Thursday, September 27, 2007

Tuesday September 27, 1977

G. L. Walters "Speedy", "Nutsy", 1959
Psalm 120

Got up medium. Dressed. Aunt Sinah came to take us out. Went to the health food store, Papa's old school Fieldston. Went to Gimbels. Got some clothes. Then went to Aunt Ellen's house. She gave us some second hand clothes. Pops cooked, after we met Aunt Francis' mom. Saw Aunt Ellen's dog Snowball. Ate, washed dishes. Had our pix taken. Came back - late. Bathed. Went to bed at 1:00a.m. Thank you, Mr. O.


(Today is Speedy's birthday. Where ever you are, Happy Birthday!)

I saw Poppy yesterday and remarked how nice Aunt Sinah had been when we got to New York. It was quite a contrast from what we'd experienced in Chicago.

The reason Aunt Sinah had put us up at the Gramercy Park was because the Parents had said they wanted someplace they could cook... so of ALL THE PLACES in New York City, apparently that hotel was the only one Aunt Sinah could find. I hadn't mentioned the kitchenette in my description, but it had one; stove and fridge and everything. It would have saved all of us a lot of money, except Aunt Sinah patently refused to pay a monthly rate, and so she must have been paying out the ass on the daily rate. I remember her saying "well, what if you find a place?" She definitely had that PoppyFamily "stubbornness" trait. Once her mind was made up about something, there was absolutely NO way of changing her mind.

Hmmmm. Sounds familiar. Except I try to remind myself that things change, and that I should keep an open mind. I can't say I'm good at it, but I do try, mainly because I've seen how being doggedly stuck in one opinion can cause major problems.

But anyway.

My Grandfather W, Poppy and Aunt Sinah's father, had only managed a year of college due to various reasons. Mostly monetary ones. But he was adamant that both his kids be educated, and Aunt Sinah had gone to Ethical Culture (Fieldston's sister school) and then to Radcliffe. Her mother seems to have been a raging beeatch, and was quite proud of the fact that she didn't need a man. When the Army came to claim my Grandfather W for WWI, he had written to them that he didn't want to go as he had a wife and new baby daughter that needed him. His wife wrote the army back and said she didn't need him or any man--they could take him. So they did--and he shoveled horseshit out of stables behind the Calvary stationed in France. He was black, and until my other Grandfather came along and fought for the integration of the Army after WWII, black men weren't allowed to fight. (The irony of this little historical tidbit amuses the hell out of me. The other ironic thing is that Sinah's mother ran a boardinghouse for young black men who had gotten into Harvard. And my greatgrandfather--my mother's grandfather--had been one of her tenants.)

When Grandfather W came back, I guess the bitterness over the army thing caused them to break apart, and he ended up falling for my grandmother, who was an assistant at the newspaper where he was editor and considerably younger than he was.

Around the same year my father was born, Aunt Sinah got pregnant and her mother arranged for her to have the babygirl in secret and give her up for adoption. I suppose it goes to show the determination of my Aunt's character--or the forcefulness of her mother--that allowed her to continue college and go on to be fairly successful in her life. But Aunt Sinah never married, never had any other children after that. And she never told a soul--not even her best friend Ellen, about the baby.

So I guess that Aunt Sinah sort of substituted us for grandchildren she would have had, had her life been different.

Years and years later, after my Aunt had passed, her will executed and settled (she was very generous to the Professor and I) and we had all moved on, my mother got a phone call from Ellen, who still had some of my Aunt's things. She had found out about the baby--and not only was there a name, but it seems that the baby had been placed with someone Aunt Sinah and her mother knew, and that Aunt Sinah had kept abreast of the baby's progress throughout the years. But she never made contact, never interfered, and in her generous will never even named the family or the baby. She literally took that secret to her death.

My sister took the name and looked it up in the phone directory, and turns out CousinBabyGirl--my father's age--lived TEN BLOCKS AWAY from where we grew up in Harlem. Had lived there all her life.

My sister called her, and Cousin had been looking for her mother but had been sent on a wild goose chase, believing that her mother was white because she was sort of red and sandy colored. "Um, no" sis told her. We arranged to meet Cousin in the library nearest my parent's apartment. She got there first. When we all walked in, she stood up. My neck prickled--she was my Aunt's spitting image. Right down to her penchant for large expensive handbags and beautiful scarves tied over her hair when she went out.

But... all that knowledge came later. All I knew on this day 30 years ago was that we were being treated like RockStars. After being treated like red-headed-stepchildren just days prior. No wonder I'm crazy.

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