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Fears that Linger

Fear lingers a long time.

Have you personally spent hours not knowing if a mob would appear, armed in the night?

Would you forget the feeling of your stopped breathing or your ability to move your limbs to safety? Would you know it again?

At the end of my freshman year, the President of Spelman College sent me word to stop at Asheville, NC on my way north. I was the only one who had a ticket in the direction of the Regional YM-YW Conference.

I replaced an elected delegate from TX. It was not fair but in 1948′ students did not argue with adults. Much was on the line: scholarships, good courses, or recommendations.

I had already been an officer in our chapter and was active in an Intercollegiate interracial Council.

The conference was held in a boys’ camp, above the city. I arrived as dinner was ending. I left a pair of rubber boots on the porch which had not fit in my trunk. Thus my name was Boots forever.

As the singing ended, we were lectured about our responsibilities. While on camp property our programs, meals etc. would not be racially restricted despite the laws.

The strongest admonishon was for going in to town. We were to travel with a chaperone and group of the same race. We were to carry ourselves, trying not to become an issue with the law or community. Over the many southern conferences I attended, this was repeated.

The week was a full of sharing and understanding.

On the last night, all assembled in the largest lodge. We held skits and singing as we prepared to leave new good friends.

In the last song, the brighest lights came on. Our top leadership talked to a hushed room.
A call had come from the police and other agencies in town. We had been warned.

Young men were riled up and armed. They were threatening to cross the lake and cause havoc to us. The plan was for the Black boys and their adviser to go to one cabin. The white advisers and white boys would move through the property looking for disturbers. They were given flairs,

We girls were separated by race but stayed in place with women advisers. We were asked to be as quiet as possible and use light sparingly.

Once we were all quiet, you could hear the shouting echo across the lake. We could see flares moving back and forth.

By early morning, we left for our trains in separate cars. What had put us in such danger? Along the roadways were huge billboards with our camp activities hastily blown up. Some one had left film to be developed!

My sense of doom did not lessen until the train pulled away with me in the Jim Crow car. I had noticed the additional plan. A group of Black women teachers were arriving for their conference. As they stepped off the train, city Black women, hugged each, whispering, “Come with me. I will explain later.” As you looked at that scene, you would not know these women had never seen each other. But had been mobilized overnight for safety of all.

In DC you changed trains after showering off the soot in the segregated car. It wasn’t fear-free but it was a fear I knew. I never forget the fear of an unruly, racially angered crowd.

I have given up the idea of writing a novel. Life events are more potent than fiction. The lessons I learned at 20 included how to organize for safety and how to love and protect strangers.

Feeling Fear

It never leaves, the sweat of fear.
I was lying on my bfack in the old truck, around me are my cousins and brothers. It is something we did at the country. We would count shooting stars while the house was closed and before we set off for Detroit forty miles, door to door.

But that night, my aunt and uncle had shooed us out early. They were solemn, more than usual. It seemed exceptionally quiet and we whispered the star count, making corrections if someone cheated. I always held my breath as a trail streaked the night sky.

Only the little radio in the kitchen cranked out scratchy sounds. While i could not understand it, there was a feeling. Doom. Mystery. Sadness. Fear.

I was familiar with this strageness. It starts with excluding the children, especially me. And was followed by hushed words.

What I learned later was there were reasons to worry. It was the event starting World War Ii. As a child, you learn the moods of adults around you. There are the worst times when you are virtually invisible. Like when someone is very sick or dies. You get your inside tied up inside, you stop breathing and you pull your shadow up into a small ball, hoping no one sees you.

The next time I remember there was a war brewing, raging, was Sunday, December 7, 1941. Living, attending high school in NYC, I had my own uncertainties. I stuggled to feel secure. Orphans and others who have shifting home lives, will understand the feelings.

We were spending a usual quite Sunday. After a large breakfast, my aunt rested while my uncle listened to opera on the radio. It was the kind they don’t sell any more. A floor model with both RCA radio and record player. The music had a soothing tone. My desk, and proof of study was the secretary with a drop down desk. You did have to remember to pull out the top drawer. Otherwise there would be no support to write on. Between me and the radio was the always present stack of NY Times papers and my uncle sitting, smoking his pipe.

Into such a tranquil scene, what could be so important as “we interupt this proggram…” Now we are so used
Lto Breaking News that we hardly notice. But then, to hear that America was being attacked by air in a place called …Hawaii. What could this mean for me, barely 15? I was distributing the Times at school. I decided immediately, i would save the issues to tell the story.

In time, the war either had to end or I would need a warehouse for storage. Instead we saved silver foil, used ration coupons for goods from sugar to shoes, and wrote letters until the boys came back men.

Postscript
It is a time of fear again. So many fears of increasing unrest. The sweat of fear reminds me of times to become small.

Now 90

Now, at 90, my place in family history
I am the oldest living man or woman in my family. It has been the women living, triumphantly, out living their men and some children. The loss of children is unbearable. Now that I have lost my son, I grieve in silence as my aunt must have. And for those children unborn.

The women on my mother’s side were those who have aged the best. Grancy holds the prize. At 100 plus she survived slavery, segregation, birthing thirteen known children and everything in between. She was born Adeline in NC about 1833. Her mother may have been Portia and her father a Crump. They were slaves of the Crump family. When Adeline was 5, they were transported to a plantation in Holly Springs, MS. 
Her first child, Josephine, was fathered by a Crump when Adeline was 13. A total of 8 children were born before Grancy was loaned to Ephraim Talbot. He and his brother, Francis, had moved to Holly Springs from MA in 1840 to open pharmacies. Ephraim’s wife died leaving him with two young boys.
Grancy was rented, probably to live in and care for the sons. Her daughter Josephine had ben living with the William Strickland family since age 9. He was a prominent lawyer, no relation to my gradfather. There she was the nurse maid to their infant daughter, Perle.
Four children were fathered, born while Grancy lived with the Talbots: Victor (1860),Annie (1862), Adeline and William.
These four youngest children were educated at Rust College paid for by their father? Ephraim. Grancy had big responsibilities as Ephraim also ran a pharmmacy in Memphis, TN. He spent a great deal of time there running Talbot and Yates pharmacy and his slave holdings. Grancy managed the the household and his slaves in Holly Springs.
As the Civil War heated up and Memphis businesses were in danger, Ephraim returned to MS and two of Grancy’s children were born as the war ended.
My grandmother, Annie Talbot, became a school teacher at 18. She married my grandfather when they both graduated from Rust College. Annie took her mother everywhere she lived. In Little Rock, AR, El Paso and Houston, TX, Wilberforce, OH where she taught in colleges, and finally Detroit, MI.
Annie and William Strickland married when they both graduated from Rusr College. While my grandfather studied medicine at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, the family lived in Little Rock, AR where my grandmother taught in high schools and colleges. My mother Velma and Aunt Unita taught school also.

I ssay Grancy lived longer than any other family member because records were not kept at the time to clearly state births. The names of Crump slaves were recorded on arrival in MS. Grancy herself said she remembered 100 years and the presidents who served in her lifetime. 

Unita lived to be 101 as active then as ever. She worked for the government in Detroit. She followed the tradition of caring for her mother until her death. My great aunt, Adeline (Aunt Addie) Morris lived to be 92. She taught at Rust College and was a political powerhouse in KC, KS.

And now it is a puzzle to be resolved in the future. The statistics for me are good. I never was a smoker. I did not drink alcohol until my late forties and I have an active, quirky mind. So, will it be the tortoise or the hare?

Sent from my iPad

The Chair

The Chair
She sat most days in that chair on the porch. Like everything around, it never really seemed.old. It must have been put there on that porch, in the same place by Grancy. Neither she nor the chair would have been young at the time.
It is placed to catch just enough sun and shade. Sitting there, you never get too hot to stopping shelling peas nor too cold to go inside. Each woman of the house shaped that chair. You could feel the tiny form of Grancy. Each generation a bit larger made its own form, blurring the harder edges under them. It took years to mold the seat to fit each larger bottom.
Sitting in the chair, you can must look up to see the interstate. Its wall dead ends the street so everybody who passes by speaks. Some come to the steps to look toward the chair. These are the gossipers, salesmen, mostly men with eager eyes. Not so often now, when they learn the girls are grown, living on their own.
The chair stays on the porch. It is smooth and dark as are the women who sit there. Enough happens in front of them that the newsboy never stops. All the stories are shared more with chair than either lady. Its like it has been in the same exact spot for over 100 years. One woman sits there as if she has become royalty and the chair is her throne. It will be hers as long as she is able to get up in the morning. 
And the chair now is occupied with the great-grand daughter. She stares over the railing of the porch. A few brown and near brown children play in the hot dusty street. It is summer and they come out early. Their parents are asleep. Most count on someone in the chair will keep them quiet. 
A few sharply dressed women head for the dead end which traps all on this street. A path through one unfenced yard is the only escape to the bus stop. Their stride, more plodding than teetering. Their good heels, carefully wrapped in tissue, lie next to their umbrella in oversize handbags. A few have only a shopping bag. These women work as house cleaners, child and health care workers. The factories closed years ago.
The only real sounds are from the flowing rush hour cars above the wall. It is mid -morning before the gawking eyed men come to the steps with gossip. Who is sleeping with whom? Why the eighteen year old boy at the corner hasn’t been seen? He was in jail for a week before he died. Who is making, selling or using drugs. 
Nothing ruffles the mood in the chair. The rhythm of shelling peas never stops. The stories are always the same. . But yesterday was different. Sirens, banging and speed on top of the wall, just as sunlight faded. It changed everything. 
For once, the chair was empty for something other than chores or church. No one took her place. The siren and flashing lights lit up the air. A huge SUV tumbled side over side, front over back, end over end down the wall into the dead end street. 

Looking up, you could just see the top of a long truck. And parts of cars on top seem caught in the concrete as the car descended the wall. It drew a crowd because no one ever knew what went right or wrong on top where cars raced at rush hour. In the crowd were the children. A few on bikes. A few mothers with toddlers quickly left the bloody scene. “Bedtime”they said gathering them close.

As always the gawking men had started the evening with a few drinks. They ran back and forth as a telegraph service. Women were coming back from work. At first, no one knew what to do. A man, the driver, got out easily. He seemed uneasy facing the crowd and hearing the sirens of police, fire and ambulance. This was going to be a new story.
“Get the chair.” She ordered one of the larger boys. The chair! It had never moved off its spot on the porch for over a hundred years.
Some one was needed to settle the man. Some one to decide what was needed. Others in the car had to be checked until an ambulance could come. It was amazing anyone survived. Then she said to a crowd “Let us pray,” And they did. 
Suddenly the driver got up out of the chair, confessing his sins to her, sharing how it happened he found himself falling in a large SUV over a wall into their very laps. The police came first. The wrecker cleared most of the SUV except what remained on the wall, An ambulance arrived last. It got lost because ever since the interstate came, the street was an alley. All the people in the car rode out in the ambulance.
She took her chair. She put in its place on the porch as near as she could remember. Then she sat down as someone always did, She was royalty and the chair was her throne.

Sent from my iPad

The Final Bow

The Last Bow
Floor, please?

Going up.

Hello God

Its the Artist

Formerly Prince.

We make internet friends by following each other. WordPress has been a great gift of your blogs.  Some of you comment on things I have written, and I have also. There is much to learn and share.  And through it all, I feel enriched, inspired, and supported.

Today, in my email I was reminded of this sentimentality. I have been following Ali Manning, a bookbinder. Each of her  newsletters teach a technique. In addition, she welcomes photos of work by others. These she shares with her many followers.  I felt very comfortable last year sending a photo of a mini copper covered book. She writes in such a way that you feel she might be interested.

That first little book was in her newsletter even though I do not (have not) followed her instructions. Now today, in  her email she shares the mini crushed velvet book I made for a Christmas gift! She devoted a full paragraph explaining  how and why it was made.

I hope you will check out her blog vintagepagedesigns.com. In the menu is a link to Readers Books. The February 20, 2016 posting will take you there. And if you want to know many ways to bind books, follow her.

Life Repeats

I used to answer telephone calls directed for my husband. The caller would settle for my opinion should he be away. Sometimes a parent of a prospective student called. I could reassure and offer to schedule my home and tour, or explain why hot water was in the toilet in the dorms. If you have followed this blog, you may have read about some creative ideas I come up with.

Late one night, the caller identified herself as a White House scheduler for President Nixon. I was friends with her parents and other family members. But this was a business call for my husband. Not finding him, she asked for my opinion.

Nixon was looking for an African-American (assumed to be male) who had two Ph.ds. One degree in Biophysics and the other in  Psychology.  My initial reaction was what? Yes, in the ’70s more advanced degrees were being earned by African-Americans, both male and female. But it would narrow the field. It seemed a curious combination, but what did I know?

After sharing my confusion, I assured her it would be better to contact John in his office. i also said, in my opinion, this would be a difficulr search. 

I did understand the value Nixon hoped to get. He wanted to understand how his pronouncements would be processed. His headlines on the front pages of newspapers (google ‘newspapers’), in the strongest way, told readers  what he would do.  Then, near the obituaries, a much smaller article would describe how Nixon would take the opposite position.

This allowed President Nixon to do either of these things. If your were for the first action, you were satisfied. Also the opposite action. This left it so  one or neither action could be taken wiithout too much dissent.

This was my opinion and now it helps me understand current politicians and their inconsistent promises. One way to keep the masses happy. 

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