Ma was proud of her Muscogee heritage. The Creek Indians, as they were also known, were one of the original 5 civilized tribes. And yet, even Ma confessed that her family tree lead back to a white man called William Augustus Bowles. Pa was half Cherokee.
Pa died last year but Ma refused to leave the farm. She worked it with her two sons, Lon and Greer, and with the aid of government funding. They still raised vegetables, though, refusing to grow the Bermuda sod that had become so popular.
Rachel could claim Cherokee heritage on the Dawes roll and get benefits, such as they were, but she claimed none of that. She was neither white nor Indian. She was simply an American citizen - free of obligation to the Cherokee nation or the US government. Ma couldn't understand that - even indicated she was unwise to strike out on her own. It was a decision - a choice.
"Who is this young man you speak of…this…Robert?" Ma asked as she placed a bowl of food on the table.
Rachel placed flatware beside the plates. "He's just a co-worker."
"You speak of him often." Ma persisted as she turned back to the stove.
Rachel shrugged. "I suppose so."
Ma glanced back at her. "He is not so nice as Brandon?"
Rachel blushed. "I think Brandon is interested in Adrienne."
There was no point in denying any interest in Brandon. Ma wouldn't believe it anyway. In any case, it would be a lie. The truth of it was, Brandon had no romantic interest in her, but Ma wouldn't believe that either.
"I thought that was against the house rules," Ma said as she stepped to the family room door. "Lon…Greer, supper is ready.
Rachel shrugged. "There's no rule against being interested, Ma, just hanky-panky."
She didn't want to continue this subject in front of her brothers, so she turned the conversation.
"Will all of you be there for my graduation ceremonies?"
Ma nodded with enthusiasm. "I wouldn't miss watching my baby girl graduate from college. What are your plans after that?"
Rachel gnawed on her lower lip, knowing her recent decision would shock and upset her mother. She waited until the boys were seated and they said grace.
"You haven't answered my question," Ma urged.
The boys were watching her. Sooner or later they would find out. There was no point in putting it off.
"I'm going to join the Navy."
Three sets of eyes riveted on her.
"What?" Lon finally said, his voice an octave higher than normal. "You just finished college and now you want to join the service? Why didn't you do that before college?"
Greer stared at her. "You must be crazy. First it's this … independence, and now…" He waved a hand as if to dismiss the idea. Turning a stern look on Ma, his voice was steady. "See what I told you? She isn't mature enough to be out on her own.
Ma began filling her plate, obviously contemplating her words before she spoke.
"It is a different world we live in now. A girl can choose from many careers." Her gaze lifted and fixed pointedly on each of the boys in turn. Finally it shifted to Rachel and softened. "I am proud that you wish to serve your country. I am proud that you are independent, and I will be at your graduation." She glanced around the table. "Rachel and I cooked this food. I think we should eat it before it gets cold."
Rachel breathed a sigh of relief. It wasn't the reaction she expected, but it was certainly the one she wanted.