Did you ever go to visit relatives you didn't know? When you were a kid, did your parents tell you to play with children you had never seen before? Why do adults think that just because you are all children, you will be happy to spend time together and that you will actually enjoy it?
My sister, Gay, and I were shy, uncomfortable with strangers. The year I started first grade, my mother and father and two of my teenage brothers took a rare trip to Florida. Mother missed her sisters, nieces and nephews and my father had siblings in that state as well. We would not have gone had it not been for the car my older sister's husband sold to my parents. It was fairly new and in good shape to make the long trip all the way to Miami with stops along the way.
I'm sure we were gone for at least a week. My brother tells me we made stops in Orlando, Clearwater, St. Petersburg, Palmetto and on down to south Florida, but the only part of the trip that stayed in my mind was the night Gay and I were sent to sleep over with two girl cousins we did not know. Their family dinners were far different from the ones at our home on the farm. This poem tells the story of that unforgettable night.
When I was seven and Gay was five,
we traveled with our family to visit relatives
we'd never met.
I preferred a pallet on the floor
of Mother's room, but she sent us home
with Ellie who had children near our age.
At dinner Ellie's husband shouted words
we’d never heard. Shriveled by his fury, we
huddled small, wanting to vanish from the room.
Later in the darkness, beside a sleeping cousin,
I mopped my tears in silence and I wondered
why my mother had abandoned us to strangers
she called kin.
--- Glenda Council Beall