May 25, 2012

Thought I Was Being Kidnapped

Trees are your best antiques. ~Alexander Smith

We lived up north until I was seven. Seven years that seem much longer than seven years do now. The events that lead to the day we came south are many. In the short to get to this story, I am going to explain how in four months of waiting we finally made it to Alabama. Alabama by way of Pulaski Tennessee. That is two different places to a seven year old girl that was sure she was smarter than the adults raising her. In my mind, my daddy was taking me somewhere I did not want to go. Alabama is where I wanted to be. We were supposed to be going to Grandmother's. The grandmother that cleaned and made biscuits and gravy for me.

The change of my childhood happened on a day I came home from school for lunch. I was in the second grade and lived close enough to school to walk in the snow to and from school. There was a man that I had begun to recognize well. He came to the house only a few times. I knew from what Mama and Daddy were saying that he was from the bank and was wanting Daddy to pay for our house. He was a heavy man that wore a hat and long dress over-coat. He was not there the day I came home to see all the furniture outside in the snow. Mama was prancing back and forth lost as a goose. I still do not know where Daddy was. just that he was not there. In all of these memories my little brother is not so vivid in my mind. Maybe it is because through all of this Me was who I was most concerned about. I remember Mama and Daddy clearly because they were the ones that I could sit back and listen to for clues how to work the problem of the moment out. The worry of the stuff left at this house would stay with me for years. Mama knew where it was, but never had the means to recover it. She made sure that it was put in Mr. Grass down the streets garage and that was where it stayed.
We were lucky that my Grandma and Grandpa lived up north not far from the house we had just lost. Mama called a taxi that Mr. Grass possibly even gave her fair for. My Grandpa may have paid it when we arrived at his house. I am sure Mama did not have that much money she was forever scrapping up pennies to by cigarettes with. We were now at Grandma and Grandpa's house. It was the most beautiful clean place I had ever been to. I had been there every Wednesday for as long as I could remember. Wednesday was the day that Mama set aside to spend the day with her Mama and Daddy. Grandpa would pick us up in his black Ford Galaxie 500. The streets were concrete and made a clicking noise as I rode in the back seat of his car.
Mama I think had finally decided she was going to have to women up to her responsibilities. Daddy was nowhere to be found. She got a job babysitting/cleaning a working moms house. She had three children that made a huge mess constantly. She must have had a good job, because there were always all kinds of good things to eat there. Seems like food was really important to me.
Mama hid the money she made in the dresser drawer at Grandma and Grandpa's. I know it was alot of money for her to have. I know this because I found it and counted it often.Getting to Alabama was a chore for a seven year old girl to say the least. We were all snug at Grandma and Grandpa’s with plenty to eat. Mama was making enough for me to have some better clothes for school. We would have been alright with them. I am still thankful we finally got to come south. The trip was the most nerve racking thing for me. Mama got calls from Daddy often telling her to take us and meet him at the bus station. She would have Grandpa take us everytime he said he would be there. We went more than I can remember that he did not show up. May have been that he did something with the bus fair then had to get more before he could come.
He finally did show up. He looked as though he had been living in the street. His face was unshaven. He had on a leather jacket that I thought was really strange for him. He never did answer me when I asked him where he got it. Usually when you asked him something he did not want to answer he would ask, "are you writting a book." I would always say yes. His reply would be, "leave that page out." What a smart ass answer. He really did not like anyone asking too many questions or talking too much.
The thing that caused me to panic was he went to get our tickets with me right on his heels, of course. He asked for tickets to the wrong place. I freaked out, he was buying tickets to Pulaski Tennessee. I panicked like no other seven year old had ever panicked. I tugged at the sleeve of the leather jacket telling him that we were supposed to be going to Alabama not Pulaski Tennessee. There was nothing I could do to stop him. I had to go with Daddy and Mama no matter where they went.
When we got on the bus we went straight to the back seat. All four of us sat on the back right side of the bus. There was plenty of room, because I was so worried that I stood up the whole seven-hundred and something miles. I was for sure he had messed up and was taking us to the wrong place. I was so relieved to find out how close Pulaski Tennessee was to Alabama. At seven I did know that it was two different states. My grandmother, aunt and her two little girls arrived not long after the bus. Daddy did have enough time before they got there to buy a new shirt and shave in the bathroom. I stood and watched as he shaved almost knowing the reason why.
Up north may have not been so bad. Up north was what we always called it. My brother has never been back. I went when my Grandpa died more than twenty years later. The time I spent there was just not all that great. Here we did have grandmother to make sure we had a dry place to sleep. She was surely a good cook. Her life was not all that easy either. The men to her were to be respected no matter what. She cattered to what ever they wanted when most of the time they should have been put on the road. When my daddy did go to work she got up a three in the morning to fry him a whole chicken for his lunch. I guess she thought since he was going she would make it seem she was willing to do that much for him to work. She really did try to make it good for them thinking she could make them do better.
Daddy freshly shaven with a brand new shirt he had bought just so my grandmother would not see the rags he was wearing. The leather jacket was not needed as it was hot here. He just left it in the men's room at the bus station. I still wonder if it was ok for me to be in the bathroom watching Daddy shave. I guess it was. Could have been it was not a mens room at all. There was possibly just one for everyone to use. The way it faced is still vivid in my mind. The four of us fit into the back seat of my daddy's only sisters car. In 1967 the roads from Pulaski that we traveled that day were still dirt roads. It was the end of June. June 28, seems to be the exact date to me for some reason. My girl cousins were in the front seat with Grandmother and daddys only sister. There were three boys and one girl born to Grandmother and Granddaddy. She was the youngest and my daddy was the oldest. We must have seemed like aliens to the two little girls riding up front. They peeped over the seat all the way back to Grandmothers house. Which I was so relieved that I was wrong in thinking Daddy did not know where he was supposed to be going. I had not been kidnapped, after all.
Hush the Puppies

The name “hushpuppies” is often attributed to hunters, fishermen or other cooks who would fry some basic cornmeal mixture (possibly that they had been bread-coating or battering their own food with) and feed it to their dogs to “hush the puppies” during cook-outs or fish-frys. Also, runaway slaves would feed them to the guard dogs of their owners in order to "hush the puppies."

1 comment: