I remember one of the women that my father dated when I was a little girl. Her name was Ms. Anne, and she had a beautiful smile. She must have been special to my father, because he tried hard to impress her by bringing my sister and me to visit her. I think he wanted her to see him as a loving and caring father, which he wasn’t by any stretch of the imagination.
We were props for him to use in his attempt to marry her, for she must have had a lot of money. As my father was somewhat allergic to working, he sought out well-to-do women to date or marry, and Ms. Anne lived in a beautiful house, one made of bricks. Having lived with Mama in wooden three-room shacks, the night we spent in a real house made quite an impression on me. She fed us at a table with real forks and spoons, and I felt like a princess!
The other element of Ms. Anne’s house that I remembered so well was a pond that was filled with gold fish and scattered lily pads laying on top of the water. I wondered how they did not sink to the bottom, and then thought that their size must keep them afloat. The lily pads were so big and beautiful, and I wanted to take one home with me. I planned to place the lily pads in water and allow their green beauty to overcome the ugliness of poverty around me.
After that first visit, my sister and I would visit Ms. Anne on weekends with our father, and because she had no children, she treated us with so much love, even hugging us, which was weird at first, mainly because we did not get hugs from our parents. The hugs felt good, making you feel like you had become a part of the rest of humanity.
They became one of my favorite reasons for going to her house. But I also liked the clean sheets on the beds, the dolls she purchased for us, and good food such as hotdogs and jelly on our biscuits. She made us feel loved for the first time in our lives.
But, alas, Ms. Anne finally wised up to my father’s aversion for employment, and she stopped seeing him. Similar to my mother, she preferred being alone to taking care of a grown man. I think that she would have liked to have kept seeing us, but my father did not let that happen.
We went back to never seeing him, for he had no more use for us. But when I see those fish ponds in people’s yards or in botanical gardens, I am still reminded of the graceful and elegant woman who nearly became our step-mother, and I think with sadness of the missed opportunity to be loved.