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  • Phyllis H. Moore

The Ember Months

I used to know a lady named Bessie in the late seventies. She was in her sixties then, so I’m certain she has moved on to better places. Although she had many struggles, she maintained a positive attitude and always had a story to tell. She liked to remember her childhood and watched her own granddaughter, wondering if that child would inherit the degenerative disease, Hunnington’s Chorea. A disease that would take the lives of Bessie’s daughters.

I visited Bessie at least twice each month, sometimes more. The first September I stopped in front of her house, she was outside, dusting her silver aluminum Christmas tree. She was preparing to put it up in front of her living room window and decorate it.

“It’s a while until Christmas, Bessie,” I said. I didn’t say it with conviction, because Bessie had a way of turning my thoughts upside down.

“I do this every year,” Bessie insisted. “It’s an ember month and when it gets to be an ember month, I put up the tree. This is my favorite time of year.”

I couldn’t argue with Bessie about that. It’s my favorite time of the year too. I look forward to the fall, the weather cooling, the shadows getting longer, and the holidays approaching—even Halloween. Bessie took nothing for granted. She knew her daughters were in the final stage of their disease, and they didn’t know if her nine year old granddaughter would have it also. She was prepared to celebrate September, Octbember (Bessie didn’t care if that wasn’t the real name), November and December. She didn’t really care what anyone else thought. Bessie’s aluminum tree would be in the front window and lit from September until mid-January. She was not fond of the ary months.

I was thinking of Bessie the other day, because it will be an ember month soon. I planned to release a new book in September, The Bright Shawl, the Colors of Tender Whispers and to promote one in Octember, The Bridge on Jackson Road, because it is spooky stories for Halloween. It occurred to me that Opal’s Story is a story of thanksgiving and set at the same time of the year. The Sabine Trilogy, especially Josephine’s Journals and Secrets of Dunn House feature holiday celebrations during the Christmas season. I have two new books to release this Christmas season, Heartbeat at my Feet and Heartbeat Too. This duo centers on the same characters on two consecutive Christmases.

So, when I think about it, the ember months have crept into my writings. They are a part of the setting, as important as one of the characters. I’m going to start outlining a story about Bessie and the ember months. She would love to be the main character in a story, even if she’s not the one telling it. But then again, once I start writing, I bet Bessie tells me what to say. I’m looking forward to it because I’m ready for some upside down thinking. Bessie had a magic about her that way.

I was never tempted to argue with her about her strange notions. Somehow, when I visited Bessie, the world disappeared and she created an alternate space for herself, her daughters and her granddaughter. They fit perfectly in that house with the aluminum Christmas tree and they were safe there. The world outside that little house was not as kind, even the institutions meant to be helpful betrayed Bessie. Yes, I will tell her story. I’ve convinced myself.

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