There is yelling and screaming and fighting upstairs, but that’s a given. I’m seven, in my mother’s old bedroom from when she was a teenager. I can hear my grandmother screaming at my mother, reprimanding, lecturing, as if my mother is sixteen again. My grandmother is offended that my parents think she can’t run her house anymore. “Get out of my house and never come back,” my grandmother shouts. “We’re finished.”
My mother is yelling back, while my dad attempts to calm her down. I know they love me, they all do. But it doesn’t help. My parents rush in, both disconcerted. I can’t tell if my mother is about to break down in tears, or throw something. I’ve never really seen my father upset, or ever cry. But he has a look of sorrow on his face. He gets our bags and starts to pack. I’m nervous.
“We have to go,” my mother says, bending down in front of me. “She said we have to leave.”
“No.” I don’t want to leave.
“No, no, no, no! She’s joking. She’s just kidding. Please, Mommy.” What I’m really scared of is that if we go, if my Grammy throws us out this time, I will never see her again.
“She isn’t joking.” My mother turns away. Going to her bag, shoving her clothes in, as well as mine, frantically.
“I’ll go start the car,” my father says, walking out the door, bags in hand.
“No, Daddy, she’d never make us leave. Daddy, stop. We’re staying.” It’s my last desperate plea for us to stay. By now I have tears streaming down my face. My grandmother walks in, glares at my mother, then takes me by the hand into the vast living room. There are wine bottles littering the pulpit bar.
“You are the best child in the world! Much better than your mother ever was. I have never loved another child as much as I love you,” she says to me. I inhale the strong smell of alcohol and cigarettes on her breath. “You don’t have to leave. I want you to stay. Your parents are who I’m kicking out. I love you. Stay with me.”
My mother is suddenly standing...