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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Emma Mae’s Special Place

     Emma Mae* was just two years old but that wasn’t her biggest challenge. It was her brothers. Emma Mae and her mother were the only feminine presence in a house full of boys and a father with a bad temper. She was cute as a button, of course, but the boys just thought of her as a nuisance most of the time, since they were often charged with watching out for her. On other occasions, though, the brothers didn’t mind because whatever treat they were given by their mother, they could pretty much plan on eating Emma Mae’s, too! She was just too small to do anything about it. She tried to run away from them and she cried, of course. Their mother yelled at the boys but, in the end, it was always too late for Emma Mae.
     I think that the mother of the children who lived across the street from us must have been pretty overwhelmed with her life most of the time. There was a lot of shouting coming from their house. The children did not get to wash or change into clean clothing as often as the rest of us. Still, the kids were fun playmates. I often watched little Emma Mae trying to keep up with her brothers who seemed to delight in chasing her or running too fast for her to catch up.
     One day I noticed that Alvin and his brothers were eating suckers but Emma Mae was not. “Hey, Alvin, did you boys already take Emma Mae’s sucker away from her? You really shouldn’t do that. She should, at least, get a few licks of the sucker, don’t you think?”
     “I didn’t take nothin’ from her. Maybe she ate it herself already.” Not likely, but Alvin and the boys were all licking a sucker so if Alvin didn’t take Emma Mae’s, then one of the others must have been really fast at woofing the treat down to have taken Emma Mae’s already.
     As time went on I noticed this same pattern over and over. The boys would have a treat but Emma Mae would not. The strange thing about that was she did not seem to mind now. She wasn’t complaining or crying that someone took hers. I was intrigued. What could be happening here?          
     Emma Mae did not often cross the street to our front yard alone. Normally when she did it was to get some kind of help with something like tying her shoe or buckling a sandal that had come undone. Since there were three girls at our house I think Emma Mae rather liked to come across to our yard. One day Emma Mae presented herself to me, dirty tee shirt bulging over her little protruding tummy, yanking up at the shorts that one of her older brothers had outgrown but which she had not yet grown big enough to hold up without a little tug now and then. She was barefoot so I had no idea just what kind of assistance she was seeking from me. 
     “Hep! Hep!” Emma Mae said to me, pointing to her tummy. I wondered if she had a tummy ache or was hungry.
     “Does it hurt?”
     “Hep! Hep!” Well, she was not crying and I figured she would be rubbing her tummy if she was sick so maybe it was the other possibility.
     “Are you hungry? Should I ask my mother if I can give you a cracker?”
     “Hep! Hep!” Emma Mae was still pointing to her tummy and was totally puzzled that I did not get it. Then she grabbed ahold of her tee shirt with both hands and lifted it up, exposing her bare tummy to me.  What I saw startled me and I began to laugh out loud.
     “Ah ha, so that is the answer. Mystery solved.” I was staring at a red sucker.
     “Hep! Hep!” repeated little Emma Mae as her tiny hand held on to the stick attached to the sweet red disk. She was pulling on the stick with all her might, but the sucker was  not going to budge. Guess she had had to wait too long to eat her treat alone, in peace.
     I soaked my washcloth in the bathroom sink, squeezed out the excess water and managed to free the sucker from Emma Mae’s tummy. That wide grin spreading all across her face let me know she was one happy two-year-old! Before she stuck the sucker back in her mouth, Emma Mae held it out to me. She would share it with me as a thank you for helping her.
     “Uh, that’s okay, Emma Mae. It’s your sucker. I was glad to help you.” Shrugging her shoulders, she thrust the candy on a stick in her own little mouth and off she went back across the street.
     I kept my eyes on her for a few minutes and laughed again as I watched her defensive action. At the sudden sound of their backdoor slamming, Emma Mae whipped up her tee shirt and slapped the cherry-flavored sucker on her just washed tummy. Down came the tee shirt over the sucker, just as one of her brothers rounded the corner of their house. The treat was safe and sound in Emma Mae’s special place.

             *She had a two-word name, but not this one!

****Psalm 32: You Are My Hiding Place… Coming Tomorrow

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