Friday, December 17, 2010


The first thing I learned as a child was the Lord's prayer.  Big Momma couldn't read but she taught me the entire prayer and every night would end with me on my knees saying " Our father who art in Heaven".  That prayer has sustained me throughout my life, even in times when I doubted the existence of a just God.  I would question why he made things so hard for me.  I wanted to know why I didn't have a loving family.  I wanted to know why I had to protect myself. I wanted to know why he let so many bad things happen to me.  

They would say that God was good ...all the time.   Surely he wasn't good to me.  I would wonder what I did that made him not love me.   If he did, surely he would not make my life so hard empty.

I  cried and screamed at him to show me that he was real and that he loved me.  Then I would pray to be forgiven for blaspheming.  I was taught to fear God.
When I was little it was hard for me to reconcile a deity that was to be loved
and feared at the same time.  I already lived with so much fear in my life.  How could I trust him if I feared him?  It was a long time before I learned that he was a God of love and he wouldn't hurt me like the adults in my life did.  The same adults would say that he never burdened you with more than you could handle.  I didn't understand until I was much older exactly what they meant.
I know now that God has always looked out for me. 

He saved a child from dying at the hands of drunken father who could have beaten her to death.  He sustained a young girl who lived most of her life without the love of a family.  He came again and saved the teenager from a neighbor who tried to rape and murder her.  He sent a police officer to stanch the blood from a wound that should have been fatal.  He gave strength to a reluctant young girl who through a violent act became a mother before her time.

He gave me the determination to not only finish high school but also get a college degree.  I remember carrying my baby on one hip and my school books on another.  I loved school and would finish salutatorian of my high school class.  I remember  working two jobs in the daytime and attending Mercer University three nights a week and half a day on Saturday to get my Communications degree.

Each time I fell to my knees and felt that I couldn't go any further...he lightened my load.  In my ignorance I would think that I had gotten lucky or that I had gotten a second wind and taken care of myself.

I thought for awhile that I did this without any help....I was wrong....God was there.  Many people don't believe in a higher power and that it their choice.  Looking back on my life I know there was a higher power guiding and protecting me.  That same power guides and protects me today.

As I write this my granddaughter Zorie is in the bedroom asleep.   I have prayed these last three months that God would let me see my baby again.  It doesn't matter now....why or what kept us apart.  What matters is that he answers prayers.  She is just seven years old, but when I picked her up from school today she said:  "Franny I prayed every night to God to let me come over to your house again.  I even prayed in my sleep".   She looked up at me with those beautiful liquid brown trusting eyes and said "I love you Franny.  Did you miss me?  Did you pray too?"  At that moment I saw the proof of  God's love and grace standing right there in front of me.

"Yes Zorie, I prayed too" I replied to her. She reach up and hugged me and I felt God's presence.  In that moment all the love and peace that I've looked for my entire life was right there.  And it was asking for nothing from me but love in return. Lord, there are still times I ask why and how...but not today.   I just want to thank you for your grace and for answering prayers.  

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Make it right

While there were times, when I did not always like my mother .......I never stopped loving her.  I never did anything to harm her or treat her in a less than respectful manner.  The bible says to honor thy parents and while I have always had a fear of God's wrath, that part of the bible was redundant for me, because I truly loved and respected my mother.  My father too, but that is a story for another day.

Because of the way I grew up, when I became the mother of a daughter, I was fiercely protective of her.  I loved her fiercely and wanted to shield her from anything that would cause harm to her.   I never wanted the evils of the world to touch her.  Maybe I loved her too much.... she says I did....she says I do.
I know I never wanted to share her.  She was mine and I loved her...fiercely.

From the time my daughter was nine years old and I divorced her father, our relationship was contentious.  She blamed me for taking her father away from her. The more I tried to love her, the more she turned from me.  We fought, she ran away, she came back and we fought again.  I could never love her the way she needed to be loved.  And for that, I am so sorry.   Don't get it twisted, I was not your average 'Father Knows Best' mother back then,  because  I was fighting a legion of my own demons.  As I look back now, I believe I was quite mad, deranged, in need of psychiatric help.   I had never been allowed to show anger. I was always afraid of everything.  I just wanted to make everyone else happy and maybe,  just maybe,  I would be safe and perhaps...even loved.   Once I found my anger, I raged  at anyone, everyone, everything.   My rage became a living thing.   It made up for lost time.  I could not control it.

There are times ...even now, when my rage peeks out from the darkness that is me,  I loose control of it and it destroys.

My children were not exempt.  As a single parent I searched for the things I believed I wanted but could not have because deep down inside, I had judged myself unworthy.  I am not making any excuses for my anger and actions back then.  Only now as I am peeling back the layers of my mind, I wonder, that like an onion,  there will be nothing there left of me.  Will it all be empty layers? Or will there be a core.. that is me?   Even now,  as I get the therapy and the medications that that I need confront my past and to tame my rage.
I it too late?  I am finding the strength to fight for my sanity.  But is it too late?  I am Catherines daughter, but I am called by another name.  Who is she?  Is she crazy?  Is she just a bitch?   Is it too late to break the cycle?  My mother lost custody of me.  My daughter and I have divorced each other.  Who's fault?  Does it matter?

Perhaps while I loved my daughter, I gave her too many conflicting signals.  Perhaps I deprived her of the balance I have sought for my entire life.  She says I was inconsistent and smothering.   Perhaps, maybe...I don't know.

My best friend Pam says I spoiled my daughter to much.   Pam, my first female friend.  I broke one of Catherines rules: never let a woman get close to you.

 This is not the story of Pam's and my friendship.

My daughter.... I only know that our relationship has become....... I can't find just one word for it.  Loving at times....needy...spiteful...hateful...hurtful.. lost.  I accept full responsibility for my part in damaging the relationship.  There have been times when loving her became too much and I had to remove her from my life.  There have been times when she has done the same to me. We just never removed each other at the same time.  We have now.

People say... you will always love your children or you will always love your daughter and I have proven this to be false.  My children and I have proven this false.  And I weep.  I  so very dearly wish that things were different.  I just don't know how.  How can I make it better?  How can I fix it? 

God can you help me?  I really truly want to fix it.  I don't want my past, which never had any type of love in it,  to become the present.  My present.  My children's present.  My grandchildren's present.
The great event that brought me and my daughter back together,  was the birth of my first grandchild...her son.  My Zay....Xavier.   We were both so close.  What went wrong?  My temper?  Her conniving?  All I know is the first ten years of Xavier's life were my paradise.  But like my love for his mother, I did not want to share him with anyone else.  I wanted it to be me and them, our own little universe.  I was too scared to let anyone else in.  Perhaps I felt I was protecting them.  Maybe I was protecting myself.  I felt I had finally found my  "happy ever after".  But like a plant that dies when you over water it, my need  to have them to myself, wilted everything. ..killed it.    My love and my temper and my fear put a chasm between us.   Xavier turned away.  It is my fault.  I tried to hold on too tight.  I choked him with my love.  I alienated him.  I miss him so much.  But I cannot find the words to bring him close again.  How do I tell him that I always have and always will him.

 He is nearly a man...fifteen...and made in his mothers image.  Zay and I were once so close...I still love him. But he is his mothers son and this is not the story of him.   Perhaps I made him make a choice.  Perhaps I made her make a choice.   I wonder what will become the story of my daughter and I?  In many ways it is the story of sorrow.  I weep for my relationship with my daughter.  I fear that it is irreparable.  That it can never be salvaged. 

My relationship with him.  But I cannot start that story.  It has to keep for another day.  My sorrow is so deep, that I fear I will drown in it.   But life is about choices.  I have always said that.  I have made my choices.  I have made my bed.   For every action, there is a cost .  But dear Lord sometimes I find the price is too dear. Too costly and I am bankrupt.

And my  Zorie.  My only granddaughter is caught in the middle of this.  Born at twenty six weeks... I was afraid to love her and now she is my one great love.
Everyone says that emotionally, mentally and physically... she  is my mirror
image, my doppelganger.  I feel a connection with Zorie that I have never felt with another human being...not even my darling Xavier.   Being a preemie, she had a hard row to hoe.  But hoe it she did.  She is a little fighter. And she has a capacity for love that is just incredible.  People say "Mz B....Zorie acts just like you, she talks like you".  I would love it when they said that.  But it scared me too.  I would never want her to fight the emotional and mental demons that her "franny" fought.

Her franny.  That's what she calls me.  That's what all my grandchildren call me.  When she says it...its sounds and feels like love.  I feel wrapped in love. She knows I love her to.  But her mother fears I love her too much.  She fears my love for Zorie is too much and she needs to be protected from it.  Three months ago my daughter and I removed ourselves from each others world.

But what of Zorie?  She doesn't understand.  I don't understand why my daughter would feel I was a threat to Zorie.  All I know is, she will not let me see Zorie.  All Zorie knows is she can't see or speak to her franny.  She is sad.  She cries.  I mourn.  I rage at the heavens.  I weep.  She sneaks and calls me.  She begs for me to come see her.  She told me today that she hates the word:  separate.

She is seven years old and has come to know what that word means.  It is nearly Christmas.  It will be the first Christmas she doesn't spend with her franny.

She wants me to make it right.  I don't know how to.  The separation between my daughter and I is too wide.  I tried to bridge it after I spoke to Zorie today.
I called my daughter.  The conversation was so false and stilted, it made me physically sick.  When I was on the phone with my daughter  I could feel the temperature rising around me.  I was nauseous. My head was ringing.  But I needed to make it right.  I  have always made things right.  When I was a little girl I was good at making people happy.  So they wouldn't be mad at me.  So they would love me.  I need to make things right for Zorie's sake.  Lord help me make things right.  I don't know how.  I am Catherines daughter and I do not know how to make things right.  I have forgotten how.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Birds of a Feather

I don't know why I find this so hard to tell.  I'm scared to revisit my past...afraid I'll get lost there.

My friends know me by a different name...they do not know who I am. They do not know what I am.  They don't know that I am Catherine's daughter.  They never met her.  But when they look into my eyes, she peers out.  She is long dead,  but she breathes through me.  They don't know that my past stains the canvas that makes up my life.  Would they still be my friends if they knew?  How would they judge me?  Would they see me as tainted and too dirty to be a part of their lives?  Birds of a feather....I remember someone else, a long time ago telling me that they could not be my friend, because they would be judged by associating with me....birds of a feather flock together.  It wasn't my fault... but I was judged wanting and unworthy.

I thought this girl was my best friend.... she was my only friend and I was thirteen.  I never had many friends.  I wasn't allowed to.  My world was Big Momma and Mr. Nap and their liquor house.  I knew how to pour a fifty cent shot by the time I was five years old.  By the time I was six years old I was keeping the books because neither of them could read.  People would come in through the week to get a drink on credit.  Friday's were when everyone settled up.  If they didn't ...either Big Momma or Mr. Nap would go looking for them with their thirty eight and they would way or another...sometimes looking down the barrel of a gun.   The sound of gunshots were as commonplace  as pigs feet on Saturday and church on Sunday.    People would fight and bleed and then come Monday morning they headed back to work, hungover and battered.  The police didn't bother about colored people shooting or stabbing each other with ice picks when I was a little girl. 
I thought everybody lived that way ....carrying a pistol. The juke joints and liquor houses always had weekend tragedies, it was a way of life, so  I learned how to use my imagination as an  escape.  But there was no escaping the hands of the men who came for their shots of liquor.  They thought that their money included me.  I remember the smell of them, how they looked at me and how it scared me, how they would time their moves for when we were alone and how they would act like nothing was happening if someone else came into the room.  I learned to be quick and to leave the room before I was alone with them.
Sometimes it worked...sometimes.  Then there were times when they needed a refill.  At those times I would try to become invisible and escape into my mind.

I loved to sit under a big tree that was part of our yard.   It had a large bench that was built right into the tree.  It was peaceful and quiet and I could loose myself in my daydreams.  We had three dogs....Roscoe, Spot and Fluffy.  Spot was my favorite.  I would sit under the tree with the dogs and be happy for awhile.   You see they loved me and asked for nothing in return.  They never beat me with a razor strap until there were bloody welts on my back or yelled at me and told me I was lucky to have a roof over my head.  I loved those dogs...especially Spot.  Everyone came to sit under the big tree.  They would play checkers or cards, drink beer, talk trash and laugh.  When I had the tree all to myself  I'd daydream about  a place where I'd be safe and feel loved.  Where everyone played in the sunshine and there were plenty of friends and everyone was happy.  My imagination was the only thing that saved me. It was my refuge.  At six years old I wanted live in my mind.  In the real world  I wanted to die.   Dead people were safe weren't they?    My life at 1721 Moore Street was one of uncertainty and fear after my mother left me, after she lost custody of me.  Big Momma and Mr. Nap were afraid of only one thing and that was the Revenuer's .  They would get a shipment of moonshine twice a month, usually late at night and they would need me to help them.   I remember the night that they forgot me.  I was six years old and it was dark.

The moonshine man had just dropped off the two large plastic containers of liquor;  we were in the dark in the big bushes and we needed to hide it until morning when it could be measured out in pints and quarts.  All of a sudden there was the sound of sirens and gunshots...lights were flashing, it was a raid and the revenuer's were coming.  Mr. Nap and Big Momma started running, they were trying to hide the moonshine and not get caught by the revenuer's.  But I couldn't keep up, I was six years old in the dark and they left me.  I could see the white shadows running through the trees and I thought that they would see me ...that they would get me...I couldn't find Big Momma.  Where was she?  If I was found, what would they do to me?  I remember running and falling and crying without making any sound.  I remember lying there...and mind just went away.  The next thing I knew,  Big Momma was leading me back to the house...she was talking...but I couldn't hear tears filled my head.  Why did she leave me in the dark?  She didn't hug me or try to comfort me.   She told me to go to bed.  That was life at 1721 Moore Street. 

Moore Street doesn't even exist anymore.  It was swallowed up by I-75.  If you go to Macon now, no trace remains....except in my mind.  We still sold liquor when we moved to Grants Chapel Alley.  I was older and starting  junior high.  My only friends were books and my teachers.  Especially Mrs. Espy.

I don't want to remember this.  I want to forget this.   Please God I want to forget this.  If I don't say it, it won't be so.  If I click my heels three times it'll go away.  Make it go away Lord. 

I was so naive so innocent.  I still didn't have many friends.  It wasn't allowed.  But I did have this girl.  She was my friend.   And then it happened and she wasn't my friend anymore.  I was a virgin.  And then I wasn't.  I was twelve, going on thirteen.  He became my friend.  He told me I could ask him anything.  He told me I was pretty.  He was twenty one.  One day, at school I heard a girl talking about kissing.  She said people put their tongues in each other's mouths.  I asked him if it were so.  You see.... I trusted him.
He wouldn't hurt me, he was my friend.  He wasn't like the men who came to Big Mommas. 

Lord I don't want to remember this.

One Saturday ... Big Momma always sent me to town on Saturday.  I would make a list and go to Mulberry Market and bring back the groceries.   I would take the bus downtown and then get a cab back home.  It was the only day that I had to myself...that I was free.   I would take my time and window shop and dream about the pretty clothes.  This day he was waiting at the end of the alley.  He told me he'd take me to town and he would answer my question, but he needed to stop by his cousin's house first.

No noooooooo .   I can't do this.   I don't want to remember this.

When we got to his cousins house, he asked me to come in for just a minute.  When we got inside, he said "let me show you how to kiss".  He touched his lips to mine.

 I don't remember.  No I can't remember this.

Then he touched my hair.  I remember saying I had to go.  He didn't listen.  He raped me.  I was a virgin and he raped me.  It hurt.  It hurt so bad.   He stole what was left of my innocence. When it was over, I felt broken.  I don't remember how I got there, but we were back in his car and heading downtown and he was smiling and talking.   I couldn't hear him.  My head was full of my screams.   He didn't hear.  Nobody heard.

I was twelve going on thirteen and I was pregnant.  The story of my pregnancy and how it reunited me with my mother is not this story.  This is the story of my friend and how she told me after I had my son, that she could no longer be my friend because people would think she was just like me. She said they would think that birds of a feather flock together.  The people in the neighborhood whispered that it was the quiet ones you had to look out for.  Still waters run deep.  She could no longer be my friend.  I remember being so hurt and feeling so dirty, so unworthy.    I can still see myself walking away and wondering if people were looking and whispering.  I felt their eyes on my back as I walked away and I vowed never to have another person look at me the way the girl did.  My friend who was not my friend.   I swore never to let another's words destroy me again.    My words would destroy first.  I would never need another person.  I would leave them before they left me. 

I am older now and I still find it hard to fully trust anyone.  I still believe, deep down, that they will leave.  Even my children.  But this is not their story.   I still imagine the whispers.  I say that I don't care.  I don' need anyone.  But I do and it terrifies me. What will I do when they see beyond the facade?    How can I endure that hurt again?  They call me by another name.  I am Catherines daughter and the birds are still circling.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A Sober Mind

My mama use to say a drunk man spoke a sober man's mind.

I loved being with her, drunk or sober.   When she was sober, she never made excuses for her behavior when she was drinking.  It was a part of who she was.  Drunk or sober I loved her.   Sometimes she had seizures.  I was so little and they scared me so bad - I'd think she'd be dying.  I remember people putting a spoon in her mouth and how her body would thrash around.  It was only when I became older that I found out she had been diagnosed with a tumor on her brain.   I'd later  see the scars on her lips where she had bitten herself and I would want to kiss them to make them better, but I was afraid to.  Maybe I was afraid she wouldn't let me.  I'd want to but I never tried.  When I got bigger she told me she had meningitis when she was younger.  I didn't understand how fragile she was.  It was only until I was much older ....when our roles would be reversed and I would become the mother that I would understand.

When I became an adult my mother's dependence on me never felt like burden. I always wanted to protect make her safe. When I was eight years old, during a drunken fight with her then lover...he hit her in the face with a piece of wood and took her eyesight.  His name was Mr. Johnny.  By the time she sought was too late...her sight was gone.    One eye gone and the other covered by a cataract. She was blind but she still drank and she still got beat by Mr. Johnny.  Years would pass.   She became able to make out colors if there was a strong light.  But she was still blind.  During these years I would come to know how much my mother loved me .... when her power had been taken. Things would happen.  She was blind. She could see colors.

I would need her and be old enough to go to her.  She would welcome me. 

They took me away from my momma and gave me to a father I had never known, who almost beat me to death in a drunken rage when I was four years old and  who then went home and shot his wife to death during an argument.  They gave him custody of me and sentenced him five years in prison. He was familiar with the liquor lady, so I went to 1721 Moore Street and became a ward of Mr. Nap and Ms. Alberta.  This became the address of my own hell for the remainder of what I remember of my childhood until when we moved to Grants Chapel Alley.

For the first part of my life on Moore street I missed my momma so much.   She and Mr. Johnny had  moved to Sandersville.  But she didn't forget me.  She came to Macon on the Greyhound bus every month to pick up her check which came to the Moore street address.  It was quite a feat for a blind person.  She would catch the bus in Sandersville and get a cab to come to Big Momma's.  That's what I called Ms. Alberta.  Earlier in my life I had renamed them.  It was during the day that I remembered them hanging out laundry in the sun and laughing.  My first memory.   I said " One of you is big and the other one is little".   My mother became  Little Mama or Lil Ma, for short  and Ms. Alberta became Big Momma. 

I think Lil Ma had her check sent there so that she would still have some kind of contact with me.  She didn't have custody of me, but she made sure...every month...that she was a presence in my life.  It was during this time that I remember her hugs and her kisses.   And she stayed a presence until she had a fight with Ms. Alberta and was told she wasn't welcome anymore and that she couldn't come to see me.   I remember crying and wanting to go to her - go with her- but they wouldn't let me.  I wonder what she felt when another woman told her she couldn't see her own child anymore.  I know how bad it hurts to be deprived of seeing someone you love.

She could see colors.   And there came a time when I needed her  and she was there. When an event happened to me that tore me finally... bodily  and forever from childhood, she was there.    

The last sight my mother had of  me before she was blinded,  I was six years old.  The next time she saw me I was seventeen.  She had regained her sight. The story of how she regained sight is not for now.  Not yet.  Nor is it time to relive the event that brought us back together.  Not yet.

A week ago I found out that I had some kind of  inflammation of the brain or a tumor.    Life comes full circle.  I wonder how my mother felt when she was told.  Was she scared?  Back then they didn't have MRI's or CAT Scans.  The medicine certainly wasn't as advanced.  I remember her taking a white pill every day.  It was Valium.  It was the best that they could do for her back then.  Maybe that was why she drank.  Maybe it numbed the fear.  She probably felt so alone.  I know I do.   I'm scared.  I mean Lord haven't you thrown enough at me?  I've been a good girl.  I know the story of Job.  But God I'm getting so tired.  I know you've walked every step of this with me. But I'm not as strong as I use to be.  I'm tired.  I don't know if I can get through this.  And this morning God, I get the call that says they're adding Lupus and Sarcoidosis to the mix.  Enough.... please....enough.

I've always been afraid of dementia or strokes.  Because then you had to rely on strangers.  Their kindness or their cruelty. Who will take care of me?   Will anyone miss me?  Have I made a difference?   Will anyone sit down and write about me and call me by name? Ashes to ashes and dust to dust.  

Lord  I need you to carry me but if you have to take something.  Take my life.  Don't leave me here without a mind to protect myself with.    I know I've made mistakes.  The ones I've made,  I've taken full responsibility for.

I am Catherines daughter and  I make no excuses for myself. .. I speak a sober man's mind.   

Monday, October 25, 2010


The first time I was 1013'd - I  was madder than hell.  Now 1013 is when you're committed to a mental facility because you're  judged to be a danger to yourself or others.  Some years back, all of these emerging memories got the best of me and I became suicidal.  Fortunately for me, I decided to call  a friend and say goodbye.

I didn't say I was going to walk out into traffic or slit my wrists or even blow my brains out.  I just told my friend - FB- who lives in New York- goodbye.  I wasn't crying.  Just wanted to say goodbye.  Hell, for all he knew I could have been planning a cross country road trip..  But noooo - you would have thought I owed him money.

When I didn't answer his subsequent phone calls,  he placed a call to the New York City police, who called the police -in state of  Georgia -in the town that I live in- and all hell broke loose.  At that time,  I remember asking God to give me a sign that what I was about to do was okay with him. I also wanted his guarantee that I would not spend  an eternity roasting in hell.  Now God has a sense of humor.  It is my belief that while he doesn't always come when you call him -  he is always on time.   That's the Baptist in me.

I heard sirens....a lot of sirens.  For a minute I thought it was either the heavenly host or a terrorist attack.    The sirens got closer and closer, until they sounded like they were in the room with me. 
God was answering big time.  A knock came- so loud - at my door, that it scared the piss out of me. Really.  I wet the bed.

Talk about a slow news day.  Lord can you give me the Fantasy 5 numbers? Cause you gave me a sign big time.  I mean really big time.

When I got to door,  it was like they were giving out government cheese or these days - bailouts. There were firemen and EMTs, the police department, the sheriff's department, my neighbors - hell- I even think my bill collectors were there.    I was speechless.   But when everything got sorted out -  they  hauled me to the emergency room where they 1013'd  me and sent my monkey ass to a mental facility.

Yes, I was mad hell.  I was a U.S citizen.  I hadn't committed a crime against anyone.  Okay, well I wanted to commit a crime against myself.  But was that against the law?  Yeah... it is, and you get 72 hours to think about it.  I stayed two weeks .......Thank You God.  You were right on time.  Thank FB too.

You meet a lot of interesting people when you're in a mental hospital.  There was the lady that thought she could cast out demons and we were all possessed, so she was on a mission to cleanse our souls.  There was the girl who believed she was  the actress -Halle Berry and we were all extras in a movie she was shooting. There were people who had lost their jobs, lost the spouses, lost their savings and investments or who had just lost their way.  There were the old and the young.  There were no dividing lines of race or sex.  Mental illness is the great leveler. When you were  not in therapy or groups - you  would see just how fucked up life could be.

There was  the husband who told his wife to take an overdose of pills to save their marriage.  She didn't know he would use it as leverage to take her kids. 
This waste of flesh brought their children for a visit and served her with divorce papers.   I had to pray over that one.  Cause I would have put my foot so far up his ass he would have been tying his tongue and polishing his head. There was also black humor.  There was the woman, who told us about her father- a primitive baptist backwoods  preacher, who had shown her children porn - to acquaint them with sex .  She put a water moccasin in his bed.   According to her the snake bit him.   I never asked her where the snake bit him.   I'd like to think the snake bit him on his wrinkled old thing.  Serve his ass right.  I remember the girl who put Nair in her ex-boyfriends shampoo....he loved his hair....he'd given her herpes.   I told them of the time I found out I had been betrayed by the man I loved and how I had driven his beloved car off a boat dock into the flooded Ocmulgee River.
That car didn't surface until the spring.  It still had my keys in the ignition.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A Streetcar Named Desire

" Whoever you are, I've always relied on the kindness of strangers".  Throughout my life, I have shared a connection with the tragic Blanche Dubois in this classic film.  Her character had no where to go.  She was trapped in a situation that she had no control over and was prey to the people surrounding her.  She spoke of deliberate cruelty and how it could never be forgiven. 

During my childhood I felt trapped by the very people who should have protected and nurtured me.  I wonder if the people whose job it was to protect me realized that they were deliberately cruel.  Each day of my childhood was to be endured or survived.  I never knew what it was like to have a real family.  I watched  a lot of "Leave it to Beaver" and "Father Knows Best" and I  would wonder if families like that only happen to white folks.

This was poor preparation  for me as an adult.  My examples of  real love  and trust were either from television or books.   As I grew into womanhood,  I would suffer mental and emotional cruelties from the men I shared my life with because I had no positive yardstick to compare their actions with.   The only thing I did know was this:  I would  put a man in an early grave, if he even "thought" about hitting me.  Madea, had nothing on me.  I carried around a gun from age 13 and I was never shy about shooting at someone.  The Lord must have had something better in mind for me, because I never hit anyone .   Of  maybe I was just a bad shot.    But you can best believe, when I got older "Nobody "  would fuck with me.  My anger had a life of its own.  It terrified me and didn't make those around me feel all that secure either.  Even now I find my anger a problem. I guess because as a child I couldn't my express anger so I kept it buried inside.  Some times it has a life of its own.

Okay back to growing up.

I didn't  know that mental and emotional cruelty inflicted just as much damage  as someone whopping your ass.  I am my mothers daughter.  She found escape in the bottle.  I sought my escape in my tattered version of what a family should be .  My description of true love came from fairy tales where everyone lived happily ever after. My favorite fairy tale is Cinderella.  Like her, I survived the evil sisters.  Where is my Prince Charming?  Where is my Happily Ever After?

I look back over my youth and weep over all the time I wasted  looking for my happily ever after.  The examples from childhood never prepared me with the knowledge that I deserved better.   I subconsciously choose men who were emotionally distant and unable to return love.  I think now, that no one can really make me feel secure or loved.  I am damaged goods.  And I wonder...will I ever escape my past.
I take the meds now and I get the therapy...but will I ever heal?  Will I ever break the bonds?  I am riding my own streetcar of desire.  I desire to be loved.  I desire to love.   I desire to forget my past and the dirtiness.  But it keeps coming back now.  I have kept it damned up and protected myself from it for so long.  But the memories are revealing themselves to me now.  I don't know if I can survive them.  I don't want to remember them.  I hope writing about them will lessen their power.

My friends... the few that I have let get close to me are a godsend.  But how much can I reveal to them?  Will they judge me?    I am so scared of letting people get close to me.  I've  put up so many roadblocks to friendships because I'm afraid of betrayal and hurt.  The same shield of protection that I've put up, isolates me.  I'm so anxious .  My past made me feel so little.   However, no one who  has ever met me would believe that.   I have always put up such a confident facade, I've been a chameleon all my life.
All of my life I have hidden behind the  masks.  Strong, sexy,  educated and secure.

Now when I look in the mirror I see that little girl wedged in the window.  Searching, afraid....and lonely.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Something in the Milk Ain't Clean

I am so surprised at how people use profanity these days  The first time I heard someone cussing on the radio, I thought I was being punk'd.  Don't get me wrong, I can sling a "bitch" with the best of them.

But profanity is used so much these days that it's loosing its impact.  When I was growing up the worse thing somebody could call you was a motherfucker or a son of bitch.  Those were fighting words.  You were talking about somebodies mama.  That was an automatic fight.  Hell, you "had" to fight, it was imperative that you protect your mothers honor.   I remember people saying: "a hit dog don't holler"- which meant someone had caught you in lie or "something in the milk ain't clean" which meant  the situation was suspicious or wrong..
It was a long time before I became able to protect my mother.  Back then I was trying to be invisible.  I needed someone to protect me.  That " something in the milk ain't clean" was what my childhood was like.

My mother was a troubled woman and the only way she could escape her life was to get falling down drunk.  During those times she forgot she had a child.  I can remember her leaving on a Friday night and shutting me up in our one room.  We lived in what was called a boarding house, one room  either connected to other ones in a big house or a single room in a shotgun house.
There were times I would be so afraid  she would never come back.  I would be in the room all day by myself and then night would come....and I would be in the dark by myself.  We didn't have electricity.  We had a kerosene lamp and a wood stove.  I would be so afraid.  It seemed as if the darkness was so thick, it took on a shape and personality. I would find it hard to breathe, my pulse  beating so hard in my ears that I knew whatever was in the dark with me in that room, could hear it and would come for me.

I 'd get so hungry that I would wedge myself in the window, always looking for her and hoping that when she got back  home she would be sober and I would get a hot meal.  Sometimes when she came back, she wouldn't  be alone.  She'd have company.  Some nameless man who she would take to her bed.  I remember being on the floor and hearing grunts and moans, smelling liquor and trying to be as invisible as possible.  I prayed the man would either leave or he would be the  first one to pass out and not her.  Sometimes they both would pass out and when she woke up, she'd be halfway sober and remember me and she'd make the man leave.  Other times, I wouldn't be as lucky and I would be on my own with a stranger.  These men didn't see a toddler .  They only saw another female body to be touched and fondled.  I wasn't  old enough to be in school, yet I was old enough to attract their attention. Something in the milk wasn't clean.

I knew about fucking  at an early age.   The adults in my life, never felt that they had to shield me from it.  Although I was exposed to the act at an early age, I was green as grass as I grew up. I did my best to block the memories out. No one  ever took the time to explain to me about the birds and bees, I was just threatened with what would happen to me if I opened my legs. These threats were not necessary because I equated sex with something nasty, smelly and feared.   I got my first  period when I was 10 and it nearly scared me to death. I thought I was dying. I had no one to hug  me or try to calm my fears. The white folks had taken me away from my mother by then.   I was just given some torn up some  rags and told to put them in my panties.  The milk wasn't clean.

There were times when I was wedged in that window, that the liquor lady, Ms. Alberta or her husband Mr. Nap, would come out of their house, at the top of the hill and call me and tell me to come up there and eat.  My mother got most of her liquor from their shot house.  I learned how to pour a fifty cent shot before I was in first grade.  If one of them told me to come out of the house, it was okay.  I wouldn't get punished and I would get fed.  She was the woman that I remembered hanging out the clothes with my momma .  My first memory.  During those time I thought she and Mr. Nap were my saviors.  How could I know that these two people would put scars on my psyche that would be with me for the rest of my life. Both of them  would make my mother seem like Glenda the Good Witch.  There would come a time in future....when it was too late...that my mother would try to protect me from them.  Too little, too late.

My mother wasn't intentionally cruel.  She was just an alcoholic who drank to forget and when she forgot, she forgot everything...even her child.  Nothing went on during her watch, when she was sober.  But she would always drink and she would  always forget about me.  Once,  when she couldn't afford her moonshine.  She became so desperate, that she mixed sugar with rubbing alcohol and drank it.  She got so sick.  And she stayed sick for a long time.  But I was happy.  At that age it never crossed my mind that she could die.  All I knew was she wasn't drunk and I was safe.  The milk would be clean for awhile.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


I have always wanted to tell my story.  Yet, I've never wanted to revisit the past.  I have grown old, trying to live in the moment because the past was too painful.  I told myself that everyone had a sad story to tell and that mine was no different.  Look at the talk shows, Maury, Oprah and the rest.  People will get on television and air not only their dirty laundry but tell things they hadn't even told the Lord.  People put it on t.v., they sing about it on the radio, even write books about it.  Everyone wants to play the victim.  Look at what my momma did or my daddy never loved me enough, so this explains why I fuck everything that has a pulse or this is why I killed my neighbor or tortured the dog.   Not me.  I have always believed that life is a about choices.  You choose to be a victim of your circumstances or a survivor.  All of my life I have considered myself a survivor.  But now.....I wonder.  Have I survived or just existed?

 I am Catherine's daughter.  Catherine with a C ...not a K.  My mother never went to school, she was from the rural south....a little  hiccup of a town called Sandersville.  She couldn't read or write, but she could spell her name and print it.  It made her different from the other people around her. They signed an X for their signature.    She always spelled her name for people and made sure that they knew it started with a C.   Her mother died in childbirth trying to bring a third child  into the world.   My grandmother left two little girls in the world to be raised by her older  sister .  My mother and her younger sister...Snook. But if you're looking for a Waltons story.   You won't find it here.  You will find  only bitterness, jealousy and what it means to never forgive.

See, one day, my mother caught her  younger sister in bed with her husband.  And they weren't reading the bible.   At the time she and her sister were both teenagers.  I never knew what exact  age they were when this happened.  All I do know, is that  my momma told me this story from the time I was old enough to understand what she was talking about.  She told me that story so that I could understand what hate was.  And she truly hated her younger sister Snook for this betrayal.  Never forgave her, never spoke to her again.  

I guess,  when you live across the railroad tracks and down the road from a saw mill in community called Frogtown,  marrying young and screwing younger, was just a fact of life. I remember visiting Sandersville when I was about four years old, they didn't have indoor plumbing, we used an outhouse.  That's the second thing I remember about my childhood.
Well, anyway, my mom  told me, she "tried to kill that bitch " .  I never knew her husbands name or what she did to him.  She was so busy trying to beat the shit out of her sister that he got lost in the story.  The story would always end with her telling me she left Sandersville and how she hated her sister and that she would never, I mean EVER,  speak to her again in life.  My mother died in her early 50's and she never  spoke to her sister again.  My mother went to her grave hating the only sister she ever had.  She would tell me:  "never trust a woman", be friends with men, never let a bitch get close to you.

 For a long time....I never did

And when I did, it was only one at a time.  For a long long time, I never knew what it was like to enjoy the friendship of another woman.  The laughter, the shared pleasure of just being female... of being women.  Of trusting someone with your secrets and sharing theirs.  I surrounded myself with males.  Not as equals or sexual partners.  I sought them out, learned their stories and when they finally realized that they would never become my lovers,  I learned their secrets.   You would think that this would have given me some sort of advantage.  That I would be smart and use this new found knowledge. 

But no, I was Catherine's daughter.  My choices, though few, were bad.  They were painful.  They devastated.  I always thought:  this is the one...he will love me....he will protect me.  I am a grandmother now and I have only loved two men in my entire lifetime.  Only two.  With both, I stayed too long at the table.  I should have gotten up  when I realized that love was not being served.  I know what it's like to fall in love at first sight.  Yes folks, it is possible.  It did happen.  And I know what it's like to trust someone so much that when you find out that they have betrayed you,  it actually stops your heart.  To feel your heart stutter in your chest and to pray:  GOD, please, take me now.  Please GOD, I can never survive this.  To feel like your heart will always feel that pain.  That even if love comes'll never let yourself revel in the ecstasy of "your man".  That Thank- You GOD feeling, that Jesus this is my soul-mate feeling.  When I was little I  remember  men beating the holy hell out of my momma, of her screams, the sound of fists striking flesh.  I remember my screams being as loud as hers. Of my wanting to be big so I could make them stop hurting her.  I vowed I would never let a man beat me.  I swore to Jesus that I would put a man in his grave if he even "looked " like he wanted to hit me.  No one ever did. Not physically.  But let me tell you.  I got my ass tore up emotionally.  I took so much mental abuse, an ass whooping would have been a blessing.  I didn't realize it then. 

My mother.  Catherine with a C.  She was, in my eyes  a remarkable person. A hard drinker, a harder worker, tragic, violent.  I remember her hour glass figure in a skirt and blouse, smelling so clean ....Monday through Friday...drunk by Friday night and feared throughout the weekend .  Don't get me wrong, by today's standards my mom was a saint.  She was not intentionally abusive..she just drank until she was falling down drunk and she took out her rage on the nearest person.  Usually that person was me.  But come Sunday...she sobered up and I was safe  I'm listening to Atlantic Star...Send For Me...
tonight , with the feel of  Fall in the air.  If I am going to write this...I can't bullshit me.  I've never felt safe, I've never felt secure.  I am 55 years old and until I had a nervous breakdown ...6 years ago....I couldn't remember anything about my childhood.  From infancy to age 10 was in the Twilight Zone.  The only thing I could really remember was...2 women women....hanging laundry on the line and it was sunny and they were laughing .  I see myself playing in their shadow.  I'm small and they are hanging sheets but they are looking around to make sure I'm there.. that I'm safe.  One of the women is Catherine...and I'm her daughter.