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Small Hopes Shine Brightest
Theresa started the old ’87 Ford on a late February afternoon, after her shift at the bank had ended. An old beaten pickup, the ’87 saw most of the family’s troubles from start to finish, argument to makeup. Nowadays there wasn’t much to be celebrating. The small yet complete family had barely anything out of necessity to their name, and the bills were slowly outpacing her humble paycheck.
The kids were just within the age range to go to the same school, Thomas being seven and Sami five, so that Theresa only had one stop to make before going home. Thomas was carrying the standard: backpack, coat, and the books that he wasn’t able to fit inside his bag. Sami, however, was concealing something in her pocket. Theresa soon forgot about her interest as a car behind her started blaring its horn, implying “come on lady!”
The drive back to their home in the country was a generally enjoyable one, with beautiful plains and hills, mostly unfarmed to this point. Yeah, this was Lakota country. With her being fair-skinned and half Native, her husband was full-blood. She met him when they were 20; eight years had passed since then, of which, six they had been married. Their house was old-fashioned, designed in the early 90s, with a standard two floors, three bedrooms.
As they shuffled their way to the quaint house, she wondered what her husband was up to today. He lost his job the year before and couldn’t find steady work to maintain the family, so Theresa was taking any hours she could at the bank. When she finally walked into the house her husband was coming downstairs, undoubtedly looking for some way to fix the house, to make his keep.
“Daddy! Do we have any pots for plants in the house?” yelled Sami as she ran through the house.
Michael ran down the stairs as he heard everyone slowly making their way to their post-school designations.
“Michael, what are you up to now?” asked Theresa.
“Oh I saw some cracks in the paint upstairs and was rummaging for paint…my uncle is coming over, so could you cook a little extra?” silently plead Michael, as he searched the rest of the house for Sami’s pots and imaginary paint.
Hours passed since Theresa arrived home, and dinner was almost finished. Soup and homemade bread was what she could ration out that day, a finer meal than most, that’s for sure. The white sedan made its way up the driveway not 30 minutes later, hauling with it Michael’s outspoken Uncle Wilson. He sold his land for a good allotment of money and managed to afford a new car as well as a good trailer in the city, not unlike her own parents who sold their land way back in the ‘80s and managed to buy the truck she currently drove. Michael, however, still owned the land he was given when his parents passed away when he was 10. Heart disease they called it, although doctors assured Michael he was showing no signs yet of inheriting the largely genetic widow-maker.
“Eyy, Mikey! Good to see you nephew! How’s this old place been treatin’ ya?” heartily asked Wilson.
“Oh nothing much Uncle, just trying to keep this old place floating and trying to find a job at the same time. You gonna stay for dinner?” feigned a “happy” Michael.
“Of course Mikey! Nobody quite makes soup like your mother did, but that girl you’re with makes it edible enough,” said Wilson, back-handing the compliment.
“Theresa, my name’s Theresa by the way,” smiled Theresa as it was her turn to feign happiness.
The thought of the delicate meats and savory vegetables from his mother’s soup made Michael miss her again.
Wilson and Michael sat in the living room talking and catching up while Theresa was in the kitchen washing dishes. Theresa acted like she couldn’t hear everything they were talking about; the less she could talk to Wilson the better, especially since every time he mentioned her she was referred to as “the girl.” “So nephew, have you given any more thought to selling this old place?” half-whispered Wilson as Theresa’s ears perked up.
“Ummm, not recently Uncle, I think I’d like to hold onto this place for the kids”
“Well I think you should think more about it, money is money nephew!”
“Well, Theresa doesn’t think we should, and I-”
“Why would you listen to that half-breed? She doesn’t know our struggles Mikey, we were given this land as a way to live, one way or another, and this ain’t living,” interrupted Wilson as the last straw for Theresa broke.
“Of course he thinks it’s a good idea,” chimed in Theresa.
“Well what does that mean? You’re a damned half-breed so you think you know about us real Lakota, you’re damned lucky my nephew doesn’t get rid of you, you’re dragging him down!” now hollered an angered Wilson as he broke another straw, Michael’s this time.
“Don’t you dare talk to my wife like that! Until you can accept Theresa as part of our family please leave our home and don’t come back.”
Less than 30 seconds later the white sedan roared to life and sped into the distance.
“Don’t worry about him Theresa, we don’t need his advice, we’re keeping this place,” whispered Michael as Theresa cried from Wilson’s outburst.
A couple weeks had gone past since Wilson’s outburst, and Theresa was waking up, when she walked into Sami’s room for a big surprise.
Sami’s corn plants took off much like the white sedan. The soil around the house was prime farming land, worth much more than Michael was offered to sell it for. Food made itself (with Michael’s help during the day) and the family had enough money to get by without giving up what little they had. And the soup they made, with the various vegetables Michael cared for, like his mother before him, tasted exactly as he remembered it.
Taylor Long Crow is Sicangu Lakota from the Rosebud reservation and a student at Sinte Gleska University, where he majors in environmental science. He aspires to become a chemical engineer but loves writing. He credits his college professor James Spresser, as well as his high school teachers Mrs. Havranek and Mrs. Duffy, for guiding him as a writer.