Chapter One: The Get Together (Excerpt) Beginning of Chapter One
Ama Campbell lovingly shakes out and then floats the embroidered fuchsia tablecloth over and onto the sturdy old mahogany dining room table. Patting it smooth, she is conscious, as always, of the generations of ancestors who graced its boards. Her mother, Kay, deceased now for seventeen years, had passed on her love of this table to Ama long before it was entrusted to her care. The doorbell's ring jolts her from daydreaming. "Oh, my God! Is it four o'clock already?" She rushes through the kitchen toward the front door, glancing at the clock on the stove as she passes by and sighs with relief, "Thank goodness, it's only three fifteen." She opens the door and there stands Tommy, the handsome brother from the flower shop.
"Hey, Ama, what's up? Why all the flowers? You got something special going on?" he asks as he hands her two of the three pink and white stargazer lily arrangements she ordered.
"Wow, that's great, Ama. Congratulations. I wish I could come." As he returns to the truck to get the third arrangement, Ama shouts, "It's a women-only thang." Then adds with a grin, when he returns, "Maybe next time." But as she closes the door on his departing back, enjoying first the view of his walk, and then the look and fragrance of the blossoms she carries, she says to herself, "These flowers are absolutely gorgeous, just like that fine brother-man. I'm gonna have something - anything - to invite him to. He's very easy on the eyes."
Ama quickly refocuses on the get together as she scans the living room to decide where to place the flowers, and subconsciously notes the seating arrangements.
She wants everything to be perfect for what she imagines will be one of the most memorable evenings of her life. Ama reflects on how proud her mother would be of her and thinks that Ma would have planned just such a special event to celebrate this major accomplishment in her life. She inhales deeply. Every inch of her small two-bedroom home is filled with heavenly aromas. The homemade rolls dominate but are forgotten as her sight turns to the small folding table and card table. She mumbles, "Where the hell did I put those tablecloths?" Just as the doorbell rings, she remembers that they're in the buffet's side compartment, behind the tall ice-tea glasses. This time when she opens the door, it's to her first guest, her friend, Makeba, dressed regally in a fabulous black and white mud-cloth outfit - with matching hat - looking like a real African princess. With genuine joy Ama says, "It is just like you to show up first, even though you came all the way from LA. Even when you're early, you're always right on time." They hug, their arms letting each other know how much each has been missed. Ama says, "Girl, I knew you would be the first one here; you are just too punctual." They both laugh as they enter the living room.
"It's hard to believe I've let so much time go by without spending any with you," Makeba says to Ama.
"I know what you mean, girl," Ama sighs. They had hit it off immediately when they met ten years before while Ama's family was in Los Angeles on vacation. Kay was an ex-girlfriend of Makeba's boyfriend's Uncle Joe.
Chapter One: The Get Together (Excerpt) End of Chapter One
After a while, as everyone is having a great time and enjoying the food, Ama announces, "Well, I guess no one else will be arriving. I invited a few others." Helen promptly adds, "With everything that's going on in my life, I almost didn't make it myself." The noisy, melodic and fun-filled mood suddenly shifts to a solemn ambiance. It is very evident that the women have become very comfortable with each other during this short time when Helen, finishing up her sweet potato pie and continuing to sip iced tea, begins offering an absorbing and painful unfolding of events in her life. At first she had been talking to Leesha and Makeba, but when some of the others overheard a reference to Kay they all had gradually fallen silent and began to listen in."
Chapter Eleven: Ama's Story (Excerpt) End of Chapter Eleven
There is an eerie silence as Ama ends her story. Suddenly tears are streaming down her face. She rushes from the room with Marlana and Makeba following her. Understanding the memories and feelings that this gathering has evoked, the rest of the women sit silently until Hattie Mae says, "Say, is dare any mo of dat Harveys?" Leesha is the first to laugh out loud but is soon joined by all the others. Ena refills Hattie Mae's glass and all the others that are held out to her.
Ama, Marlana, and Makeba re-enter the room as Leesha makes a toast: "To our hostesses-here in the flesh and here in spirit," to which all the ladies say, "Hear, hear!" Ama, a little embarrassed, enthusiastically thanks everyone for being there. She says the get together, although heart-wrenching, had really, in some strange way, soothed her soul.
This celebration was intended to be an upbeat occasion-and it has been-but I feel it's evolved into much, much more. Despite the fact that some parts of our lives have presented us with challenges that seemed overwhelming, we've all come through those times-mentally healthy and spiritually strong. Sharing your stories has given me some of your strength. I hope all of you feel that way, too. Am I right?" Everyone but Hattie Mae nods in agreement. "Then please don't let us end here. I know Ma is somewhere up there nodding her head in approval. This will be a weekend that I will never forget. I hope you won't either." "I sho enjoy myself dis weekend too," says Hattie Mae. Cain't wait to see you chuirrun again. Gimme another Harveys, Ama.
Ama realizes that this celebration provided a secure and safe haven for everyone to comfortably get a lot of off their chests. She also has a strong feeling that this momentous weekend was just the first of many more to come.
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