I’m going to try to explain how I got where I am today.
I was born in 1973, the year of Roe v. Wade. My mother was 16, my father was 20. They met while my father was serving time in the penitentiary for assault and battery. My mother was visiting her father (my PaPa), serving time for armed robbery. My dad got out and came to Mississippi, where my momma lived. It didn’t take too long before she got pregnant with me. The story that was told to me by my PaPa went like this: “I told her that she had a couple of choices. She could get married and they could raise the baby, or she could have the baby and I would help her, but under no circumstances was she to have an abortion!” Thank God! Here I am!
My father is an alcoholic, a violent one. My parents had physical fights more times than I can count. We never stayed in one place very long. It seems we were always moving and in a hurry. I remember staying with family members on many occasions because we didn’t have our own place. My parents were young and my father was uneducated. He worked construction or some other sort of hard labor to make money, but it seemed that money never quite made it home. He lived under the mantra that “I work hard, I can do what I want”. My mother worked also, but with babies popping out left and right, making a living and staying on top of the bills was impossible. I was 3 when my brother was born. He was MY baby. Every where he was, there I was. I talked for him, so much so that he had trouble speaking. I protected him from everything as best I could. When I was 5, we welcomed a little sister. She was different…she had brown eyes and we had blue. She was beautiful and quiet. When I was 7, another sister. I remember when my momma was pregnant with her we were riding down the road and they were fighting. Next thing I know, her door swings open and she goes flying out of the car. She just fell out onto the street! That scared me so bad. I don’t know to this day if she was pushed or if the door on that old heavy car just swung open. I’d like to think the latter, but judging by the way things turned out, I’m sure that’s not the case.
It was summer 1981. My parents were divorced. My mother had finally gotten the courage to leave him and get her own place, but he managed to sweet talk his way back in after only a few weeks. We had stayed in a domestic violence shelter briefly. They were nice people. I remember digging through this big box of clothes, they said I could pick out whatever I wanted. It was like Christmas! I picked out a denim skirt, you know the kind that cowgirls wear, and a pair of boots that were too big. I felt like a million bucks! All I had to wear when we got there was flip flops and they said I needed some shoes. I didn’t see anything wrong with my flip flops, but whatever. We didn’t stay there very long before my mother got us a duplex right across the street. I believe she felt safe there because the shelter was so close. My daddy was persistent, if nothing else. Or possessive, one. He tracked her like a buck in a field. He managed to court her right back into his dysfunction.
It was August 24, 1981. My momma was working and had to pick up my sisters from daycare. My brother and I were with my aunt. My daddy was on his way home from an out of town job. My aunt scooped up my brother and me and took us with her to pay bills as soon as my daddy got home. Something was wrong. I was young, but I wasn’t stupid. I knew that when grown ups talked like they were talking that something was a’brewin’. I could tell my daddy was mad and I didn’t want to leave. I knew what was coming because I had heard my momma’s name in their conversation a couple of times. Daddy had taken my brother outside to talk to him. He was picking him for information about the goings-on while he was out of town. Something made my daddy madder than ever. Before that, he had talked to his sister, who loved to stir the pot. So we leave with Aunt Joyce to go to town. We are gone for a while. On the way back in, my brother and I are looking out the back window of the car the way kids love to do and we notice what looks like an unmarked police car. Jokingly, we said that he was following us. Every turn we made, he made. Sure enough, when we pulled up to the shack, he did too. There were cars every where. They were looking for my daddy. But where was my momma?