I’ve been trying intensely to recall events that happened in my life before I turned six-years-old. Unlike some people I know, my memory doesn’t work well for that time in my life. I see bits and pieces of things; however, live and in living color reproductions just aren’t available. In the absence of my ability to generate my own clearly defined stories, I’ll present a mixture of what I can remember and what my mother told me later.
I do recall these things: Me going to work with my mother. She worked as a domestic for the white lady, who lived on Highway 64, not too far from our house. My mother only had an eight-grade education. She worked as a domestic worker for many years. As I look back on those years, I can’t help but wonder why these white women needed someone to clean their houses, cook their meals and watch after their children. None of the women my mother worked for were employed outside of the home. They were just Southern ladies with husbands who had large farm operations, or they owned some business in town. Having a Black domestic worker to be a homemaker, while you did what seemed to have been nothing, must have been a status symbol. This was the South in the 1950s, less than one hundred years after the end of the civil war. I think this was a remnant of a time gone by.
I’m sure the women for whom my mother worked didn’t pay her very much. I do recall my mother’s salary being supplemented with things like hand-me-down clothing, left-over food and the occasional household appliance that was out of style. At the time, we were poor, but I didn’t know that. In retrospect, I assume that any items given to us, no matter whether they were discards from my mother’s employers, went far to improve our style of living. My mother dutifully performed in these ladies’ homes from the moment she entered the back door each day. She humbly used the prefix yes ma’am/no ma’am in conversations with these privileged women. Many of these women we’re my mother’s age, but her relationship with them was defined by more than simply employer/employee. It was less than that for these women and far more than that for my mother. Remember, this was the late 1950’s in Cross County, Arkansas.
At some point, before I turned six, my father’s parents died. I don’t remember when exactly. I could research this, but that would defeat the purpose of why I’m writing this. Even though I can’t remember how they looked, I can still recall the scent of cinnamon in Grandma Katherine’s kitchen. That still gives me a warm and comfortable feeling some sixty years later. I don’t think that’s too bad. Do you?
One thing I do remember during this time is how loving my mother was. She was always there. I never went without her love and comfort. She told me later that I had a brother, Johnny Lee, born after me. He died early from health complications. No one could ever explain to me exactly what the complications were. There was another brother, Larry, born in 1955. He’s still alive and growing old like me. Larry was the first of my siblings to be born in a hospital. I wonder why no midwife like Johnny Lee and me?
I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.