Good ol' Wanda
When Clyde finally came to collect me, my life, as I had known it, was changed forever. He took me to Grace’s parents, Woody and Babe’s. Grace was still in the hospital. Clyde had divorced Grace by that time and married Wanda. Thus, I was introduced to his new family, a hodgepodge of characters. Wanda had two children from a previous marriage, Neva and Vance. They were near my age. Neva was about 8 and Vance, 9 or 10 when Clyde married their mother. As he put the wedding ring on her finger, another member was about to join their growing brood. Wanda’s belly was swollen huge with their soon to be born son, Clyde, Jr.
My new stepmother had a way of inserting herself and making what she wanted known to you and anybody else. Her hair was heavily bleached in a hard-sprayed short bouffant. Back then, they called it frosting and Wanda used a popular off the shelf product called Frost and Tip. This was when Southern Baptists, the Luther family religion, frowned on hair dyeing, gum chewing and dancing. Wanda did all three, plus she drank and smoked.
Granny Luther didn’t approve of Wanda or her Frost and Tip hair. Colored hair was looked upon with scorn, but the Luther women would bend the rules for a tint. Permanent waved was okay, too, since all the Luther women, including myself, had extremely fine and straight hair. We all had out of the box Toni hair perms in varying stages of bent and frizzled growing out brown hair. Granny Luther was not a fan of Wanda as were none of the other Luthers.
“I said where have ya’ll been at?” Wanda’s sharp East Texas voice broke the silence. Her’s and Clyde’s youngest daughter, Anjanette, began to wail. Wanda took ahold of the girl and yanked her to her own side without taking her eyes off Clyde. The girl began squalling even louder.
Willie stood there by me, quiet. It struck me how Willie rarely acted out. If anybody deserved to let loose, it was Willie. She had an elegant maturity about her that few people got. There was a difference and it shone through like the Christmas lights in the room. How she must’ve felt during all this melodrama was hard to think about. I’d seen Wanda display a cruelty toward Willie in the past. Like the time she made her scrub urine stains out of a used striped tick mattress out in their front yard when Willie’d wet the bed.
I looked at Clyde who just stood there. His valiant effort earlier had been an act of momentary madness. Clyde was weak. None of the adults had anything to offer, either. They looked like those old black and white photographs where everyone’s open-eyed from the flash. Finally, Clyde reached over and touched Wanda on the shoulder, but she jerked away like an old pond fish at an empty lure. He was dead meat and knew it.