Kindness in Unexpected Packages By Donna Renee Anderson
Editor Acacia Blackwell, Editor's Choice, April 19th, 2017
"...here we were standing outside a church on a Tuesday morning looking for help."
I remember Sissy Sam when we moved to Daddy’s home town in Texas. Six feet of big muscled blackness with a bright big mouth smile and deep throated laugh. I’d never met anyone like her before in my life. She lived in a pink house and flower colored yard corralled by a white wooden fence just tall enough for her hands to rest; big hands. Brightest house on her street. Sissy Sam’s hooded brown eyes looked down at me. She winked.
“Your daddy’s a handsome man.” She laughed.
“He doesn’t want me talking to you.” I manage a whisper and then blurt, “And says your name’s Samuel!”
Sissie Sam rocks her hips to the right and places her garden gloves in her back pocket.
“Well, Samuel’s the name I was born with. Sissie Sam’s who I am. What you doin’ round her anyway. You lost little big girl?” She asks.
“We just moved here. I borrowed Daddy’s car to learn how to get around.” I answer.
“Why’d you stop here? You don’t want to stop if you don’t want people to talk about where you goin’.” She says.
“I don’t think I care about people talking.” I answer.
“Well then, why don’t you just come on in and have a glass of sweet tea with me. We can talk about lots of things you got on your mind. You look like you got lots on your mind and lots to talk about.” She talks and walks away.
I was 17 and Sissie Sam listened when I said I like girls. She told me who to be careful around and who I should stay away from. Sissie Sam was my friend until I left for college and throughout my four years she listened as I shared my girl crushes and crashes.
“Don’t stay here girl.” She told me. “I won’t be here when you come back here. People like us need bigger places to live and to be.” She patted my hand. “You’ve been kind to me when others have been hateful. It’ll come back to you when you least expect it.” She hugged me and walked into that flaming pink house.
That was the last time I spoke with Sissie Sam. And true to her spirit, kindness came in an unexpected package.
“Are you a couple?” She asked for the second time.
I was staring (something Daddy told me to never do). My girlfriend, Tooey, and I looked at each other and said “Yes”.
I just couldn’t stop staring and Tooey kept jabbing me in my side.
“I’m Dolores.” She barked. “And I’m a woman.”
Six feet of thin whiteness slightly tanned. Severe bangs on a Sandra Dee bobbed wig. No smile breaking her thin lips. I could no longer say to myself I’d never met a woman like her before. Tooey and I looked pretty rough from sleeping on the beach and in our car. This church was the only place that offered supplies to the homeless that included toiletries for women. We’d sold almost everything we’d packed in the car at pawn shops just to keep going. I had $4.00 I was saving for gas and here we were standing outside a church on a Tuesday morning looking for help.
“We can help you. We can help both of you.” She said as her mouth formed a small smile. “You can call me Dee and when we’re done here you can follow me to my house.”
Dolores had a blue Chrysler convertible that she drove with one hand on the steering wheel and the other caressing the door to which she affectionately leaned. Speed made her smile big, real big.
I was 57 when Dolores took us into her home and listened as my girlfriend and I shared our journey from Texas to Maine to Florida and how we came to stand in front of her church and we listened as she shared her story of her journey from carnival boy to Navy sailor to married man to single woman. There were no children and her wife had died years earlier. For Dee, in her late 60s, this was her time to be who she was meant to be.
“So, you were in the Air Force?” She asked.
“And you were in the Navy.” I answered and we laughed.
“I’m transgender. Just had my surgery to become a real woman last year.” She said as a matter of fact. “You girls want a beer?” She asked.
“Sure.” Tooey answered.
“When you girls get on your feet you shouldn’t stay here. You’ve seen my RV out back and I’m not staying here. People don’t understand people like me, or you two.” She sipped her beer and lifted her pinky. We all laughed.
A month later we packed our car, thanked Dolores profusely and drove away. Kindness does come in unexpected packages.
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Header image courtesy of Kelcey Morette. To view more of her work, go here.
Donna Renee Anderson is a third-culture, growing up with a military father and a Guyanese mother. In 62 years of life she’s criss-crossed our country and the Pacific Rim experiencing different cultures of our world; and got married recently to the woman of her dreams. Since she was twelve, all she’s ever wanted is to write a good book; still do.