AS

Too Much

Beloved,

These are awful times. Pandemics of biological, ideological, and political origins. Strange things are happening. I hope some of them will be for the best.

What is wrong with Wisconsin? I used to think of Wisconsin in very positive terms, even thought of moving back there…no more. My memories of my best friend girl, of Willem (who will always be Billy to me), of Larry U and the music, of the pig and dairy farms, of brats roasted in the ground, of theatre class, horseback riding. So many good memories. Wisconsin’s state motto is Forward. Why have they become so backward?

My precious son said to me last night that I should write my memoirs because I have lived an odd life for a Black woman in America. I’ve never been one to talk about myself. No need for a key light. Had enough attention when I was youngster with a hard body that dirty old men lusted after. People often wondered why I wore my hair short and sported oversized clothes. Silly women who wanted me to conform to the look of the day would call me son as if that would make me change the way of looking I chose for my own protection. It isn’t a good feeling to have Sheriffs cruising you as you walk home from elementary school.

My mother was a remarkable woman. Not one of the silly. Working-class, conservative in the way of Protestants, a Texan, a praying warrior. Daughter of an itinerant preacher and a very young mother, she was orphaned and raised with her brother by a maiden aunt who seemed to have had a cruel streak. Nevertheless, she did not let my mom and her brother go to an orphanage. We took care of our own, even if that care was not always the best.

Fortunately, Mom had a fighting spirit. She got out of Texas by dint of hard work. She was educated in the deep South in the 1930s and ’40s. She could read and cipher better than many of today’s so-called graduates. She was educated by Black teachers who cared about her success. They knew the road would be long and hard and they wanted their students prepared as best they could be for the struggle that was and continues to be Black life. Mom passed the love of learning to me. She encouraged my tendency to stick my nose in a book. She taught me how to use my hands to craft things, garden, take care of myself and my surroundings. She taught me to question everything. She raised me to be self-reliant. She did not pass on the abuse from which she suffered and escaped as soon as she could. Always kind and patient, she was the best friend anyone could ask for.

Mom grew up post-Depression. She knew how to save a dollar. She didn’t believe in frivolity, but she knew how to have fun. We would make our fun, dancing, listening to music, cooking, growing collard greens and flowers. Just the two of us. I learned a lot from Mom, but I never learned to like cornbread and buttermilk. That is one of those country meals you ate when there wasn’t much else. It was filling and seemed to have plenty of nutritional value. I much preferred biscuits (homemade) and syrup, you know, sopping!

I learned to live simply from my Mom, so what I’m living in today is disturbing. All this greed and self-centeredness. People who haven’t a clue of who they are because they can’t take the time to look within. Everything is externalized. All this need for representation and validation from sources that could care less about any of us. If I had grown up with these needs, I likely would not have grown up at all. No one represented Black folks except Black folks back in the day. Always separate. We had our own films, our own music, our own everything. We were linked by our exclusion. We were much closer to one another then. We were togehter in the struggle.

We are coming together again, but we are still divided. The class divide is greater. Many of the working-class have no love for the Black elite and the feeling is mutual. No matter my level of education, I have always identified with the working-class, the proles. Sorority sisters irk me. Frat bros are sickening. I digress.

There’s a march on Washington today. The message is vote. The message is make demands. I’m down with all that, but I think much more will be required to make a change in this peculiar time through which we are living.

Peace, Beloved.

2 thoughts on “Too Much

  1. Dear Displaced, You Go Girl! What a pleasure to read your letter, thoughtful, clear, concise and most of all factual….You did not mention a father figure, so I figure your mom was alone, without a man, as too many mothers are raising those children with no help from a man. Shame on those men who abandon their families. I would guess many black men, unable to get decent, well paying jobs just give up and turn to alcohol and drugs and thus are lost to their children. My mom raised me and three sisters by working nights scrubbing floors and emptying wastebaskets in downtown Chicago banks for $1.00 an hour, sometimes we were lucky to get a mustard-sugar sandwich for supper on day old bread .10 cents a loaf. I never heard a word of complaint from her, but we did wind up in an orphanage for awhile, fortunately it was a Catholic orphanage so at least we learned the joy of being able to read and write. I am more a reader than a writer, probably read over 10,000 books in my life. I thank God for making all those great writers…..I have not looked at a T.V. in 35 years now and miss it not one bit! I think people do not understand what history is. That last sentence I wrote is already consigned to History as is this one, that is how fast history is made. The clock is always ticking, ticking, ticking into the future and each moment passed is now history. I am proud to see my black brothers and sisters out in the streets, tho I cannot be there to join them I am with them in Spirit. When I see those pictures of those massive stone buildings crammed full of black people leading lives of quiet desperation, dependent on gov’t handouts because there is no decent jobs to be had for them, I feel disparaged. There is no excuse for it. Instead of our government bailing out the filthy rich, they could use that money to create a jobs core, like Franklin Roosevelt did. God knows this country could use a good cleaning up and infrastructure repair, bridges, roads, and tear down those slums and replace them with decent housing, it can all be done, after all the gov’t owns the money printing presses. There is no shortage of willing workers. There will be no need for protests when we learn to treat all men, women and children as EQUALS, no above and no below, just humans, being……Keep on writing Ms. Displaced……By George [cid:8885a2fa-c436-47e6-90b5-82fd85bc1c4c]r ________________________________

    1. Ah, George. Thank you for reading. While I did not grow up with a man in the house, I didn’t feel the loss. I think my mother was replicating her upbringing. She started with two parents and wound up with none save the aunt who raised her. There were adult men in my life who were surrogates for a father, and my mom was married, briefly, when I was 10, but he demonstrated his unworthiness and was gone within two years.

      I had my mom’s brother, my great-uncle, my adopted grandfather. There was our landlord, a grand white man, a Jehovah’s Witness, who gave me my first nickname, Sputnik, because I would orbit him, chattering away whenever he came to do repairs or maintain the property. I confess to liking not having a man in the house. I grew up learning how to do for myself. I learned how to repair things. I grew up unafraid of tools. My engineering brain was trained in this environment, so it was no surprise to my Mom when I enlisted in the army. Combat engineer in the days when women were not allowed in combat. Army. Go figure.

      I’ve always believed that people make choices. Falling into drug and alcohol addiction is a choice. I don’t see it as an illness, but it is a symptom of oppression and having few ways to break out. As an only child, I think I was privileged to be able to live without peer pressure under my roof. I kept to myself pretty much because I learned early on that I didn’t like how the other children in my neighborhood played. They were into sex games or fighting, and I really didn’t care for the roughhouse. I chose to read, play jacks (remember those?), help Mom garden, learn to cook. There was plenty to do at home and Mom was a great companion.

      My great-uncle was my favorite man. So handsome. He owned his own business and made the best tacos I ever ate. He was married to a real witch of a woman who had a complex about her color. She was very dark and hirsute. She was also a social climber, very fake and superficial. I think it was my observations of the marriages around me that convinced me that men and women should live in separate domiciles. My adopted grandmother had her own room. So did one of my aunts. If not separate homes, separate bedrooms at the very least. Actually, I think I really don’t believe in marriage. Too much a form of social control.

      I’ve always liked the Catholics. Taught at a Catholic girls’ school for a minute. Then, they closed the school, probably to pay for the scandals. I like their hands-on work with the poor. Father Greg Boyle has done a lot of good works with Home Boy Industries. The Jesuits always fascinated me with their intellectual prowess. I loved stories of the nuns. When I went away to high school, the first family I lived with were former members of the clergy, who left their orders, gotten married and had a family. Celibacy is unnatural. I was glad they figured that out!

      We are living in a failed state. The government put us on lockdown because of the pandemic. They should be providing for our needs instead of going on vacay while hundreds of thousands of folks are looking at eviction and hunger. This makes no sense to me. Print money and bail out the corporate elite, but tell the working-classes that such cannot be afforded for us. It will take more than voting to change this broken system.

      Did you finish your project under your house?

      VJ

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