I am fascinated by what my memories reveal when I just stick a pin into something as unremarkable as my previous addresses.
Who was I trying to become when I lived at my various addresses?
What images do I remember? What events stand out? What emotions do I recall?
What do I choose NOT to remember?
Next door on the right, Miss Alice’s yard was just brown dirt with no grass or flowers, and her boys, Jesse and Curtis, always had dirty faces, hands, and clothes. Jesse’s skin was almost as white as Miss Alice’s, and his hair was brown and not too curly. Curtis had brown skin, but not as brown as mine. I liked his curly black hair.
Mama Bennie had very dark brown skin and she was kind of fat. Daddy Gilbert had very light skin and his eyes were scary because they looked green. He was very skinny.
I think I was four when the cousins from Mississippi came for a visit and burned the house down.
When I was five years old, my birthday party was in the back yard and all the children in the neighborhood were there. I wanted all the flowers on the birthday cake for myself. To my surprise, they tasted very bitter.
Daddy Gilbert made a wooden stool for me to stand on to reach the sink, and Mama Bennie taught me how to wash dishes.
The little brother that I prayed for was born when I was seven, and Muhdear said that since I prayed to have him, I had to take care of him. I washed his diapers and only let one of them go down the toilet.
I was able to go to the store by myself to get the “strik-a-lean strik-a-fat” salt pork for Mama Bennie to put in the greens she cooked.
I got my first two-wheeled bike. It ran away with me downhill and I crashed.
Since everybody in the house was tired most of the time, I was proud that I could do things to help.
I was always happy when my Daddy came by to drive me to school. Sometimes he came by when there was no school and he let me stand on the running board of his Dodge.
Mama Rosie, my Daddy’s mother, made me feel pretty and precious. When she visited, she kissed and kissed and kissed me. She always brought me something. She brought dolls for my birthday and for Christmas. I felt sad when Mama Bennie scolded her for bringing me candy.
I choose not to remember
that Muhdear often had migraines when she was at home, so I had to tiptoe and be very quiet.
I was trying to become
a good girl who was not lazy like some of the people Mama Bennie talked about.