandma Parks. A wave of guilt rolled over me and I felt glad she was not around to share my disgrace and dishonor.
"Now Doris is a special child. She's a slow learner and couldn't go to school. It's up to me to take care of her. Now, don't you go hurt'in her feelings." Esther's icy eyes and pursed lips whispered to me after Doris skipped outside to play with the kittens.
"What colors do you want your room, Doris?" I asked when she came back inside.
"I want pink and purple and yellow and blue and green and red!" Doris twirled around and clapped. Her life was simple and I envied her. My life had become a chaotic mess. I was a big ball of shame floating in a murky pool of humiliation.
"Now Doris you can only pick two colors." A rare and fleeting smile traveled across Esther's face.
Doris and I became instant buddies. As we worked on her room, we talked of butterflies and chatted about picnics. I bought new curtains and a bedspread with my own money because I knew the favored one would refuse. He knew the Null sisters were on a fixed income, but he was all business with no time for charity.
I can still remember the very day when Esther warmed up to me. Doris wanted to host a tea party with the guest of honor being me.
"Doris, the only party I deserve is a pity party." Unexpected tears flowed. Doris patted my back and sang a chorus of Jesus Loves Me.
"Yes, we will have a pity party for you on Friday! With cookies and tea! Esther can we have a pity party for our dear friend?" Esther actually looked sympathetic.
"Yes, Doris. You can plan a pity party." Doris twirled and clapped.
Every Friday afternoon, I attended my pity parties with the Null sisters and their two cats. Doris dressed the cats in pick washcloths. Esther and I put on the straw hats decorated with feathers, fake fruit, and lace. Doris said the food blessing. We sipped tea from pink porcelain cups and nibbled on gingerbread cookies placed on paper doilies.
The summer nights were long and restless. I longed to call my husband but I dared not. I longed to speak with my church friends, but I remained in my silent shame. My future was unknown. I could not, would not pray. I did not deserve forgiveness. How could I approach a holy God?
The renovations to the Null house passed inspection. Dan gave me a brief compliment on the completion of my mission. I admit to feeling prideful that I had accomplished something that Dan could not. I added pride to my shame list.
At the end of the summer, Doris planned a picnic for my weekly pity party. I loaded the Null sisters and food fixings into my car and we drove to the local lake. While Doris picked wildflowers and chased butterflies, Esther and I chatted.
"Esther, if you knew what I did you would not have welcomed me into your home." I felt the urge to confess my shameful sins, but at the same time I feared her rejection. Esther and I had become friends, not buddies like Doris and me, but friends.
"Your mother told me what happened at the beginning of the summer." I know I must have looked like a deer in the headlights. My head dropped to avoid Esther's face. She put her arms around me and I cried. I thought about grandma Parks.
"This needs to be your last pity-party." Esther stated firmly and I nodded in agreement.
That night I called my husband and asked for his forgiveness. I wanted my marriage back. I wanted my life back. I wanted a second chance. Then I fell on my knees and asked God to forgive me. I wanted God back. That's how the summer of my pity parties ended.
Melissa writes about the God and human connection and condition.
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