Black History Month Profile #28 Series Finale: March 2, 1941 – One Sunday in Savannah

One Sunday, in March of 1941, a child was born to sharecroppers in Savannah, Georgia. They named her Rosemary, and the whole of creation shouted, “praise the lord!” for she was a godsend, like all children.

She was a dutiful child, toiling beside her parents in the cotton fields, learning the ethics of hard work and reward, or lack there of, that would define her entire life.

Sunday mornings found her in Sunday school, afternoons she sat listening to scripture in the church and Sunday evenings might include a ride to town to see Uncle Rooster and Aunt Mary. Rooster would always have some catfish he’d caught and Mary would have fresh peppers from her garden. It was a good life. A quiet, humble, predictable life.

That is, until her father deserted the family for the greener pastures of another woman leaving her mother bitter and lonely. She began to drink and when she did she also took to bingeing, gallivanting for days at a time leaving Rosemary to her own devices. And when she returned she’d become violent, for Rosemary reminded her so of the man who left her behind. By her teens Rosemary had grown tired of the abuse, and rambunctious in her desire to be free of her mother’s tyranny and the yoke that constrained her to the bucolic life in a rural southern countryside.

Flowering-Rosemary-4dcf5a248486f_hires

Rosemary, beautiful and self-sufficient as the flower she is named for, longed to have her blossoming womanhood acknowledged. And at 16 she did just that when, in a visit up north with family, she took a man and found herself with child.

She returned to Savannah in this delicate condition, as they say, but decided that Savannah was not the place for her child to grow up; not with her father up north and a bitter grandmother who spent to much time with spirits. So she packed her belongings, kissed her mother goodbye and sadly left Savannah and its lovely Sundays behind.

She travelled to New York where she stayed with family, her brother Big Man and his wife, Julia in Brooklyn.

She gave birth to a daughter and this child brought her so much joy with its arrival that she named her Joy. 20130303-231227.jpg

But Joy’s father, George, she would learn, was not the settling down type. He had goals which required him to be freer than fatherhood would allow.

So, Rosemary, like her mother before her, found herself on her own with a child. And she, too, took to hanging out in the big city of dreams hoping to attract a man of substance.

Around this time she met her Ella, who would become her closest friend, her touchstone and counselor for years to come. Ella was streetwise and savvy, and showed young Rosemary the ropes, for she was adept at navigating her way around. Brooklyn was both dangerous and extremely exciting for this country girl straight off the turnip truck from below the Mason Dixon.

Pretty soon, she hooked up with a singer of some renown, by the name of Charles, and he wooed her like she’d never been wooed before; gave her a taste of a lifestyle she never knew existed.

Charlie, as he was called, liked Rosemary quite a bit as well, so he stuck around a lot longer than George had; long enough for her to have two sons by him. Then he too moved on like a rolling stone. With his band, he hit the road to pursue his dreams and all the women scattered upon it.

Eric and Michael were his son’s names and, with Joy, that now made three hungry bellies to fill…once again on her own.

20130303-212803.jpg

So Rosemary decided it was time to take her growing nest and fend for self.

She and Ella remained very close and supported each other through these tough times. Ella helped her get settled into a little apartment on Prospect Place near where she lived with her man and her two sons, Omar and Randy.

Rosemary met Ronald one night at a party, and he was the most beautiful man she’d ever seen. She fell madly in love with him, and he with her. Though he was clealry a smooth operator and a playboy he was also an intelligent, hardworking and responsible man. Despite the three children she had from previous lovers, his love for Rosemary and the responsibility he felt once she’d gotten pregnant prompted his proposing to her.

They were married soon after.

That’s about when I met Rosemary for the first time, face to face.

It was in late June of 1966 when, with the help of the medical staff at Brooklyn Jewish Hospital, I was yanked from her inner world into this outer world. She cried and held me to her bosom to ease my cries for the outer world was no match for the inner. She was the best thing about it.

20130303-212747.jpg
We were very close, Rosemary and I, as were Ronald and I.
I remember his laughter, and his joy that I was a boy. He’d had a son previously with another woman in the south but from what I’d learn years later, his son was not born with all his faculties intact. I became proof that he was capable of making a man intact.

ronny and me
And together, Ronald and Rosemary made sure we had everything we needed.

We moved to a lovely brownstone on Decatur street in Bed-Stuy and there we lived for years.

A family.

I remember picnics in prospect park, frisbee throwing and fried chicken and potato salad munching. I remember bunk beds and enmeshed togetherness, laughter and music! Ronald was a guitarist with dreams of giving up trucking and going professional. He taught Joy how to play the guitar and had Eric and Michael taking karate lessons.

Yes, we were a happy family!

Soon another child was born, Nicole.

20130303-231144.jpg

And now with 5 children and a wife to boot, Ronald began to feel more poignantly the burden he’d taken on. His smile began to vanish along with his increasingly insufficient paychecks, replaced by bouts of anger and violence. A happy family began to deteriorate. Before long he transformed from a permanent fixture in our home to a mercurial one.

Then one day he, too, was unceremoniously gone.

I was almost too young to miss him.

But, I had Rosemary. We all did. And she alone made sure we had everything we needed.

It was around this time that Rosemary’s friend, Ella, a pretty radical sister, introduced her to the Pan-African movement. Ella had enrolled her two kids in a school that promised to make sure the kids were prepared for a world dead set on making negative statistics of them.

She encouraged Rosemary to do the same.

At 6, Rosemary brought me to this school and, for perhaps the first time in my life, left me in the care of complete strangers. I cried and pissed my pants. But, just as I was about to die of despair, there were Ella’s kids, Omar and Randy, who I called my cousins. I was so happy to see them. I cried some more before I settled in.

Soon all of my brothers and sisters were also enrolled in this experiment in community and family schooling.

It was about this time that everything changed. I now had a new family, with more mothers and fathers than I could count, strong black men and women on the frontlines of the Black Power / Pan-African movement.

And my immediate family, we all adopted new names.

Joy became Faraha, Eric became Changa, Michael became Sekou, Nicole became Iisha, and I chose the name Baye. Ella became Kiunga…

And Rosemary…

She became Waridi, gave up her perm for some dreadlocks (way before they were in fashion), gave up her skirts for clothing only a woman from West Africa could look as natural and comfortable in, and, most disturbing of these changes, removed Christmas from our lives and replaced it with Kwanzaa.

I asked Waridi why we had to change our names to these African names.
“Because we’re Africans,” she explained patiently. “And African people need African names. Those other names? Those were slave names! And we’re not slaves now, are we?”
“No…” I replied, pensively. “But everybody else has slave names…and they wear regular clothes, and…”
“If everybody jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge would you jump, too?”

She always got me with that one. I always wanted to sass her and say, “it depends…”

A few years later, from another boyfriend who Rosemary would send packing when he proved to be a jerk, there came another addition to our clan, another boy named Babu Juba. He would be the last.

20130303-212851.jpg
We bounced around Brooklyn and Queens for a while before settling in an apartment meant for rich white folk but once whites had abandoned Brooklyn, it became ours and we would live in it…and live nicely!

Here was the first place Waridi kept us long enough to call home. It was on Eastern Parkway. The place where Waridi would come into her own.

She kept our little abandoned palace glowing like it was intended to glow. She had a great eye for interior design and decorating as well as one for finding a bargain and diamonds in the rough. She began making collages that would stun the viewer and even built a thriving hair braiding business that drew people from all walks of life to her home salon. There these customers would sit before her in a hydraulic salon chair and look out on a beatific view of the Brooklyn Museum and the lush green trees along the promenade of Eastern Parkway, as Waridi, with her skilled fingers and creative mind, made them look 10 times better than they had when they arrived.

These enterprises of hers subsidized the government assistance that sustained us.

Soon, Joy would disembark for the west coast, in pursuit of her own dreams, reducing our number to five.

Changa and Sekou would be sucked into the street life and fall into the hands of the criminal justice system from time to time. Waridi fought fiercely to keep her children out of the penal system, or to gain their release once apprehended, but the streets and courts were an even fiercer opponent. She lost these battles as often as she won. Going before judges begging them for leniency for her boys took a toll on her.

Boyfriends came and went, but no one stayed around long enough for her to claim as her own. But she fought on, poorly educated, poorly skilled, but rich in love, ingenuity and an sage understanding of humanity. I watched her through all of this and sometimes would climb into bed with her and hold her. My hugs became hey joy and I would give them gladly, rocking her when I knew the world was rocking her, threatening to shake her loose.

She trusted me and, like her mother had done her, often left me to my own devices. So I did all within my power not to betray her trust and break her heart by forcing her to stand before a judge ever again and beg for the life of her children. I stayed on the straight and narrow for her as much as for myself. The streets called me, as well, and I answered, but always cautiously, with her fragile heart informing all those crucial decisions I had to make.

This kept me from dropping out of high school, though very little education was going on in there, and eventually prompted my taking on the challenge of higher education.
It was all worth it to see her face on my graduation day.
20130303-212838.jpg

Waridi looked at me that day and said, with tears of pride, “thank you, Baye.”
I said, “no, thank you…I couldn’t have done it without you.”

She didn’t believe me. She believes I’m a self-starter, that I would be anything I want to be with or without her prompting. She can’t grasp how a woman of modest education, none of which was higher, could bring into the world and raise children who would value education. 20130304-000846.jpgShe doesn’t get that it was her choices in life that made my life possible. That she was the one who chose Kiunga as a friend, and who let her friend guide her towards choosing an institution that would instill within us the things she (and our fathers) could not. She doesn’t take the credit for that; the credit that is due her. She thinks she did the best she could. She doesn’t know she is the best! That she is the same godsend she was that Sunday in Savannah 73 years ago.

I tell her these things but I struggle to show her these things til this day. My heart is overflowing with gratitude but I feel inadequate to express it. Maybe because I was buried in the middle of 6 children, some of whom were inordinately taxing, so I had to rely on and fend for self much more than I would have liked back then, and perhaps it has made me a selfish person. Maybe the scars I’ve accrued from troubled times affected me much more than I’m consciously aware of. I’m far from perfect. But, I know, in my soul, that I owe everything to Waridi’s sacrifices, for her giving of herself so that I could have what I needed to build up the wherewithal to live out loud as I do now.

And, after all the years of giving, with very little recompense to speak of, the Creator sent her the love of her life, Jason.

20130303-212933.jpg

20130303-213022.jpg

A man who would not run and leave her behind. But would stay by her side through thick and thin and give her the kind of love she always wanted and needed, as Etta James sang A Sunday kind of love.

Who would allow her to drag him to her country home in Georgia to walk hand in hand along those dusty roads lined with mossy trees and memories…

One Sunday in Savannah a living legend was born, the strongest woman I know, who still tries to teach me, by example, how to love; a lesson I struggle with but know is possible thanks to her!

20130303-212950.jpg

…while the congregation says “Amen!”

Advertisements

The Parkway pt.2

There were two things about The Parkway that made it unique (pardon the pun) and established it as an integral part of my Patronus.

1- The Parkway was the America most Americans will never see.

Even those bewigged revolutionaries that decided Taxation without Representation was unacceptable and signed a document declaring their defiance of an absentee monarch, even those visionaries couldn’t envision the America The Parkway- in particular my one block of it, between Franklin and Classon Avenues- represented.

We were like a village, only a very large, very unusual village, made up of multiple races, ethnicities, religions, cultures, languages, education levels and economic means…not only congregating at some obligatory central location or other only to return to our mutually exclusive enclaves and ghettos afterwards, but living together. This was especially so when I first arrived there. Less so as the years passed and as the White Flight from the inner cities to the suburbs persisted.

Trying to imagine this melting pot wonder, aren’t you?

Try to imagine a soup base made from the descendents of African captives from nations stretching from Senegal to Namibia mixed with virtually every former Western European colonial power, with the stock of holocaust survivors and refugees from war-torn Europe thrown in, flavored with the lineage of so-called Coolies  from China and India, countless Native American nations and the tribes of the Arawak, Carib, Taina, and Boricua, etc…all living together in a genetic gumbo.

That was The Parkway my mother moved me and my brothers and sisters to.

Naturally as a child you can hardly appreciate it and, a few years into my life on The Parkway, I just got used to it.  In my circle of people I still have mad love for til this day, were African-Americans, Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Panamanians, Jamaicans, Jews, Haitians, St. Lucians, Trinidadians, Bajans, Guyanese,  and I’m sure I’m missing a few.

Little did I know I was part of a grand experiment. A relatively young country’s fledgling efforts to show the world that gumbo was the new chicken soup. To me it was just home. That among my friends there were those who could speak foreign languages (Spanish, French, Hebrew, and a number of different patois from the Caribbean and South America) did not strike me as special. That I had friends from double income professional parentage as well as some from the single parent one income lifestyle, and even some  (like myself) from the welfare rolls; that some were in private schools destined for higher education while others were destined for less esteemed and privileged heights and in some cases jail or death, that didn’t faze me, either. That some had lived abroad, in England, or the Caribbean, or even in the southern areas of the US (which seemed like a different planet in those pre-MTV days) wasn’t even much to get excited about. It was all par for the course on The Parkway.

Yeah, the longer I live, the more I see and experience, the more I realize the anomaly I was raised in. And, the more I can appreciate what a miracle it was! (Especially once I came to Asia, to this land of monotony, homogeneity and social congruity.) I realize now more than ever the blessing my upbringing actually was. That having and taking advantage of the opportunity to abide with people, ideas, cultures and expectations so vastly different to my own, in those tender years when the foundation of  character- learning how to negotiate life, how to build enduring relationships and establishing an identity- are being lain, made all the difference in the world.

This Patronus of mine, this spell I cast to ward off the negative energy around me and keep my path forward lit, is a power derived from my ability to see not only the differences people have but the things we have in common. Because living in this gumbo essentially forced all of us to find common ground.

Sure, Ubi’s parents owned the dry cleaners around the corner, only spoke Spanish in the house when I came over, and bought him everything a child could  ever want, but he loved Chinese Handball as much as I and we could do battle late into the night in front of the building to see who was really king of the court.  And, yeah, Michelle’s parents, born and raised in Jamaica, thought “yankees” (like me) were lazy, shiftless niggers but that didn’t stop Michelle from making out with me on the staircase.

And, a thousand other stories like these keep my Patronus shining bright.

The second thing about The Parkway was even more profound!

…to be continued

Loco

Twitter

Facebook

 

 

 

The Parkway pt.1

My soul is a boulevard, and its name is Eastern Parkway.

After nearly a decade of bouncing around New York from place to place- from Bed-Stuy to Queens in Rego Park, then back to Brooklyn, to Clinton Hill, to Fort Green- my family eventually moved to Eastern Parkway, where I would remain for the next 20 years.

I was about 9 years old at the time.

I remember my first day at 225 Eastern Parkway, apartment 3A.

It was Labor Day, celebrated as always on the first Monday in September. I’d just come back from a school retreat to upstate, New York, which my mother hadn’t attended. I was with one of my mother’s friends and a teacher at the school (I think), and she was escorting me home. I was holding her hand tightly cuz what was going on around me was, frankly, scaring the shit outta me:

It was a parade, only not like any parade I’d ever seen!

I’d gone to parades before, of course. Macy’s Thanksgiving and Christmas Parades usually. Lots of people, lots of floats. Large floating characters I knew from TV: Pink Panther, Woody Woodpecker, Bugs Bunny, etc…I was accustomed to marching bands or cars passing by with white people waving. Maybe a beauty queen, a movie star or the Mayor.  That was a parade.

But, this:

and this:

and this:

Yeah, as you might imagine, I was scared shitless and couldn’t figure out why the hell we were there. I was supposed to be going home!

“Mama Ramona!” I yelled. She couldn’t hear over the noise. “MAMA RAMONA!!!”

I tugged at her hand and she tugged back.

“Come on, Loco, we’re almost there!”

We fought our way through the crowds and eventually turned into the canopied entrance to a large apartment building, 225 on the canopy and door. People were everywhere! Even in the doorway of the building, and in the hallways. The building was right on the parade route. Finally we got into the elevator, crowded with laughing drunken people, spilled beer and empty bottles on the floor. The elevator made a buzzing creaking noise as it climbed painfully slow. A fluorescent light overhead blinked every couple of seconds. No one seemed to notice. I felt myself getting really uptight. Mama Ramona was watching the lights on the panel. We stopped, with a jolt, at what was supposed to be the third floor, but the elevator was not level with the landing. It was probably due to the weight of the passengers, I figured, but that didn’t make me feel any better. Another person who was getting off as well just hopped up onto the landing like this was the most natural way to exit an elevator. I’d already had a minor elevator phobia (that would eventually develop into a major phobia, encompassing all heights, later in life) due to an experience I’d had years ago at the World trade Center. So, I was shaken. But, holding tightly to my mother’s friend’s hand, we followed suit and made the little leap to the landing.

My mother, who hadn’t seen me in a week, was waiting there in a doorway to give me a big hug and kiss. I couldn’t have been happier to see her!

“Welcome to our new home, baby!”

I couldn’t even speak. I was in a state.

My ears were still ringing from men banging on what appeared to be metal garbage cans, from trucks filled with speakers blasting this music I’d never really heard before, the bass vibrating through me like a thousand hearts trying to enter my chest through my ears, and from the crowds, some half-naked, others looking lost in ecstatic joy I couldn’t even conceive at the time, screaming in unintelligible tongues; my eyes were still aching from the smoke that had filled the air, thick with an alien sweet fleshy aroma of barbecue and from street vendors selling all kinds of steaming strangeness, some even making eye contact with me, calling to me; pigs and some animals I couldn’t rightly recognize roasting on spits and chicken blackened til it appeared burnt oozing reddish grease and stinging my nose with exotic spices and vegetables of unknown origins with peculiar odors, the funk of bodies sweaty from dancing and heaving and cavorting about in exaltation.

And, all that I had survived to get to this point I felt was still too close for comfort; the safety of home had not been fully achieved. The noise was still there, like someone had turned down the volume from 20 to a hardly distinguishable 17, like all those outlandish creatures in brilliant alarming colors were still hot on my trail, conspiring to do me in.

I was overwhelmed and overwrought…and started crying right there in the doorway, in my mother’s arms.

“Hey!” my mother held me away, looking into my burning eyes. “What’s this about? You couldn’t have missed me that much!”

I couldn’t explain. I’m sure my face showed my confusion. Where the hell was I??? This wasn’t home! No way! Home was the top two floors of a brownstone on Washington Avenue, just off Myrtle Avenue, over in Clinton Hill, where we’d been living for about a year. I’d just made a couple of friends down the block. We were going to play Monopoly or Life, and eat Dannon blueberry yogurt.

“When are we going home?” I asked, my first words to my mother in a week.

Then she got it. I could see it in her face. That maternal understanding thing. She was, after all, a veteran at this, still in her late 30s and already the single mother of six children. She’d seen it all by then. Especially this anxiety with being in a new place. I was the middle child. Three older, two younger. She didn’t worry about how my older sibs would handle the move. They’d been there done that a number of times and she had every confidence they would just roll with it. My baby brother, all of three or four at the time, was too young to be affected much by the change. Only my younger sister and I would feel it. We had been away during the transition. Me at the retreat and my sister at a family friend’s place. I don’t think she’d planned much beyond that. I’d known we were moving, and honestly I was excited about it, but I didn’t know exactly when, only that it would be soon. I hadn’t said goodbye to my new friends at our previous apartment because I had expected to return to it before the move.

I had thought wrong. I cried harder.

“Come with me…” she said, and began pulling me inside. “Wait…take off your sneakers.”

“Huh?” I said,wiping my nose on my arm, looking down at my Pro-Keds. “What?”

“Take em’ off,” she repeated. “No shoe wearing in this house! Put them in that closet.”

I turned to my right. There were two large doors in the spacious corridor. I looked back at her but she had turned to Mama Ramona and was thanking her for bringing me home safely. I turned back to the two doors. I opened the first one. It was empty except for all the things you’d expect to find in an empty closet. I opened the other and there were a few coats hanging there. One I recognized as my own…also my older brothers’ and sister’s coats too. It sent a shiver through me. We really do live here, I thought, feeling betrayed somehow. On the floor were shoes. I took off my sneakers and tossed them inside.

“Neatly, dammit,” my mother scolded.

I straightened them out.

“Now,” she said, grabbing my hand and walking me through this strange apartment, with the too high ceilings and the too shiny parquet wood floors; like a museum it felt. The light fixtures on the walls were designed like candlesticks, fake wax dripping down the sides, which didn’t alleviate the almost Gothic feel of the place any.”You know how I promised you your own room?”

“Yeah,” I said, feeling my first good feeling since I’d encountered Eastern Parkway. I looked at my mother’s amused grin, seeing the twinkle in her eyes. We walked passed a living room. I could see our old beatup furniture in this large glowing room. And in an adjoining room, separated by twin glass doors, I saw a room of equal size, with a large window and a chandelier hanging overhead.

Wait…a chandelier??? But, I kept on moving at my mother’s urging.

“Well, here it is!” she said, directing me into a little room on the opposite side of the long hallway from what I figured had to be a dining room. This room was not as big as the other rooms I’d seen. Not as big as the rooms on the Brady Bunch, either. But it was mine. There was my bed, with a new mattress! There was a window that looked out at a court yard, there was a closet, and a little sink in the corner, and another door lead to a small bathroom with a toilet and a miniature tub. “Yep, you even have your own bathroom…which you better use instead of your goddamn bed!”

Even her tone couldn’t diminish my joy.

“Is it really mine???” I asked, praying she wasn’t playing with me.

“Yep, it’s all yours!”

I threw my arms around her and gave her a hug she probably remembers til this day.

I hadn’t known I wanted my own room. All I knew is it was something my oldest brother, Changa, and my older sister Faraha, coveted, and that made it appealing. And my mother had given it to me. Me! Over them. I felt special…and, as a child stuck in the middle of a large family, it’s a feeling seldom felt.

I would find out in the days to come that this decision, which was fiercely contended by Changa, was made solely because I was a bed-wetter approaching adolescence, and the room had a bathroom. My mother had been trying for years to find out why my condition had gone on so long, but all the doctors told her was there was no medical reason for it. That my bladder was healthy. So it was probably due to some trauma or my childish mind’s way of crying out for attention. This from some quack at a clinic. Naturally, it didn’t sit well with my mother…nor me, for that matter. I didn’t understand what trauma was, and I wasn’t starved for attention, either. Especially when I’d stay over a friend’s house and be woken up by him punching me saying, “Man, you pissed all over me!” Who needs that kind of attention? Or, wake up in the middle of the night in a puddle and in a panic because I knew that it would mean an ass-whipping once my mother found out in the morning.

“Thank you, mommy!” I said. then something occurred to me. “Can I sleep here tonight?”

“This is home, Loco,” she said. “You ain’t got no other!”

I beamed.

She left me standing there looking around my tiny room, basking in my special-ness, examining the walls. Where would I put my Spider-Man shrine? Where would I put my Bruce Lee poster (The one from “Chinese Connection” with him holding the nunchucks ready to crack some Japanese ass)? I leapt on the bed, landing with a plop and slid right off, banging my head on the metal frame. While I sat there rubbing my head, with the other hand I lifted the sheets and saw the plastic covering over the mattress. To protect the new mattress from my mattress-devouring urine, I surmised. Ingenious! My piss had eaten through so many mattresses over the years.

Then, I ventured out of my room and checked out the rest of the environs.

Wow! Four bedrooms, three bathrooms, living room, dining room, and a kitchen. 10 rooms in all. A hallway wide and long fed into all of the rooms on either side of it.

The front-most room, the master bedroom, where my mother had set up shop as her space, had bay windows that looked out at the parade I had an hour earlier passed through. We sat there together and watched the festivities. From above it didn’t look so scary: a million black people vibing to different flavors of music emanating from many sources- calypso over there, reggae over here, funk down below disco from the hallway, all synthesizing into a kind of jazz of the spirit. My mother’s foot was tapping and her hand was tapping the window sill lightly, rhythmically, as she stared out with unfocused thought-filled eyes.

I heard a clamor, blasts from horn players warming up their lungs and instruments, coming from across Eastern Parkway. There was a park directly over there, I noticed, and that’s not all. Off to the right across another street , there was a massive white stone building looming over everything. It looked like one of those museums in Manhattan I’d gone to on school trips. There were benches filled with hundreds of people set up on the street in front of it.

“What’s that?” I asked pointing at the building.

“That’s the Brooklyn Museum,” she said, smiling. “Beautiful, ain’t it? Next to it is the Botanic Gardens, and down the way a little is a great big library!”

She knew I’d get a kick outta that. The way I devoured books. And she was right. I would spend years in that library. Then she returned her eyes to the revelry below and her mind to whatever was occupying it.

“This is gonna be great,” she said, aprpos of nothing, more to herself than to me.

She’d been bouncing around for years, as I mentioned, with the six of us in tow. Trying to find a place where she could raise us. All the other places we’d called home had been much smaller. The seven of us crowded into apartments built for far fewer. My mother had us all in the same school at the time, a Pan-African family school, so our educational needs were being met, as far as she was concerned, as well as our cultural and spiritual needs. But, we were growing. Three teenagers, she had by then. My brothers were starting to get into more and more trouble. Fights with students, with teachers, with other parents even. Robbing, stealing, lying…and God knows what else. Her oldest, my sister, although very smart and responsible, was into boys now and starting to get a little difficult to manage. And, then, there was me. And though I didn’t give her much trouble at the time, comparatively, I was prepubescent, a bit more sensitive than my older siblings and well on the way to becoming a handful.  How would she deal with me?

Yeah, she had a lot on her plate.

To make ends meet, she was braiding hair and doing odd jobs off the books while collecting social service checks and food stamps, to keep a roof over our heads, clothes on our backs and food in our bellies. No father figure in the home, no dependable man to speak of…what man in his right mind would want to take on a half-grown family with six hungry mouths? Not the men she’d come across, and my father was long gone, off starting another franchise! No, she was on her own.

In a new home. Large enough for all of us to stretch out, and beautiful to boot.

A fresh start, she was probably thinking.

“Yeah, it’s gonna be just fine…” she said, nodding her head reassuringly like she’d been having a conversation with some insecure friend.

And, again, she was right…well, partially anyway. The Parkway had a lot in store for all of us.

And, my Patronus…well, the heart and soul of it is the Parkway!

to be continued…

Loco

Twitter

Facebook