Little Becky soon grew into her heritage and joined her roving brothers. Of course, being smaller, she tired sooner and was apt to be left somewhere along the way. Mrs. Awful didn’t need to worry. Without fail, some mother was sure to dispatch Becky home if she lingered too long. One unfortunate day, we suffered a sewer malfunction at our house. Daddy was hard at work digging out the sewer line when he noted Becky behind him, making mud pies in the mess he’d left. He wasn’t particularly enjoying his work that day and howled for Mother to get Becky out of there. Mother sprayed Becky with the water hose and walked her home herself, figuring that was the best way to contain the mess and cut down on her own laundry. She handed her off to Mrs. Awful, who commenced yelling for the boys who were supposed to be watching Becky. Mother didn’t linger for coffee.
A couple of days later, Mother looked out to see Little Becky sitting in our sand pile, still wearing the same unlaundered clothes she’d been wearing on her last visit. Again, Mother delivered her home. After that, whenever Becky lingered too long in our yard, Mother would have Phyllis return her, fearing the unsupervised child would wander into the pasture and be kicked by a horse or fall in the pond. For some reason, she was grudging about taking on the care of another toddler since she had plenty of her own.
I know Mother chose Phyllis to return Becky because she could resist the lure of the Awful’s since Billy and I had made it clear we yearned to join their traveling circus. We were always denied permission to “go see the Awfuls” or ramble with them. One fine day, I caught Mother napping on the sofa and whispered a request. “Can I go play with Jamey?”
She snored, “Uhhhhhh” at me and I knew I’d hit pay dirt. Their house was a wonderland. A sycamore grew adjacent to the front porch. We skittered up the tree and climbed in through a mangled attic window. From there, we crawled through the dusty attic and dropped through the attic access into their grandma’s closet. Until we dropped in on Grandma, I had no idea she existed. Deep in a nap, she awoke screaming, to the kid’s delight. We fled, leaving the house through a hole in the living room floor. Of course, Mama Awful was unhappy to have her soaps interrupted by a bunch of wild kids. We had traversed the entire house without using a door. We made two or three such passes before Phyllis appeared at the door to fetch me home. She took great pleasure in telling me how much trouble I was in for going to the Awfuls without permission. Naturally, when I got home, I was able to make Mother remember my request to go. I escaped that time, but she made it clear she had to be awake before giving permission for anything else. I was also pre-threatened not to awaken her unless a kid was bleeding or something was on fire. She had a bad attitude. In the future, when she took her rare naps, all requests had to go through Phyllis, meaning they were met by a resounding “NO!” It was a rotten deal.