Our house – or Sumner Manor, as Dad liked to call it – was an immense white stucco-style mansion with teal blue shutters and 30-foot Corinthian pillars. It rose three stories above the ground, yet had a homey quality to it. Regal oak trees lined the circular flagstone front drive which surrounded a beautiful garden of hydrangeas, chrysanthemums, petunias, and bluebonnets. That day in early June, there was a light summer breeze whispering through the trees, carrying with it the delicate scents of the flowers. The tranquil appearance of the house and its surroundings belied the scene unfolding inside between my father and me…

“Dad, why do we have to go?” I whined in the shrill voice of a spoiled seventeen-year-old as my father sat calmly behind his immense mahogany desk. His fingers were steepled beneath his chin and his brow was furrowed as though in concentration. That was his favorite pose; he thought it made him look stern and intimidating. I thought he looked rather silly. I folded my arms indignantly and pouted, hoping to sway him. Much to my chagrin, my hysterics had no apparent effect.

His mouth quirked in amusement, “Because you’re a spoiled brat, Jo, and I partly blame myself.” He wagged his finger emphatically, “Though your mother is mostly at fault. You need a dose of reality and an opportunity to get to know my side of the family.”

Mom had grown up dirt poor and tried to compensate for her upbringing by spending lavishly and spoiling me irrevocably. Dad often admonished her, albeit gently, telling her that filling the house with things wouldn’t bring her complete happiness.

“But I’ll be bored out of my mind in Marian, TX.” I said the town’s name as though it left a bitter taste in my mouth. “Mom says it’s very dusty and depressing.” To be fair, Mom thought most anything was depressing, unless it glittered and cost a lot of money.

“Nonsense,” my dad asserted, rising from his comfy lambskin leather chair and walking around the desk to stand in front of me. “There’ll be plenty to do. You can ‘hang out’ with your mother and I, milk a few cows and goats…” He broke off and chuckled loudly as my face contorted into an expression of utter disgust.

Rolling my eyes, I said, “You really are insufferable.” Then I fixed him with a pleading look in one last, futile attempt to convince him to let me stay in Lakeview. No luck. Silently, with my head hung in defeat, I spun on my heel and went to pack for what I was sure would be the worst summer of my life.

Later that day, I trudged into Mom’s pink and gold work studio. She was a fashion designer for Donna Ricco and did excellent work. I always wished I was as creative as she was.

“Hey darling,” she chimed, looking up from a table spread with a huge sheet of paper on which she was drawing a life-sized version of an evening gown. “Why the sad face?”

“Dad’s making me go to Marian.” I plopped down on an overstuffed settee, crossing my arms.

“Now honey, you know your dad always has the final word. Even I can’t change his mind.” She stopped her work and came to sit next to me, wrapping an arm around me. “What was his reasoning?”

“He said I’m a spoiled brat – most of which is your fault – and I need a dose of reality.”

Mom heaved a sigh, and then said, “He’s right. I have spoiled you, but I can’t seem to help it.” She stared into space as though recalling a memory. “After watching my mother beg for money in the streets and doing the same myself for so many years, I swore I’d never allow anyone I loved to suffer like that.” She smiled sadly at me, “I guess I’ve taken it too far.”

I had never heard my mom talk in such a manner, and it surprised me. She was always so composed. “Well, this is the only life I’ve ever known, so I guess I don’t understand where you’ve come from. It must have been really hard.” I gave her hand a squeeze.

“It was.” Drawing a deep breath, she snapped back to her old vibrant self. “How about this: I’ll try my best to be less extravagant and be a better mother.” She smiled hopefully at me.

“Oh mom, you’re a wonderful mother.”

She beamed brightly, “Thank you sweetie! But nonetheless…”

<<Cover || Part 2>>

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