I bop my head to The Jackson Five song playing on the 8-track stereo as my cherry red 1969 Mustang convertible maneuvers around the winding roads of Oneonta County. With the way this car handles the curves, I should be there right on time for the emergency meeting Alma called.
My baby purrs as I stop the car in front of the tall black wrought iron gates in front of the Theta Estate and reach into the glove box for the remote control that opens them. When I press the button, the gates open and I hit the gas and race up the pebble lined driveway up the hill to the sprawling estate. I park the car in front of one of the garage ports and inhale the sweet dew in the afternoon air as I grab my cane and use it to help me steady myself as I step out of the car.
It’s a long shuffle down the pathway and up the limestone steps up to the tall mahogany doors of the grand Grecian styled mansion’s facade. Forty years ago I’d have made this trip in a quick sprint. These days when I come to the Theta House I have to take a moment to catch my breath before I buzz the doorbell. After a few seconds pass, the door cracks open and I’m greeted by the Thetas’ housekeeper Esmerelda. The petite bronze skinned Indian woman dressed in a black formal maid’s uniform gives me a smile as I meet her brown eyes with mine.
“Miss Robinson. It’s a pleasure to see you.”
“As it is you Esmerelda. Have the other Sisters arrived?”
“They’re in the ballroom.”
All the way at the other side of the house. “They couldn’t have used the dining room?”
“Alma says you need the exercise.”
I thought I was getting enough of a workout getting out of the car and heading down the walkway to the house. If I knew things were going to be this hard years later, I’d have built Alma a town house instead of a mansion. Esmerelda keeps her eyes on me as I shuffle through the grand white marble vestibule. She gets the tall mahogany door for me and I make my way onto the parquet floors of the main hall. I’m halfway to the ballroom when I hear her rushing behind me. “Wow, you’re fast for a woman your age.” Esmerelda says.
“You should have seen me doing the hundred meters at Spelman.” I reply.
Esmerelda chuckles as she opens the tall mahogany doors of the ballroom for me. When we step into the grand room it’s decorated with Black tablecloths and curtains. With it being Christmastime, I thought Alma would decorate it with more festive colors. We only use Black linens here when we’re either examining pledges or when we’re disciplining them.
Seated at the banquet table are the senior officers of the Theta Sorority. Senior Grand Mother Alma Travis, Senior Dean Mother Edna Flowers, and Dean Mother Millicent Anderson. They’re all wearing elegant black sheath dresses, heels, and church hats along with the platinum and diamond Theta pins on the breasts of their dresses. My friends greet me with somber looks as I approach the table. They must have some really bad news to report.
“Good afternoon ladies.” I greet. “What’s with all the black?”
Before anyone says anything, Alma gives Esmerelda a look and she walks out closes the door behind us. “Because it’s a sad time for us all Andi.” Edna says.”
My eyes grow wide as I look over at Millicent. I hope nothing happened to her baby. “Is Colleen okay-”
“No, Colleen is fine.” Millicent replies. “She’s with her father upstairs.”
“Then what’s got everyone upset?” I ask.
Alma’s dull brown eyes meet mine. She chokes back tears. “Isis, we appreciate everything you’ve done to establish this sisterhood for us. How you’ve helped countless young Negro girls grow up to become great young women and even greater mothers. But there’s no way you can continue on with our organization.”