The market thrived under Cora’s management. She added window boxes with pansies and a few pots of red geraniums on the porch that embellished the front of the building. She made fresh new curtains for the windows. She installed a jukebox and one pinball machine. She didn’t sell cigarettes but she did add a soft serve ice cream machine and a couple of picnic tables for the teenagers to gather at on warm spring and summer afternoons. She hired a couple of high school kids to work after school, through school vacations, and summer breaks. Even James seemed satisfied with the work she’d done. He came in his pick-up, with the youngest kids, at the end of each day to help close up and empty the register.
Her children were never without their mother’s attention. Nearly every day after school she whipped off her apron, hanging it on the hook by the back door, as she rushed off to meet the bus to be sure they started chores and homework. Once they were settled, she raced back to the market to meet the onslaught of high school kids and workers on their way home at the end of the day. In the evenings she took stock of her household, running loads of laundry through her new appliances, making sure James and the kids had what they needed for the coming day before she went to bed.
Cora studied the high school girls. They vocalized their expectations from life. Even the most reserved among them had plans for an independent life of her own. They repudiated the double standard. Break-up tears were rarely on display. They were more likely to move on to a new boy following romantic disappointment. Sex was discussed with candor that made Cora blush. Pregnancy was no longer a threat and birth control pills were taken with casual disregard. She was embarrassed to admit she envied their freedom.
Cora got her hair cut. She couldn’t explain what possessed her to do it. It had been growing all her life. Following church precepts, only the bottom had been trimmed in the spring and fall of each year. Sadie’s hair had been cut, colored and permed in many fashionable styles over the years. She was still the same Sadie underneath no matter what style she wore. Cora admired her feminine daring.