I’ve decided to go back to my roots….
No, I’m not putting a Jheri curl in my hair, you dimwit. I’m going back to the original intent of this blog, that is, to instruct White people on the ins and outs of Black Culture…
Yes, Black Culture.
Stop saying “African-American;” that was just some humbug Jessie Jackson came up with to confuse you…
uh….now that I think about it, we like you confused. Never mind.
What I’ll I’ll be doing is, to take you back to the time when Black people were in the process of moving from “colored” to “negro” to “Negro.” Big difference, that capital letter…
What happened to the marital advice?
Well, if you must know, the second-to-last couple I gave advice to ended up…uh…er…in front of Judge Mabelline.
Hey, the heifer should’a left the poor schlub alone. Now she’s just alone.
Anyway, I’m going to post a few of my short stories of my childhood here, for your approval.
No, I don’t mean I want you to approve of my childhood, you dolt, I want you to….
Oh, I see. Trying to be funny, eh?
In the future, kindly leave that to moi, sil-vous plait?
What does that mean?
Go ask your mother.
(See, in the Black community, when you White people work our nerves, we make a reference to your mother. As in: “Yo mama’s so stupid that she thought that babies came from the infantry!”)
Anyway, here goes…
When I was a boy, I spent a lot of time in my grandmother’s house. She lived on the corner lot, Hoffpauir and Jacob Street. She was about 2 blocks from the railroad tracks and the rice mill, so we were raised with the sounds of trains passing and the mill in operation, ‘specially in the fall, when the fall rice was harvested. Every mornin’, the mill whistle would blow at 6 o’clock, sharp. Sounded like a foghorn, mournful, deep and slow. Just like an alarm clock to us kids, you couldn’t stay in bed after that horn blew.
Old folks didn’t need that mill whistle to get up early, no sir. My grandmother, her name was Zora, but nobody called her that except for the White woman she worked for, Miz Savelle. We called her Mother, or Muh for short. People in town called her Mom Zora, ‘cause she was a church mother, but I’ll tell you about that later. Muh woke up early, like old folks did back then. 4:30, 5 o’clock, she was up, less’en she was sick or something. Time us kids woke up, she had already had company come by for coffee, usually my Uncle Scott, but he drank tea. Lipton, boilin’ hot, with a little lemon. Everybody else, tho, was coffee. Mello Joy, the old kind, brewed strong enough to stain your cup.
Muh was one of those wimmen people come to with they problems, what they call counselin’, nowadays. She was a church woman, and I guess if she done now what she did back then, she’d be called a pastoral counselor. People like to come to her and talk, get help with stuff goin’ on in their life. She’d give them good advice, straight out the Bible, she could quote it word for word. That’s how she lived, right out the Bible. She was a widow woman, my grandfather died when my momma was 12 or so, with 6 daughters and a son to raise. Raised ‘em, too, without a man in the house.
She was strict on ‘em, had to be. 6 daughters? Man, you best run a tight ship with six daughters, or you have hell on your hands. Momma would tell us stories about how Muh would make ‘em wash dishes, and then come behind ‘em and check to see if they cleaned ‘em right. She’d say, “Don’t make no sense to half-do no dishes. Wash ‘em right the first time, you don’t have to back-track and do ‘em agin’.” Momma said if Muh found one dish half-washed, you had to was the whole sink o’ dishes again. “Washin’ dishes aint good to eat, so you did it right the first time,” she’d tell us.
She ran a tight ship, Momma said. They couldn’t “go out” to the local dances until they turned 16, then my Uncle Alfred had to chaperone. My Uncle Alfred, now that man’s something else, but I don’t have time to tell you ‘bout him today. Momma told us, one time Ray Charles was comin’ to town. Yep, Ray Charles used to play Cane Creek. You see, there was way back what they called the “chitlin’ circuit’, where Black musicians would tour the Deep South. All the big names would play the chitlin’ circuit back then, and there was a lot of little towns like Cane Creek that had a nightclub the big boys would play in. B.B. King, Ray Charles, Fats Domino, Muddy Waters, Lazy Lester, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Big Momma Thornton, you name ‘em, all the big names played in Cane Creek, usually in the Blue Diamond or the Stork Club, place be packed!
Well, anyway, Momma was 15, hadn’t turned 16 yet, but she was close to it. Ray Charles was comin’ to the Blue that Friday night, and she wanted to go. See, she was the second youngest, so my older aunties was goin’ to see Ray with Uncle Alfred, and since she was close to turnin’ 16, well, she made her plans to go. She knew the drill: you wasn’t goin’ nowhere before you did your chores, dishes washed, floor swept and mopped, furniture dusted, clothes washed and hung out on the line, brought back in when they was dried, folded and put up in they place. Whatever your job was, you got it done befo’ you stepped outside. Aint no need of arguin’ about it, that’s just the way it was.
So Momma did her dishes, and started getting’ ready, ironin’ her clothes and stuff. She got dressed with the others, and made up her face, I mean, she was ready to step out! Time to go, they lined up near the door for inspection, Muh looked ‘em over, checkin’ hemlines and necklines.
What do I mean, “checkin’ ‘em over”? You wasn’t leavin’ Mom Zora’s house with your “neckidness out,” like she called it! No, sir!
She checked them over, Momma last in line. Muh gave her usual final instructions before they left out, “Now, be yourself!” that was one of her favorite sayings, “Be yourself! Just ‘cause somebody jump the ditch, that don’ mean you got to jump, too!”
Momma turned to the door to walk out, and Muh said, “Hold on, baby. Where you goin?”
Momma said, “To the dance. Ray Charles is playin’.”
Muh answered, “I don’t care who playin’ in the club. Where you think you is goin’? How old is you?”
“Fifteen,” Momma answered miserably.
“Then lock the door behin’ ‘em, and stay in this here house. You know you don’t go out ‘til you hit sixteen.”
Momma begin to plead her case, while my aunties waited to see what the decision was. Momma went on for a minute, how she was grown, and ever body else could go out, and why couldn’t she, and then Muh put down her sewing and looked at my aunties. “Y’all goin’ out?” she asked.
“Yes, Ma’am,” they answered.
“Then, y’all best git goin’ then, befo’ it be too late. Abbie, shut the door behind ‘em,” and picked up her sewing.
Well, that was that. They knew better than tryin’ to argue with her, fool around and nobody was gonna see Ray, not tonight, anyways.
“Bye, Abbie,” Aunt Marie said, as they went outside. Momma said she cried like a baby for a good while, then Muh said, “Now, that’s enough o’ that. You need me to get my flyswat’?”
“Alright, then, stop all that noise. When you hit sixteen, you can go out.”
I know that seem hard, but in those days, rules was rules. The Bible says, “Train up a child in the way it should go, and when he is old, he shall not depart from it.” That’s in Proverbs, the 22nd chapter. It don’t mean that chirren won’t do bad, but it mean that good home-trainin’ stick to ‘em, and they never forget what’s right an’ wrong, even if they don’t do right.
Momma ‘splained all that to us, and we understood it. But every now and then “Georgia On My Mind” would play on the radio, and Momma’s shoulders would slump a little bit, and a minute later, she’d have a Kleenex in her hand. “Something in my eye,” she would say. It was okay, though, ‘cause by the time supper came around, she’d bake a chocolate cake.
My brother found out that you could call the radio station and request a song. One week, we had chocolate cake three times, ‘fo she caught on…