"But he was rich. A hundred and fifty thousand dollars back then was a fortune."
"That ain't the way we had it figured. He often told them young'uns, Young'uns, don't show off and make a big deal over nothin'. As soon as one of you riles folks somehow, they'll say you are actin' just like one would expect from the son of a Egg Man with a little extra money. But Jeremias would still be pulling his cart if he hadn't inherited all that money don't you see. He would tell his young'uns, Many a man would be just as rich if the money had come his way. Money don't mean nothin'. Now I'll never be ashamed of being called a Egg Man as long as I live. Let anyone who wants call me that. But if you turn too uppity, you'll grow ashamed of your Momma and daddy, and folks will remind you as long as you live of your daddy's havin' been a lowly Egg Man. He told all his boys that. I told the girls."
"And they...accepted that?"
"The young'uns believed him and acted as was expected of them. I think that most folks in our position would try to peel off all traces of their old ways so as to fit right in with them other landowners. But that ain't possible, cause it takes generations for a family to feel at home in a new class, and the more uneasy they try and the more self-conscious they are, the less likely they are to get what they want. This wadn't the case with this Egg Man's family, and that's a fact."
"That is a wonderful story, Mrs. Jefferson. I want to thank you very much for sharing it with me."
"Well, we had a great family and the good Lord let us live a long time and give us the joy of having solid sons-in-laws for our daughters and fine daughters-in-laws for our sons. Our family has taken root, bloomed and bore fruit amongst the upright of the land, cause they have always kept to the true way of this family, which is hard work, godliness, and a honest character, which don't change no matter how much money they got."
The women embraced.
"They is due any minute now, if you would like to meet them," Esther reminded.
"Heck, girl, our whole Jefferson family is comin' to surprise Jeremias with a special gift. They ought to be here any minute, it's almost noon. Them was my tears of joy you been seein' all day don’t you know. I knew about the special gift and it tore me up to keep the secret from Mr. Jefferson. I ain’t never kept a secret from Mr. Jefferson." Her face changed to that of the cat who had been caught with a canary feather in its mouth. "Well, except for how I just happened to be on that very road to Birmingham that very day Jeremias was havin' so much trouble with that pushcart."
"I have a gift for him also." I looked at my watch. It was three minutes until twelve. I looked down the long, long drive and could see no sign of a car or truck. I remembered the ten minutes it had taken the white man's pickup to traverse the approach to the farm.
"I don't see any cars coming. I don't think they are going to make it on time."
"Oh, they'll make it alright. They always do."
I flipped through my notes and found what I was looking for. "Mrs. Jefferson, I have a question. You told me that Jeremias and his Momma were, I quote, Too proud to accept any charity, and your husband said Still am. I don’t take no charity and I don’t offer none. That way all folks stay equal."