Monday, June 30, 2008

Laura Jean Hopes for Christmas

Now little one,
Let me tell you a story about my mama’s mama.
She was a little girl named Laura Jean.

Her Nanny used to say to her
“Laura Jean,
don’t let them call you Laura.
Don’t let them call you Jean.
Your name is Laura Jean
because you’re a lady.”

This story takes place in December, little one,
and you of course know what that means.
It was Christmastime.

Mr. Pemberton, the grocer,
had filled his store with all kinds of sweets and goodies.
His store windows were full of toys and treats and presents.

Everyday after school, Monday through Friday,
Laura Jean and her classmates would walk past and look in the windows
hoping to see their parents buying something,
or perhaps to take one more look at the red bicycle,
or day-dream about eating candy canes, salt water taffy, and chocolate.
Laura Jean would stand at the window,
and look at a manger scene with real plaster sheep and hay,
a baby Jesus with moveable arms and a cloth diaper, Mary in blue,
and a shepherd with a real wooden staff.
“Wouldn’t it be just absolutely grand to have that manger, with the real baby Jesus with moveable arms and a cloth diaper and Mary in blue,” Laura Jean would think to herself.

If it was a good day,
and Mr. Pemberton wasn’t too busy,
he himself would come out and lean against the door,
and talk with Laura Jean and her friends
about just what it was that Santa Claus
was going to bring them this year.

Between arithmetic and spelling at school,
Ms. Louisa May Cadwallader,
Laura Jean’s second grade teacher,
Would allow the children to cut out snowflakes,
paste together red and green paper chains,
decorate Christmas cards,
and make salty-dough ornaments
to take home and hang upon their Christmas trees.

Little one, you know Laura Jean loved Christmas.
More than anything she loved making the ornaments.
She loved cutting out Christmas cards with snowmen on them.
She loved the white snowflakes folded and cut and folded and cut over and over again.
She loved the conversations with Mr. Pemberton.
She loved singin’ Christmas carols.
And she loved dreaming about Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Little one, do you know what?
The whole town was preparing for Christmas.
The store was ready.
The school was ready.
The town square was ready.
You could hear Christmas songs on the radio
and coming from people’s homes when you walked home.
Every single child in Ms. Louisa May Cadwallader’s classroom had a Christmas tree
with at least one present under it.

But did Laura Jean?
She did not.
Did Laura Jean’s front door have a Christmas wreath on it?
It did not.
Did Laura Jeans’ entry hall have mistletoe hangin’ from the light?
It did not.
Did Laura Jean’s parlor have a Christmas tree in it?
It did not.
Not one decoration, not one ornament, not one sign that Christmas was coming.

Days and weeks passed by.
Laura Jean kept thinkin’ today I will come home
and my grandaddy will have brought a Christmas tree for our parlor.
Every day it was the same:

One morning Laura Jean, about to explode, could hold it in no longer.
Right in the middle of breakfast,
right in the middle of a bite of hot cereal,
Laura Jean stood up in her chair and raised her spoon high in the air
and cried out, with a little too much sass,
“Nanny when are we going to get ready for Christmas?”

Now Nanny turned to her, paused and then said,
“Laura Jean, it is not Christmas day.
Mary and Joseph had to wait for Christmas day.
The shepherds watchin’ their field had to wait for Christmas day.
The kings lookin’ up at the stars had to wait till Christmas day.
Even the baby Jesus had to wait for Christmas day.
In point of fact Miss Laura Jean,
for a thousand years the whole wide world had to wait for Christmas day,
and for practically a thousand more children have waited for Christmas day,
So, I imagine that you will now quit actin’ foolish,
sit back down,
place that spoon in your mouth,
and finish eating that hot cereal.”

Now Laura Jean didn’t ask about Christmas day again.
But she sure thought about it a whole lot.

On December 20th Laura Jean came home
and opened the door hoping to smell a fresh cut spruce.
Did she smell that Christmas tree?
She did not.

On December 21st Laura Jean came home
and opened the door hoping to be invited in by freshly baked Christmas cookies.
Was she welcomed in by Christmas cookies baking in the oven?
She was not.

On December 22nd Laura Jean came home
and opened the door and looked for one scrap of pretty printed wrapping paper left behind after the gifts were wrapped.
Did she find even a scrap of paper?
She did not.

On December 23rd Laura Jean came home
and opened the door and hoped to be surrounded by the flavor of hot apple cider mulling in the kitchen.
Was she surrounded by the aroma of hot apple cider?
She was not.

On December 24th, Christmas Eve,
Laura Jean passed the home of the neighbor, Miss Augusta Pucker.
It looked as if Mrs. Claus had decorated it herself.
Laura Jean longed to see just one Christmas wreath hanging from her own front door.
She did not see any such thing,
not one single solitary hint that Christmas was tomorrow.

Laura Jean walked inside the door,
head down.
She let her books drop to the floor
and began to sulk all the way upstairs, shoulders slumped over,
hands nearly draggin’ the ground,
all out of unmatched disappointment.

Nanny called from the kitchen and said,
“Laura Jean get yerself right upstairs and get on your Sunday dress.
We are goin’ to eat dinner when your grandaddy gets home
and then go to church.
Pastor Morrison has promised a grand sermon tonight.”

Laura Jean went upstairs and put on her dress.
She ate dinner without one word.
Little one, do you understand the gravity of this situation?
Laura Jean, who can talk from here to tomorrow and back,
sat at the dinner table and said not one word the whole time.

You see, Laura Jean had done got it into her head
That Christmas was never comin’
not even on December 25th.
Now little one, you and I both know
that when Laura Jean gets somethin’ in her head
it is stuck there good.
And it takes an awful lot to change it.
As if you ever could.

Well, dinner passed
and Luara Jean was accompanied by Nanny and Granddaddy to church.
Pastor Morrison’s sermon was long from where Laura Jean sat.
“After all how long does it take to say, ‘Baby Jesus was born in a manger and that made the whole world happy,’” Laura Jean thought to herself.

The choir sang their hearts out
and you would’a thought you were in the very field itself
when the shepherds heard those Angels sing their brave delight:
“Gloria in excelsis Deo.”
Miss Augusta Pucker cried when the choir sang “Lo how a rose e’er blooming.”
Mr. Pemberton the grocer bellowed out: “God rest ye merry gentlemen.”
Miss Louisa May Cadwallader organized the little children into a manger scene.
And Laura Jean decided that “Away in the manger”
was just the kind of lullaby she would’a wanted to hear
if she was the baby Jesus himself.

After church Granddaddy carried Laura Jean all the way home.
Now, maybe she was pretending to sleep
so as she wouldn’t be disappointed with the lack of Christmas decorations,
presents, and cookies upon arriving home.
But little one, I doubt it.
I think Laura Jean fell asleep out of a right joyful sense of love.
She fell asleep in Granddaddy’s arms
filled and satisfied with a love that comes from being surrounded by
family, friends and neighbors.
Granddaddy loved his little one so very much.
He carried her up the stairs.
Nanny put her night gown on.
And they both kissed their number one child good night.
She slept till morning.

In the morning Laura Jean woke up
to a smell of delight.
Hot apple cider mulled away in the kitchen and its aroma filled Laura Jean’s room.
Laura Jean breathed in deeply and smelled the sweet scent of cookies baking.
She put on her slippers and ran down the stairs.
As she came down the stairs
Nanny and Granddaddy where there to meet her.
They were standing in front of the parlor doors.
Just about the time Laura Jean caught sight of the mistletoe
Nanny and Granddaddy cried out,
“Merry Christmas.”
And flung open the doors of the parlor.
There stood
the most beautiful,
the most perfect,
the most green,
decorated Christmas tree.
The candles made it glow like dancing fireflies.
It was hung with foil stars, shiny ornaments and, paper chains.
There were presents under the tree too.
And a manger in the window with real plaster sheep and hay,
a baby Jesus with moveable arms and a cloth diaper, Mary in blue,
and a shepherd with a real wooden staff.

Now little one,
Can you believe it?
That was Laura Jean’s favorite Christmas.
I wonder why?
Maybe it was the gifts.
Maybe it was the tree.
Maybe it was the cider or the cookies.
But perhaps, just perhaps,
It was something else entirely.
I wonder.

Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely,
Love divine;
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and angels gave the sign.
Christina Rossetti
The Hymnal 1982, Hymn 84

Laura Jean Waits for Miss Betsy

Now little one
Let me tell you a story about my mama’s mama.
She was a little girl named Laura Jean.

Her Nanny used to say to her,
“Laura Jean,
don’t let them call you Laura.
Don’t let them call you Jean.
Your name is Laura Jean
because you’re a lady.”

One summer morning,
bright and sunny,
Laura Jean was playin’ in the back yard
behind the oleander bush
just below the magnolia tree.
She had gathered more than a handful of
magnolia leaves as big as dollar bills and was pretendin’
she was rich.

She had gathered up acorns
pinecones, several mud pies,
and two biscuits smuggled from breakfast.
Just like when Nanny went to Mr. Pemberton’s grocery
they sat there in neat little piles.
Laura Jean was talkin’ to an imaginary Mr. Pemberton.
with one hand on her hip
and one finger restin’ upon her chin-dimple,
she said as if she were a connoisseur of apples,
“Could the price of apples be any higher?”
“So, what do you have to say today,
Mr. Pemberton?
Any new gossip worth tellin’?”

Just then
right in the middle of Mr. Pemberton’s reply
the spring on the screen door scraped open
Nanny called out into the back yard.
“Lauraaaaaaaa Jeeeeean,
Uncle Billy and Miss Betsy are comin’ for dinner.”

Little one,
you may not have known this
but Laura Jean had a favorite uncle
and that was
Uncle Billy.
Now little one do you have a favorite uncle?
If you don’t, Uncle Billy might be your favorite uncle too.

You see,
Uncle Billy was Laura Jean’s favorite uncle ‘cause
he had the first car she ever did see.
This was before cars were so plentiful.
You’ve probably seen lots of cars,
but Laura Jean had only seen one car in her whole live long life of eight years and that was Uncle Billy’s Model T.
That car had a name,
the best name in all the world,
that is, for a car:
Miss Betsy.

Now little one,
the fact that Uncle Billy and Miss Betsy
were comin’ for dinner
was the best news there ever was.

Laura Jean hopped up,
scattered the magnolia leaves,
and ran through the house.
Back door to front,
faster than a sneeze.

Little one it wasn’t even lunchtime
and Laura Jean was already sittin’
on that front porch
rockin’ and a swingin’ away
with the back of that ole swing knock knockin’ against the house.

Nanny came out the front door ‘cause of the racket
and looked at Laura Jean
like she had two heads,
or lost her mind, and said,
“Laura Jean, what you doin’?
Uncle Billy and Miss Betsy won’t be here till suppertime.”

Little one, did Laura Jean hear Nanny?
She did not.
She wasn’t further than your hand to your nose, but
Laura Jean was so intent on the front gate
down the end of the road,
and Uncle Billy and Miss Betsy’s arrival
you’da thought you were talkin’ to a rock.

Nanny waved her hand at her,
and went back inside,
screen door slammin’,
and left Laura Jean
rockin’ and a swingin’ and
knock knockin’ against that house.

Later Nanny came out with lunch and
offered an American cheese and jelly sandwich
(Laura Jean’s favorite) on white bread
with a bowl of syrupy peaches
to the World Swing Champion.

Did Laura Jean touch her lunch?
She did not.
Laura Jean sat there rockin’ and swingin’
starin’ at the gate as if she could make
Uncle Billy and Miss Betsy appear by her sheer will.

Now little one, you and I both know
that when Laura Jean gets somethin’ in her head
it was stuck there good.
And it takes an awful lot to change it.
As if you ever could.

Later that afternoon,
Nanny came out with a snack
fearin’ Laura Jean was gonna waste away
from lack of food
and an overabundance of swingin’
and offered a snack of peanut butter on saltine crackers
with a glass of fresh squeezed lemonade.

Did Laura Jean even touch those crackers?
Or sip that lemonade?
She did not.
Laura Jean sat there rockin’ and swingin’,
with her black hair full of wind and ideas,
pigtails swingin’
back and forth,
waitin’ for Uncle Billy and Miss Betsy,
and the spectacle to come.

Now, little one, just about the time Laura Jean was gonna fall asleep
having rocked halfway around the world on that swing.
Uncle Billy pulled through the gate in Miss Betsy.

You know what he did?
Do you little one?
Uncle Billy got out of that car.
He closed the door
leaving Miss Betsy coughin’ and sputterin’
and he stood there like the President himself
and waved his hat in the air
at Laura Jean up on the front porch.

“Hidee doo, Lauraaaaa Jean,” he hollered.
Laura Jean stopped swingin’ and stared
Mouth open catchn’ flies
Eyes poppin’ out with excitement.

Then, takin’ his time
Uncle Billy turned to Miss Betsy and he said,
“Miss Betsy lets go see my favorite little girl
Laura Jean.”
Miss Betsy spewed a cloud of gray smoke and coughed a little
As if replyin’ to Uncle Billy in the affirmative.

And, you know what, little one?
Uncle Billy turned,
tapped Miss Betsy’s front tire,
and began walkin’ up that road
just as if it was every day you saw Uncle Billy and Miss Betsy
comin’ up your driveway to your house.

Do you know, little one what happened next?
Do you?
Miss Betsy began to follow Uncle Billy up that road.
That car followed Uncle Billy.
Right up that road!

And, was that road straight, little one?
It was not.
It was crooked,
as crooked as you ever saw.

When Miss Betsy come to the crook in that crooked road
she coughed and spluttered somethin’ terrible
wheezin’ and cryin’ out, bellowin’ smoke.

You know what happened next?
I didn’t believe it when I first heard it,
but I come to find out it is true
not by the sheer nonsense of the tellin’
but I knew it was true inside my heart.

At that crook in the crooked road
with Miss Betsy scared to go further
Uncle Billy would turn and reach down
give that tire a pat with is hand and say,
“It’s okay Miss Betsy
you just follow me.
You just follow ole’ Uncle Billy
and we’ll go see Miss Laura Jean.

You know, little one,
Miss Betsy would just turn and follow Uncle Billy
right up that crooked crooked, road.

And the whole time
Laura Jean sat right on the very edge of that swing
not movin’, not breathin’, not blinkin’
watchin’ Uncle Billy and Miss Betsy a coming right up to the front door.

And when Uncle Billy did arrive
he turned to Miss Betsy and said,
“That’s a good girl, Miss Betsy.”
And Miss Betsy gave out one last cough,
practically collapsing,
and would blow a geyser of steam out just for show and pity.

Laura Jean launched herself off that swing
practically landin’ in Uncle Billy’s arms.
She gave Miss Betsy a pat.
And stuck to Uncle Billy like gum in your hair
asking nonstop questions about Miss Betsy
till long after supper,
long after Nanny tired of gettin’ a word in
and until Uncle Billy and Miss Betsy
found their way back down that crooked road.
Their lights vanishin’ in the night,
Laura Jean watched the exodus from her window upstairs.

After all, wouldn’t you, little one?
Wouldn’t you watch Uncle Billy and Miss Betsy?
I bet you would.

Laura Jean Vs. Miss Augusta Pucker

Now little one,
let me tell you a story about my mama’s mama.
She was a little girl named Laura Jean.

Her Nanny used to say to her,
“Laura Jean
don’t let them call you Laura.
Don’t let them call you Jean.
Your name is Laura Jean
because you’re a lady.”

Pastor Morrison
loved fried chicken on Sunday afternoons
and quoting the commandments.
More times than Laura Jean could remember
Pastor Morrison sat at Nanny’s kitchen table and said,
“The Lord says love thy neighbor.
And neighbor, this chicken is Mmmmm good.”

Laura Jean was sure that if there was anyone,
and little one, I do mean anyone,
that the Lord Himself thought might be an exception to the love thy neighbor commandment
it was Miss Augusta Pucker of 2135 Sunset Ave.

Now little one, you and I both know
that when Laura Jean gets something in her head
it is stuck there good.
And it takes an awful lot to change it.
As if you ever could.

You see
Miss Augusta Pucker
lived by herself in a house just down the street from Laura Jean.
You could not go to Mr. Pemberton’s store,
you could not go to the school house,
you could not go anywhere,
anywhere at all, without passing
Miss Augusta Pucker’s house.
That is unless you wanted to go by way of South America.

And little one,
did Miss Augusta Pucker want you to cross her lawn?
She did not.
Did Miss Augusta Pucker want you to set foot on her sidewalk?
She did not.
Did Miss Augusta Pucker want you to smell one smell of her prize-winning roses?
She did not.
In point of fact little one,
Miss Augusta Pucker didn’t want one of your little toes
to touch one blade of grass on her lawn.
Laura Jean even believed that if you so much as looked
at that house, Miss Augusta Pucker would know
and chase you away.

So Laura Jean never went by her neighbor’s house.
She never, not once, even
looked at Miss Augusta Pucker’s house.
Except for that day in June.
It was the hottest day of the year.
No, it was the hottest day of the century.
And Laura Jean had decided to go down to Mr. Pemberton’s store
with a nickel to buy the eensiest vanilla ice cream you ever did see.
As little as your mama’s thumb.

But on a day as hot as that day,
when you could fry and egg on the side walk,
and you are barefoot,
do you know what that girl did?
Can you guess?
Laura Jean decided to
take the shortest route to Mr. Pemberton’s store
Miss Augusta Pucker’s front lawn.

And child, not as soon as Laura Jean’s big toe
touched the first blade of grass on Miss Augusta Pucker’s lawn
did the front porch screen door slam open
and there stood a most menacing, fierce Southern woman:
Miss Augusta Pucker.
Standing there a tower of strength.
Standing there a power to be reckoned with.
Her sleeves rolled up and apron wrapped around her middle.
She leveled a very crooked finger at Laura Jean and hollered out…

Now you are wondering, little one, what Miss Augusta Pucker hollered.
Laura Jean did not hear her.
No she did not.
You see Laura Jean took off runnin’ faster than fast.
Laura Jean ran and ran
even takin’ the long way to Mr. Pemberton’s store,
and wouldn’t you know it
Laura Jean got there in record time
bare foot, heat, and all.

Now little one
let me tell you.
That day
in June
sittin’ in Mr. Pemberton’s store
with the counter fan blowing her mess of pigtails,
savoring every bit of that vanilla ice cream,
Laura Jean designed in her heart
how she would get that most unneighborly
neighbor, Miss Augusta Pucker.

Now little one, you and I both know
that when Laura Jean gets something in her head
it was stuck there good.
And it takes an awful lot to change it.
As if you ever could.

When Miss August Pucker left that Thursday morning
to have tea and play cards with the ladies,
Laura Jean went to Miss Augusta Pucker’s home.
I know you don’t believe me,
but she did.
She snuck up around the prize-winning roses.
She snuck up barefoot walkin’ on the lawn
lettin’ her big toe touch every blade of grass.
She snuck up
of all-purpose pink dye, purchased from Mr. Pemberton’s store.

Laura Jean crept quietly around the corner of the house,
as quiet as any little girl can,
opened the screen door to the back porch
and stood there, fists on her hips,
pail in her hand
spying Miss Augusta Pucker’s two cats.
Two perfectly white,
perfectly fluffy,
perfectly Persian,
and perfectly manicured cats,
loungin’ on the rose printed cushions of the
Sears and Roebuck National porch glider.
Their names were Mr. Warren G. Harding and Sir Bootie-Poo.

Now just as gentle as a momma and her newborn baby
Laura Jean scooped up Mr. Warren G. first,
saying, “That’s a good kitty kitty.”
And dipped him in the pail of pink dye.
She sat him on the floor and wrung him out good,
good and dry.
Mr. Warren G. Harding being a normal cat didn’t much like
goin’ in for a bath but put up with it as well as a cat could.
He sat there in the sun licking his fur and drying himself off
a perfectly manicured,
perfectly Persian,
perfectly fluffy,
perfectly pink Mr. Warren G. Harding.

“Here Bootie-Poo,” crooned Laura Jean,
“That’s a good kitty.”
And Laura Jean scooped up Sir Bootie-Poo
and dipped him into the pail of pink.
Sir Bootie-Poo emerged
madder than Mr. Warren G.
flicking his back paws as he walked.
around the porch
in circles
happy only to be out of the wet.

Laura Jean stood there and admired her work.
She stood there satisfied in her heart
with two perfectly manicured,
perfectly Persian,
perfectly fluffy,
perfectly pink cats.
Mr. Warren Pink Harding and Sir Pinkie-Poo.
Laura Jean giggled to herself at the thought.

And as she stood there rollin’ over those names
and the visions in pink before her very eyes
do you think she heard the footsteps coming up the path?
She did not.
Do you think she heard the white-gloved hand open the screen door?
She did not.
Do you think she heard Miss Augusta Pucker, that very
menacing fierce Southern woman?
Standing there a tower of strength.
Standing there a power to be reckoned with.
Standing there right behind her.
She did not.

Then Laura Jean turned
ever so slowly around
and her eyes rose
and took in Miss Augusta Pucker’s puckered mouth.
And they looked one another in the eye.
Laura Jean looked up.
Miss Augusta Pucker looked down.
And it seemed as though the world stopped spinning
and time, the universe, and everything stopped.

Then it happened.
Children today still talk about it.
Miss Augusta Pucker’s pucker turned into a smile
and then into a laugh.
Then Laura Jean laughed.
And they both looked at those two pink cats
sittin’ there perfectly pink
and laughed some more.
In fact they laughed so hard that Laura Jean fell to the floor
and Miss Augusta Pucker had to sit down on the glider.

Finally, when it hurt to laugh any more,
Miss Augusta Pucker said to Laura Jean
“Miss Laura Jean may I offer you a glass of PINK lemonade?”
And they laughed some more.

Little one, you see it turns out that
Miss Augusta Pucker was after all a
right neighborly neighbor,
with a sense of humor,
who didn’t really mind you crossing her lawn,
stepping on her sidewalk,
or even smelling her prize-winning roses.
In point of fact little one,
your big toe was always welcome
at Miss Augusta Pucker’s home
especially for lemonade on the back porch
or tea in the parlor.
You see that’s what Miss Augusta Pucker was
hollerin’ at Laura Jean
an invitation to come inside and sit for a spell.

Sometimes little one,
when you get somethin’ in your head
it can get stuck there good.
And it can take an awful lot to change it.
As if you ever could.

What about those cats?
Well little one,
Mr. Warren G. Harding and Sir Bootie-Poo
lived a long time as perfectly pink Persian pussy cats.

Laura Jean Climbs Granddaddy’s Tree

Now little one,
Let me tell you a story about my mama’s mama.
She was a little girl named Laura Jean.

Her Nanny used to say to her
“Laura Jean,
don’t let them call you Laura.
Don’t let them call you Jean.
Your name is Laura Jean
because you’re a lady.”

Laura Jean was a tree climber
and there was an oak tree in her front yard.
That tree was a great ole oak tree.
Folks said her great granddaddy planted that tree.
Old, tall, and wise, it was the best climbin’ tree around,
and that tree had the best of Laura Jean every time.

One day Laura Jean woke up
after a good night’s rest,
walked across the room to her window
looked across the front yard
at that ole tree,
threw open the window and yelled,
“Tree. Tree, do you hear me?
Today, I’m gonna climb you, you ole Tree.”

Now little one, you and I both know
that when Laura Jean gets something in her head
it was stuck there good.
And it takes an awful lot to change it.
As if you ever could.

Laura Jean pulled on her best tree climbin’ overalls
and put her arms through her favorite climbin’ shirt.
She struggled with her socks and slipped into her shoes,
marched down stairs and out the front door,
with the screen door slapping behind her.

Her Nanny called after her,
“Laura Jean you come eat your breakfast.”

Laura Jean paid no attention to Nanny,
crossed the front porch,
and skipped down the front steps two at a time.

She walked right up to that ole granddaddy tree.
With her hands on her hips,
She surveyed the tree from roots to the tip-top branches
and lept onto the tree like she was wrestlin’ a bear.

She climbed and climbed.
Half way up and feeling sure of herself
she stopped,
blew back her wild black hair
and looked up, down and all around
takin’ in the challenge to come.

Just as she did,
the wind blew
or maybe she lost her balance,
or maybe that ole granddaddy tree laughed just a little.
Little one, nobody knows just what happened.

But just as Laura Jean took in
the site of her accomplishments yet to come
and pridefully thought about
conquering that ole tree
she fell.
She lost her balance and fell,
all of two branches, about five feet.
And, you know what Little One?
That ole granddaddy tree,
like a granddaddy would in just such a case,
reached out and grabbed Laura Jean
by the seat of her pants.

There she was
neither half-way up nor half-way down
hangin’ suspended by her overalls,
swinging back and forth
with the most lemon puckered face
you’ve ever seen.

Little One, Laura Jean hung there
by grace from that ole tree,
until a longtime came noon.
A very hungry little girl
began thinking about food.

Meanwhile, in the kitchen
Nanny finished making Laura Jean a sandwich
laid it on a china plate,
with blue birds and trees painted on the edge,
and went lookin’ for Laura Jean
so’s she could come eat.

Nanny had seen Laura Jean speed into the front yard
so she began on the front porch.

She looked this way.
She looked that way.
She looked up, across, and down the street,
and hollered “Lauuuura Jeeeeean,
come in this house,
your lunch is ready.”

Little one, did Laura Jean answer?
She did not.
She was so busy dreamin’ of sandwiches, and pears
Nanny’s voice flew right by her like a mosquito buzzing in your ear.

“Maybe Laura Jean went to the back yard,”
thought Nanny to herself.
She walked through the house and out the kitchen door.

She looked all across the back yard
and hollered “Lauuura Jeeeeean
come in this house.
Lunch is ready.”

Little one, did Laura Jean answer?
She did not.

So Nanny turned back into the house
she walked into the front parlor
thinkin’ the whole time
Laura Jean was making a joke on her.
Nanny stood there and shook her finger at the couch
and hollered “Lauura Jeeeeean
lunch is ready. Little lady you stop this nonsense right now.”

afar off
Nanny heard a hollerin’ and a wailin’.
She went out through the front hall
out the front door.
A commotion of branches,
and leaves, twigs, and acorns
rained down from that ole granddaddy tree.
You would’a thought a whole mess of squirrels were having an argument
about whose acorn was whose
the way the tree rocked and shook.

So, Nanny went down the front stairs
as inquisitive as inquisitive can be.
She walked cautiously
across the yard to that ole tree
looked up
and there
hangin’ from the seat of her pants
danglin’ and mad as a wet hen
was Laura Jean
the first tree climbin’ lady of the south.

Nanny paused
so as to compose herself
to keep from rollin’ all over the front yard in hysterics
and laughin’ till she cried.
Nanny took a deep breath and
said in her most southern,
most dignified,
most outright surprised voice,
“Laura Jean. What you doin’ hangin’ up in that tree?”

Then as if she was a giant,
as tall as tall can be,
Nanny reached right up
grabbed Laura Jean by the seat of her pants
and set her down on the ground.
Nanny gave her a big hug,
walked her into the kitchen,
sat her at the table.
Nanny placed that sandwich
accompanied by
a sliced pear decorated with mayonnaise and grated cheese
in front of Laura Jean.
Then Nanny crossed her legs
and sat there readin’ Laura Jean the funny papers.

Little one, did Laura Jean take one bite?
She did not.
Did Laura Jean hear one word of the funny papers?
She did not.
She sat there with a face as pink as a pink lady apple
and an expression that looked like someone had gone and pulled her ponytail.
Laura Jean sat there with her chin in her hands,
and thought about that ole granddaddy tree.

Now little one, you and I both know
that when Laura Jean gets something in her head
it was stuck there good.
And it takes an awful lot to change it.
As if you ever could.