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: To Mary !

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Greetings:

This is the most recent addition to our family’s story, as told through “The Flowering Vine” series.  If you haven’t already, please be sure to read:

The Flowering Vine:  A Family Story

The Flowering Vine:  Mother Speaks

Today’s story, written by Ron, is about our Great-Great Grandmother Mary, our Great-Grandmother Lula, and our Grandfather Leroy (Mother’s husband).

Enjoy!

Lady G 😘💋

_________________

 

Let other bards of angels sing, 

Bright suns without a spot; 

But thou art no such perfect thing: 

Rejoice that thou art not!

-William Wordsworth

The year is 1910, but 1910 is not where the story began, but it is where the story is; like an old, sepia-colored photograph that has somehow rumbled magically to life and has shaken off its sepia suit to don a cloak of many colors; a multi-colored cloak rivaling the one which inspired so much treachery and envy amongst Joseph’s brothers; a cloak in “living color”.

At one of the countless crossroads in time, an old buckboard wagon; drawn by two tired, black mules, rolled bumpily down the dusty, winding way, which went from the “big house”—where old Marse Hatfield lived and where he sold goods from the plantation’s “store”—down the gently sloping hill towards the patchwork of parcels on Hatfield’s ample acreage; down to the battered barns on failing farms, occupied by the down-trodden denizens who sharecropped there.

The wagon, heavily laden with sundry dry goods and various vitals, purchased at the “store”, carried an even more precious cargo than the farm life fundamentals. It also toted life on board, for the black mules were driven to tow the toddling wagon, by the firm brown hands and booming voice of the formidable “head-of-household”, Miss Mary!

Heed not tho’ none should call thee fair; 

So, Mary, let it be 

If nought in loveliness compare 

With what thou art to me.

Riding shotgun for Miss Mary, was her good friend and widowed sister-in-law, Ella; while sitting, squatting, laying, dangling, and napping, on the rear of the wagon, were six of the seven children of the immutable matron and her sister-friend Ella. Mary’s oldest son, Jim, had stayed home on the farm, for there was always a mountain of work to be done for a sharecropper and he, by default, was the man of the house.

Mary’s second oldest—her golden skinned, mulatto daughter Lula—sat with her back to the others and her shapely, cream-colored legs, dangling from the open-ended back of the wagon and her pretty, bare-feet, barely brushing along the top of the dirt road passing slowly beneath her. A light trail of dust marked her passing, as it lifted from the road then whirled briefly, before becoming intermingled with the larger cloud, whipped up by the weighty wagon’s wooden wheels.

She had been charged by Mary to; “Keep an eye on the little ones Lula!” but the cool feel of the dust beneath her toes and the wiggling and giggling of the ten-month-old boy sitting in her lap, with his head full of straight, jet-black hair blowing in the gentle breeze, demanded all of her attention. His name was Leroy, and he was simultaneously; sweet, irresistible, and a whole, big handful, for he was a bundle of energy; always moving, grabbing, pulling, and trying to escape his young mother’s loving arms.

Also on the back of the wagon was Mary’s youngest son, the quiet, and sometimes sullen eight-year-old, Coley, and Ella’s rambunctious crew consisting of: seven-year-old Eddie, five-year-old Jesse, three-year-old Willie, and Ella’s baby boy; bad-assed little Pleas, at a squirming, one and a half, but going on twenty-years-old!

These four boys were Ella’s love—and Ella’s curse! A constant reminder that their father had been killed, while serving in the post-Civil War Army. However, he didn’t die in battle, for no battle had been fought during his lifetime. The army sent Ella a letter—along with his body which was contained within a pine box marked in bold, black letters, “PROPERTY OF US ARMY: FRAGILE” and that was it.

However, many—who swam regularly in “Rumor Mill Pond”—circulated a different story. They said that Ella’s husband had been killed by grown-assed White men dressed as “ghosts”, who variably called themselves; “Ghost Riders”, “Night Riders”, or “Knight Riders”, but knights, in the true sense of the word, they most certainly were not!

True beauty dwells in deep retreats, 

Whose veil is unremoved 

Till heart with heart in concord beats, 

And the lover is beloved. 

William Wordsworth

…to be continued

 

 

The Flowering Vine: A Family Story

 

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Have you guys seen this commercial by a large cosmetics company that purports to tell the ‘story’ behind a given celebrity’s skin color?

Seriously!

In one spot they have a celebrity like J-Lo saying, “There’s a story behind my skin.”  And there, near the bottom of the screen, flashes the phrase “100% Puerto Rican.”

Or another celebrity’s “behind the skin” story is “100% Mexican-American.”

Better yet, there is a well known singer/performer who is identified as “African-American, Native-American and French.”

Now, in the words of Oprah Winfrey- circa 1987, “Caller you say what?”

Um…yeeaaahhh…

I think part of the problem is the confusion that so often accompanies terms like race, ethnicity, nationality and God knows what else.

Granted, these are all human constructs but that’s a conversation for a different day.

Anyway, I decided to touch on subjects of ethnicity and race in order to introduce a new series that will explore the experiences of a Southern family with an extensive biracial heritage.

Just so we’re clear, it is my family’s story.

Guys, believe me when I tell you that I am so excited about this endeavor because it is a collaborative effort among several family members including me and my cousin Ron as well as our parents(his Mom, my Dad) –whom most of you know are full siblings.

There may also be guest posts or pictures from others in our family who might like to contribute.

By the way, the new series will be called “The Flowering Vine” and it will replace Ron’s Time Tunnel on Fridays.

Now, before you decide to gather the villagers and attempt to burn me at the stake for replacing Ron’s Time Tunnel, I’d ask you to note that “The Flowering Vine” is Ron’s brainchild and it was his decision to end the Ron’s Time Tunnel series.

Whew!

But, that said, he will continue to share his amazing writings on his own blog, The Time Tunnel.

And so…

You know they say you should never mix metaphors.

Now watch me mix the aforementioned floral imagery with talk of food.

Here goes…

Like most African-Americans, the story behind our family’s skin color can best be described as a tasty gumbo or stew–No doubt a complex preparation that took years to perfect–albeit often involuntarily.

That said, for those of you who would like to know more about the recipe, I am including the following list of countries/ regions/groups that have contributed ingredients to our particular stew:

Cameroon, Ghana, Senegal, Mali, Nigeria, Benin/Togo, Belgium, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, Denmark, Italy, Slovenia, Czech Republic, England, Ireland, Scotland, Spain, Portugal, Norway, Sweden and Asia.

Don’t forget a dash of Native-American.

Oh yeah, before I go, let me advise you that with this new series comes a caveat.

In the words of my dear cousin Ron, “All the lies we tell are true!”

LOL!!!

No seriously, The Flowering Vine will include writings based on historical records,  DNA ancestry reports and events involving real people and places. However, we reserve the right to include a little hyperbole, exaggeration, imagination and poetic license.

That’s how we do it in the South 😉

Also, when reading these posts, please bear in mind, that one person’s perspectives and version of reality are his own and they may or may not resemble or align with those of another person–even when referencing the same set of events.

—–End of Caveat!

I hope you guys are open to explore this new project with us.

Any thoughts?

Hit me up in comments 🙂

Lady G 😘💋