Tuesdays with Mimsey by Wayne Scheer
Mimsey Sue Mathers always had peculiar ways about her.
And in Flippen, Georgia folks cotton to peculiar about as much as they take to a rattlesnake in the schoolyard. Or a woman preacher.
Blame her daddy, Parnell. He was always writing his crazy ideas in the town newspaper, which he published. Like when the Methodist church burned, he thought the Methodists and the Baptists should pray together since they worshipped the same God. And when the government closed the old colored school, Parnell said it was a good idea for the children to be together.
It’s no wonder Mimsey’s head overflowed with foolishness, growing up in a home like that.
Even though her mama died when she was a baby, Mimsey always loved to sing and tell stories. Too happy, is the way most folks described her, believing something was wrong in her head.
But she took care of her daddy, who grew more cantankerous with each new wrinkle on his craggy face. He made her promise to keep up his work–whatever that was. He even wrote about it in his last column in the newspaper where he quoted a poem by some colored man named Langston Hughes. He called the column, “What Happens to a Dream Deferred?” or some foolishness like that. I remember the poem ended this way:
Maybe it just sags
Like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
None of us had any idea what he meant, but Mimsey kept right on smiling at everyone, even at her daddy’s funeral.
And she got more and more peculiar, wearing big floppy hats and pants with glittery stuff on them. She worked in our town’s library where she read books to the children and told them stories. Their parents would stick around to make sure Mimsey wasn’t spouting the nonsense her daddy used to.
Funny thing, the adults enjoyed her stories about as much as the children. So she made Tuesday nights story time for the grown-ups. Black folks would sit on one side, whites on the other, and she would stand in the middle, telling her stories and singing until both sides began whooping it up like they was all one family.
Mimsey always ended the festivities by singing, “Amazing Grace,” without music, but with the most tearful voice you ever heard. More than once grown men would cry. Then they’d eat the cakes brought by the women. And, later, the men, black and white, would put away the chairs and wish each other to drive home safe.
Mimsey would wait until the last person wrapped up the last piece of cake. Then she’d take her daddy’s picture out from her big handbag, and have herself a good cry.