Toe Stepping

I wasn’t going to a funeral, but I might as well have been. I changed dresses at least twelve, thirteen times before deciding on a pleated black dress with tiny buttons down the front from my neck to below my knee. Tiny pearl buttons had always been challenging for me to fasten, and now my fingers trembled worse than they did when I used to hold my hands out for daddy to hit them with a ruler. I would stand there, fingers shaking as the ruler came down across the back of each hand five times. One time he whipped me because I argued with Mr. Phillips, my seventh grade teacher. The answer Mr. Phillips wrote on the board to the math problem was incorrect. Daddy said, as he always did, that a child should be “seen and not heard.” It wasn’t my place to tell him whether it was right or wrong. I learned obedience long before seventh grade. That day I just forgot my place. When the deacons came over for a visit, I politely excused myself from the room, and so did mama. We didn’t talk back to daddy. He knew what was best for our family. But today, for the first time, I planned to stand up for myself, and hopefully the change in me would have an effect on my husband and my son.

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