I have to say that I learned how to be a housewife living in the Morgans home in Phenix City, Alabama. Almost as soon as we got settled, I was put in the kitchen to learn how to cook and wash a dish. Naturally at the time I despised every second that I had to dip my hands in that wash pan, especially when there was a perfectly good dishwasher (automatic!) right next to my knee. There was a calendar that hung in the kitchen next to a mustard yellow rotary phone that had mine and their 3 boys initials on each day. Of course, it always seemed that they had something better to do than dishes or they magically disappeared or were unavailable and unreachable on the night that the first letter of their name was scribbled underneath the date. It wasn’t so bad, really, except when the inspection came. It wasn’t enough to just do the dishes and sweep the floor and wipe everything down (mind you, there were 9 people living in this house), it had to pass inspection. Remember, this is Alabama and we cook with grease. Grease is not the easiest substance to clean off of a counter, unless you are “high class white trash” and you buy Dawn dishwashing liquid instead of Ajax. So I worked out a lot of frustration on those brown mushroom tiles and the grout in between them. She would stand back and close one eye and look for the grease spots and make me go over it again and again and tell me how stupid I was and how I just can’t do nothing right. Or worse, just look at me with that look. You know the one, right?

This family had a knack for growing vegetables. They even had a 50 gallon drum on the side of the wood shop to catch rainwater for irrigation. I learned so much working in that garden. Patience (that didn’t stick!), tenacity (that did), consistency. We grew everything we ate. In the summer, we got up while the grass was still wet, put on old tennis shoes and old clothes, and picked okra, tomatoes, peas, beans, and corn. We would weed the garden with our hands, my brother and I were not allowed to use a hoe. All of this hard work shaped me and molded me. All of the abuse that went with it only made me resent the hard work.

I can’t remember the first time he touched me. I know that the smell of Vaseline makes me vomit to this day. I can’t remember the first time he gave me a drink…BUT I can remember the way it made me feel. That bourbon touched my mouth and it was on FIRE! It was like my body was a thermometer and you could watch the mercury rise, literally. It put a rouge on my cheeks, a sparkle in my eye, and a pep in my step. I could care less…this was the danger. I learned that when I wanted to forget, remove myself, or just be somewhere else, alcohol would do it for me. And I was only 11 .

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