The Flowering Vine: More To The Story

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Our Grandparents:  Leroy and Annie aka ‘Mother’ with Lady G’s Son

 

I thought I’d take a second to thank all of the readers who have supported “The Flowering Vine Series.”

Both Ron and I really appreciate your kind comments about our family.

I inserted this picture of our Grandparents, Leroy (Daddy) and Annie (Mother) so that you can see them as they were in later years.

This picture was taken ONE MONTH prior to our Grandfather’s death.

Here’s the story behind the photo.

Basically, my son had just been born a few months prior and something urged me to go visit my Grandparents and take pictures.

While I can’t say that I had a premonition, I can say that I clearly remember my Grandfather saying to me, as he struggled with his cane to rise from his seat, “Whew Bay, Granddaddy can’t haaaardly get around no more.”

 

His rich baritone voice wrapped itself so closely around my heart and I tearfully responded, “I know Granddaddy….I know.”

The next month, he was gone.

Friends, I can’t tell you how much we all miss him.  He was one of the kindest people I have EVER known and he sincerely loved us all so much.

I distinctly remember how he would wait until EVERYBODY, including all of his children, their spouses and his grandchildren had eaten before he would eat.

He’d say, “Did everybody eat? Did everybody have enough?”

Then, he’d pile the leftovers along with some home grown tomatoes and peppers into his favorite bowl.

Boy let me tell you! That bowl of food looked so GOOOOOD!

God knows they don’t make them like our Granddaddy anymore.

Frankly, there is so much more that can be said about both of our Grandparents, and, as long as you’re interested, we hope to continue sharing those stories here.

Anyway, below is a family tree that includes some of the people that you all have come to know and love.

Because our story includes so much information about our biracial heritage, I decided to include a bit of a descriptor under each person’s name.

Note:  The term “mixed race” applies where there is some interracial heritage but the specifics are unknown.  “Recent mixed race” indicates that this person had at least one confirmed white parent.

On a related note, both Ron and I would like to offer a special thanks to two Caucasian cousins who were kind enough to share DNA and Family records in order to help us to confirm information on our Grandfather’s side.  Had they not been willing to step forward a few more of these boxes would have been marked “unknown.”

Also, a BIG thanks to Ron’s Mom (Jet) and my Dad (Jim) for sharing their memories.

Now, let me stop rambling!

Here’s the Tree!

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The Flowering Vine: Notice that there should be a Mr. H and a Mrs. H (LOL!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fifty Shades of Black

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Mama (Eva) holding Tack, that’s me on the right with my mouth wide open!

 

Random Woman:  Hey Brenda!

Brenda:  Hey girl, how are you?  I haven’t seen you in some years!

Random Woman: I know!  It’s been a long time.

Brenda:  Yes it has, by the way, let me introduce you to my friend, Eva.

Random Woman:  (Very dry, cold and nonchalant) Hey Eva.

Random Woman: (Directly addressing Brenda) Ooh Brenda, your little girl is so pretty, how old is she?

Eva: (PISSED) That’s MY child!

Random Woman: (Slightly Embarrassed but still chilly) Oh, I’m sorry, she just looks more like Brenda to me.

Eva walks off with child (ME) in tow.

Yes friends, my mother, Queen Diva Lady Eva, was tee’d off!

Why, you ask?

Because ‘Ms. Random Woman’ assumed that I was Brenda’s daughter based solely on the fact that we shared the same skin complexion.

She never thought for a moment that I could belong to my mother–who was a shade or two darker.

It simply didn’t occur to her to ask.

Sadly, this type of attitude was nothing new to Mama.  As a child, she had received whippings from a lighter skinned uncle for being “too black.”

Colorism 
col·or·ism
ˈkələrˌizəm/

noun

Prejudice or discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone, typically among people of the same ethnic or racial group–Oxford Dictionaries
What the Oxford folks failed to mention is that this phenomenon is a ‘carry-over’ of Slavery; having been birthed from the actions of slave owners.
In essence, slave masters created division among their chattel by treating them differently based on skin complexion.
The darker slaves were treated far worse than the lighter slaves.  Because of their color, dark skinned men and women were forced to engage in heavy labor while the lighter skinned slaves were treated better–relatively speaking.
Naturally, the lighter skinned slaves were told that they were superior to their melanin rich brothers and sisters and both groups bought into that belief.
And there we have it!
A lifelong mutual animosity between darker slaves and lighter slaves…which sadly continues with their descendants today–albeit to a much lesser degree.
Come now!
Let’s re-evaluate the scenario that I offered at the beginning of this post.
Notice how dismissive Ms. Random Woman was toward my mother.
She all but ignored her darker skinned ‘sister.’
‘Ms. Random’ never imagined that chocolate Ms. Eva could be the mother of a caramel colored daughter with long pony tails.
Of course, at the age of 3, I was too young to notice or understand the larger implications of this woman’s attitude.
I had no clue what was really going on.
Little did I know, I would continue to experience some form of this lunacy throughout my life as my father’s racial identity was, to the average onlooker, perplexing… to say the least 🙂
Lord, I got all kinds of questions like, “Is your Dad Mexican?”

Puerto Rican?

Cuban?

Arab?

West Indian?

East Indian?

Native American?

And everything in between….

Oh, and then there were the really stupid questions like:

How did your Mom get a handsome man like your Dad?

Ok, that’s when I got rowdy!

All bets were off!

Seriously?  What do you mean?

Do you not realize that you’re talking about MY MOTHER?

You better back the hell up!

I’m sorry guys but that mess really got under my skin!

Oh and if you think things got better as years passed…

Think again!

My Mama often recalled a time when an associate of my Dad’s came by to borrow a drill.

Apparently, he peeked past my Mom, who had answered the door, in order to get a better glance at me and whispered, “That must be Jim’s daughter.”

Mama said, “Yes, and she’s my daughter and we have a son too!”

What an idiotic thing to say!

“That must be Jim’s daughter.”

It rolled right off his ignorant ass tongue without a bit of thought attached to it.

The fact that he knew that my parents had been married for 100 years added insult to injury!

Ah…but here’s an even more egregious example.

One day, back in 2012, I had been sitting in the hospital room with Mama for most of the morning.

Well, this black nurse, who had been in and out, and who had seem me sitting there the whole time, asked, “Has any of her family come by yet?”

What the hell do I look like?

Chopped liver?

Of course I didn’t say THAT but I did say, “Well I’m her daugther.”

Naturally, the nurse apologized.

I thought to myself….Here we go again…after all this time.

Still dealing with issues of color.

Mama caught hell for being too dark and Daddy caught hell for being too racially ambiguous.

Good grief!

 

 

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Daddy and Mama at about age 15

 

Inspiration for this post came from comments between myself and these great bloggers:

Kelley at Gray Suede

Dr. K. E. Garland

Ron Brown 

 

 

 

 

 

The Flowering Vine: The Iceman Cometh!

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Mama say, “The Iceman is coming Ronnie”.  I say, “What?” She say, “I was just thinking Ronnie, Daddy’s 107th birthday will be celebrated by those who love and remember him on March 1, 2017. She slick didn’t answer my question.

“You know”, she paused, gazing ceilingward, “Our conversations have stirred the old dusty spirits of long lost memories. These same spirits have crept once again, and stubbornly, from the dusty hallways in my mind. They’ve slithered and slipped from the cracks and crevices to see what is the commotion. ‘What they say Mama!’ I chided her. “’Someone is here!’ they are whispering. ‘Who goes there—yonder—here, the chorus of their cracked voices croak”’. “That’s nice Mama, but what about that ‘Iceman’ what ‘sposed to be coming?” I queried, attempting to rebuke those old spirits that were shuffling—leaping—lunging—lounging, in her mind.

“Except for the few White people who lived in the settlement near Clayton, Alabama where Daddy lived with Grandma Mary, he didn’t know many people nor did he possess a sense of being discriminated against—until he entered school, that is” her voice trailed off. I could almost hear those old restless—ruthless—recalcitrant—refractory memories roiling around her consciousness.  “Um”, I grunted, hoping to shut those ghosts up for a moment, “What about the ‘Iceman’? When he coming” I goaded, I had to see this guy.

She ignored me—again, and continued, “He visited his Father’s plantation, played with his White sisters and brothers, and ate at their table. Daddy once told me that he did not know anyone of his ancestors as Black. There was never a mention of Grandma Mary’s parents. After years of concentrated study of an old photograph of her, I have summarily surmised that at least half of her puzzling parentage was also White” she grew quiet, as if she currently studied—scrutinized—surveyed—sympathized with, that old sepia-colored photograph.

“Immo knock that invisible darn picture right out of her hands”, I thought evilly to myself. I wanted more information on the “Iceman”. Mama continued, “Daddy’s education ended after 3rd grade. I guess he grew weary of having to run like a gazelle as you described in your last post” she laughed to herself, and then continued, “Even though Grandma Mary and Daddy were biracial, her and Leroy lived as Blacks. They made no attempt to ‘pass’ as it was called back then. ‘Passing’ meant that a person, light enough to be unrecognizable as Black, chose to live as a White”. “So,” I chimed in, hoping to break—bust—bash—barge into her reverie long enough get this question answered, “What about the ‘Iceman’?”

Have you ever felt invisible? Mama began her story again, “As he aged, that old foul villain, with the handlebar moustache, top hat, long black cape and white spats on his shoes; who went by the sobriquet, ‘Discrimination’ made his presence known. And from then on, wherever Daddy went, there he stood, cackling a vile laugh and wringing his long, white, bony hands”.  I looked up and Mama was wringing—wrenching–wrestling her hands against one another, as if envisioning this ‘Dick Dastardly’ reject, from ‘Perils of Penelope’. Sensing an opportunity—a break—a lull—a pause—a halt, in her discourse, I pounced! “Who is the ‘Iceman’?”

“For example, there were no hospitals for Black people”, she went on, as if I had again, done a “Sue Richards” impersonation. “The one or two hospitals that would take Black people put them in the basement.  The Black doctor, who had been taking care of them, possibly Dr. McCoo, was not allowed to practice in nor, attend to Blacks in the White hospitals. I am sure there were many other offenses that existed then, and still exist today. My first anamnesis, or as you phrase it Ronnie, “cryptic memory”, of Daddy having a REAL job was with the ice plant in Eufaula. By then he had married my Mom. I think I’ve given you that info”.

“The ‘Iceman’, finally I get to hear this story!” I shouted in my mind so loudly, my ears popped! Mama pause, and paused, and paused. I waited—wanted—wished—wondered, but she was done. “Damn, Damn, Damn!” my inner voice screeched, like an old Screech Owl that had just missed out on a juicy—jumpy—jittery—joyful mouse meal.

THE ICEMAN COMETH!

The Flowering Vine: Thank You

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In today’s installment of The Flowering Vine, we find Ma Hallie (Mother’s maternal Aunt) talking about a situation that she and her brother Babe had encountered earlier that day.  

Note:  Mother’s side of the family would often add the terms “Ma” or “Pa” to the first names of older relatives.  

Here, Ma Hallie refers to her brother as Babe, but, Mother would have referred to him as Pa Babe just as she referred to her aunt Hallie as Ma Hallie.

 

Lord, y’all….. me an’ Babe done had us a day to-DAY!

Whew!

You know we had to go out Clayton way this mornin’?

Well when we was comin’ out from out there we run up on this l’il White boy in the woods lookin’ for somebody to help his granmamma.

He say they was in a accident an’ his granmamma done hurt her leg an’ can’t move.

Cos’ Babe told the boy to get on up in the Buggy so he could lead us to her.

Allie, I tell you, this li’l boy warn’t no older than Annie Maude and Ted but he led us right on through them woods to where his granmamma was.

Chile, Babe hadn’t even stopped good when that po’ creeter jumped down out that buggy an’ ran over to a colored ‘oman layed out on the ground wit’ another  li’l boy huddled up ‘gainst her.

The other li’l boy was colored too!

God….Y’all…that thang know it confounded the devil outta me!

I couldn’t make no sense out it!

Cos’ I didn’t say nothin’…..that warn’t the time.

I jus’ wonder where she got da li’l White boy from?

Uhmm!

Jesus!

Anyway, she looked to be pretty bad off an’ we ain’t had no time to waste.

So, I looked at Babe an’ told him to go ‘head on an’ take dem boys to get help cause I knew this was gon’ be mo’ than a notion.

By time Babe pulled off, I looked up to the sky an’ said, “Lord, this ‘oman in a bad way, she got li’l chillun an’ she need you Jesus.”

Then I got on my knees …right ‘side her…put ma hands on her leg and said my scriptures:

By His stripes, you are healed.

By His stripes, you are healed.

By His stripes, you are healed.

Y’all I done that near ’bout the whole time.

Next thang I know, Babe done pulled up wit’ somebody….say he gon’ take care of everything.

Elvy…Allie…y’all…when I went to get up, that ‘oman grabbed hold my hand an’ look me dead in my eyes Jesus!

She held me there for the longest time…

Jus’ lookin’!

Ain’t said a word!

Then… she went on an’ let me go.

Babe say it seem like she done that to tell me “Thank you.”

I thought ’bout what he said.

So I whispered– where only God could hear me–

“You welcome.”