Sunday, September 2, 2007

Friday, September 2, 1977

Psalm 95

Got up medium. Washed. Saw a big pink ball - the sun. Ate a light breakfast. Read, rested and looked out the window. Then Pop, T. + I went to the snack car and ate. Came back. Rested. Found a friend in the bartender. He gave us 1 box each of Cracker Jacks. Rested and I slept. Then we, at about 9:30pm, got off the train. Went to Aunt Irvena's, ate and went to bed.


I'm pretty sure that "big pink" ball was in Kentucky, but I'm not sure. The train was actually pretty cool. I remember thinking the snack car and the club cars were the coolest things I'd ever seen. And it turns out there's a Wiki entry on that Amtrak Route, the Floridian.

Funny, I didn't mention where we got off the train, which was in Chicago, my mother's home town. This is gonna get interesting. For one thing, I feel kind of free naming names in these next few entries, cuz they're all dead now. Aunt Irvena was a long-time friend of my grandmother. From what I gather (and I suppose I can check with Bigbear) my grandmother was none too thrilled with her prodigal daughter returning home.

Oh, I guess I need to backtrack again.

My mother's people were "known" in "Black Society." My mother's face graced the cover of Ebony magazine when she was 16, because Grandpa had an association with the Publisher. What my grandparents did, what my mother did and wore was reported in the gossip columns of Chicago's "black" newspapers (and sometimes in NY ones, as well) as if she were Paris Hilton. If you read my Katrina post, I mention my mother comes from a long line of educated (lightskinned) blacks. "The Joke Of It Is" (as Mima would say) is that in the last two years I found enough evidence to support my theory that my mother's family--on both sides--were American Indians (Cherokee, maybe/highly probably Seminole, Nottoway/Cheroenhaka and rumors of Blackfeet/(Saponi) who had mixed with blacks, and mixed with Scots. But then, they mixed with other "mulattoes" so that for at least three generations on both my grandmother's side and my grandfather's side of the family, there was nary a dark face to be found. OK, one, an Aunt of my grandmothers, who raised her when her mother died.

But my mother's family identified *fiercely* as "Black". Both my grandfather and great grandfather fought actively against racism, Grandpa in particular. My grandmother had gone to Northwestern University, graduated, and become a social worker. They were real quick to call darker-skinned "Blacks" "Niggers" though. And very quick to stay "separate" in their "lightskinned" but fiercely "Black" society. A bigger bunch of hypocrites I never met. Much as I loved my Grandpa. Grandma, I wanted to love her but in the next day or so you'll see why I had some issues with her.

In any event, my mother fell in love (God knows why... my sister and I laughed uproariously when we found a love letter my father wrote my mother. "Didn't that letter tell you DING DING DING DING, danger, DANGER WILL ROBINSON, that man is CRAZY!!!!????) with my father in April 1962, at a party at the Penn Relays. They were going to get married in August--that same August, but for various reasons, it got pushed back until December of that year. My father is milk chocolate.... my mother is well, Indian-looking. Everyone thought my mother was pregnant (I didn't come along until 3 years later.) Grandmother dearest was NOT amused. "Think of your children's hair" she said. As the wedding got closer she told my mother "Come back to Chicago, dear. I'll send you to therapy and you can have your old room back."

The Parents got married and went to Italy, only returning with me in the oven, but when I was two, they took off again for Paris where the Professor was born. From Paris, we'd gone to Jamaica. (Poppy had wanted to go to Africa, but thought it was too far and they spoke a different language. Which is actually why we'd gone to Paris, first--to learn French.) We had been out of the States for 10 years. My grandmother came to visit a few times in Jamaica, but she didn't "get it" at all. I remember my Grandfather coming once. My grandmother was convinced (and apparently convinced her freinds, as well) that my mother was some dope-smoking, free-lovin earth hippie under the spell of some strange, dark Svengali of a man. Which was partially true. Ok, mostly true, except the "free-lovin' " part (and the Svengali part--maybe) because I have to say, my childhood was pretty disciplined. We had crazy, vaguely Communist ideals and ate weird shit, but we went to bed on time and ate 3 times a day and always wore clean clothes and had neat hair. We were only allowed to speak standard English in the house. We knew we were loved.

But Grandmother wasn't feeling it. At all. And the day we'd walked up to biscayne and my mother finally got through to Grandma on the phone, the day I saw my mother crying, it was because Grandmother had pretty much told my mother not to come--"it's not a good time," she said. She wasn't getting the whole "there's no choice in the matter" thing at all. And I believe she was on some cruise or other when we rolled into Chicago, us and a few duffel bags and some boxes, and that's why we went to Aunt Irvena's. Because Grandmother didn't want her prodigal daughter to come home and embarrass her.

The Professor has a hard time in general, with this time, with leaving Jamaica. I've only realized in the last few days how hard it was for her. I wish I'd known. I figured I was OK, she must be OK. And I was only OK because I had left countries before. I remember leaving Paris very clearly. I have vague memories of leaving the States the first time, and I was only two then. But I had supreme confidence in my parents, and I knew they loved me and would protect me. As long as we were all together, I was good.

However, the shit that kicked off in the next few days I was NOT good with, and in the category of "Things That Started That Iron Fortress Going Up Around My Core", this is a big #2... right behind the Padlock On The Refrigerator Incident.

1 comment:

professor said...

I'm glad you finally understand...
it was no ones fault...however since everyone spoke for me, I didn't have the words to relay my feelings, so I began my process of shutting down...I really didn't emerge from this until I entered college and found my voice...
I trusted the parents, but to a point...in my 9 year old mind I asked, why didn't they fight harder? How could they make me leave all that I own and love in two weeks time? how would they be able to protect me if they are crying and can't protect themselve? I had the feeling of instability that I get when I was put on poppabears shoulders...that feeling of falling off at any moment...