From the time that I was born I knew that I was brought in to this world with love. I was born to a nineteen year old counrty girl by the name of Leena Bates. The year 1976, the place, Rayville Louisiana. As my father waited patiently in the hospital hallway to come into the delivery room during my birth my grandmother, Lee Bates advised him it would not be a good idea. The reason why, my mother was black and my father was white. Mama once told me that people would sometimes point and stare at her when in public and say "there go that lady with the white baby." Racism can be very scary and in this case it was. One early morning my father was found laying across my grandmothers beat up wooden porch, covered in blood and unconcious. A group of white men didn't like the fact that he chose to hang around people of color and prefered to date black women. Taking matters into their own hands, these belligerent men realeased their anger and rage into every slap punch, kick and lord know what elseon my father. Finally after they were done having their way with him, he was dumped on my grandmothers doorstep like a heap of unwanted trash. This caused my mother to be nervous thinking this group of racist, ignorant heathens would come and try to harm her. Maybe it was just a warning because they never did.
The first five years of my life are somewhat blurry but a few of the memories are still there. The first most precious memory that I have is my grandmothers house. A small, wooden, white house with paint so old that began to chip and peel way before my time. Directly behind my grandmothers house stood my Aunt Tam's house and she resided there with her eight kids. Between the two houses stood a tree that she nicknamed the "Snake tree" because there would be times she would find snakes dangling from this tree and they sometimes made their way into her home. She would always call my uncle Lee Roy, one of mama's brothers to come and get these creepy crawlers out of her house. To the right of my grandmother's house was my Aunt Gee's house and she lived their with her five kids. To the left of all three houses stood a group of southern shade trees that stood so tall thick and bushy, seemed like the bright orange sun would try to peek its way through and always lost the fight. The yard was so big and mostly made of dirt from the pitter patter of kids running back and forth over the years and when all of us grandkids were outside it looked like and elementary school at recess.
My father Johnny didn't stick around and a year later my brother Wayne was born from another man. Wayne was a small brown skinned baby that had patches of hair all over his head that were very thin. Mama usually kept them in rubberbands making the pontails look as if they would drop from his head at any moment. He always seemed to have a look of worry on his face even as a young child, even if he were happy and smilling. One day we looked around and his father was gone too. Honestly, I don't think we cared not one bit. Mama was mama and mama was daddy and whatever we needed mama made sure we recieved it. Besides she had a support system, my grandmother and my aunts. They looked out not only for us kids but for each other and that was my true definition of family. They stuck together like glue, the bond they had was as strong as the toughest iron, heavy as weights and it would take a whirl wind from the deepest depths of hell to break it. Seemed as if we had more than one mother in our lived and it filled the void of our father being absent.
I remember when it stormed for weeks, something fierce that pumped fear into me as each raindrop fell, scaring the daylight right out of me. It thundered so hard like god had been giving the earth a round of applause. There was lightening so bright we had no need for electricity during the night. It felt like this storm went on forever. As the rain came down harder the water began to rise and the yard seemed to slowly disappear right before my eyes. I watched from a distance and the road seemed to begin playing hide and seek with the rain. Even the old green station wagon that sat in the yard began to look as if it were sinking in quicksand. Eventually the storm came to an hat but it was over yet. Day by day the water evaporated at a slow pace and when it was done I wished for it to come back. The yard, road and ditches were cover with snakes, mostly black ones. One day mama had some business to handle in town so she ran to the car and threw me and my brother in the backseat like a couple of bean bags then scurrying to the driver's side. As she backed out and peeled onto the road there were even more. We could hear the hissing and slithering as mama screamed. She put the car in reverse then into drive running as many snakes over seperating heads and tails from their bodies causing the hisses to grow louder. The sound of these serpents made a chill creep up my spineand made my body clench beyond belief. Mama put the car in drive for the last time and sped off.
As time passed we were able to go outside and do what we did best, play. Whenever we did a little to much we got hurt. One day I got hurt. The weather was dry, hot and muggy with the sun at it's peek and some of my older boy cousin were outside playing baseball. As I run pass the batter they all fuss telling me i could get hit, get out the way. Well my brother thought it was funny so I felt the need to be seen and do it again. I ran by again but this time the bat greeted my head as if they both could speak. The next thing I rememeber is laying on the ground helpless and in a state of shock as mama and Aunt Gee carried me in the house and my grandmother holding a siver cooking pot under my head as if my brains were going to fall out. I don't remember the pain being that it happened so long ago but what I do remember is my grandmother fussing at mama telling her I needed to go to the hospital because my head was still swelling after day two. Mama never did but with the help of my grandmother all I have left to remind me of being hard headed is a small circular scar on the left side of my hairline.
There were also happy memories, like the playfull days that we would hang under those famous trees. My Aunt Ann and mama would place a sheet flat on the grass and take turns laying us kids on it. While laying on the sheet they would grip the edges, holding on tight tossing us kids in the air like doves that were being released back into the wild. Unlike doves that were thrown up and flew off we only went so high, always coming back down landing directly in the middle of the sheet. I sometimes dream of going back there under those shade trees, laying on that sheet and being thrown up into the air once again. Even though we didn't have much growing up our mother's love made up for it.
We loved it when we would go into town and it was like an adventure to me because we never new what the next trip there would be. Mama told my brother and I she would be taking us to eat pizza and for the first time. We were excited and could wait to taste this piazza that we had heard so much about. We had no clue of what it was but we knew we wanted it. Finally after a long walk into town we make it to our destination. I walked into a room full of booths that had shiny, red, leathery seats and brown wooden tables. Lights that dangledfrom the ceiling that made the restaraunt look as if you were bringing your other half there to have a candle lit dinner for two. After ordering we sit at the booth and waited as the aroma of cheese, pizza sauce, and pepperoni slapped us left and right in our nasal passages. At last our food has arrived and we dig and I must say the taste was great.
At the age of five I remember my father coming to visit me. Mama was gone that day and me and my brother were left with grandmother. We were sitting in her kitchen at the table eating white rice as she told me "baby, your daddy coming to see you today." I say "ok, grandmother." I was nervous because I knew of my daddy but not who he was as a person. He was a different color than the rest of my family and knowing this stranger was coming to see me made me uncomfortable. Later on that day we hear a knock at the door. My grandmother opens the old rusted screen door that sounded as if it need to be oiled and says "hey Jonny, come one in." In walks a short man about five foot nine with pale skin, thick eyebrows, a mustache and lot of curly thick brown hair. He had on faded blue bell bottoms and a t shirt with a light blue button up dress shirt that had three buttons open at the kneck. As I got a good glimpse of him I became scared but worked up the courage to stay on the brown couch in the living room. My father comes and sits by me and we begin spending quality time together and I begin to speak a word here and there. By the end of the visit I was sitting on his lap speaking as loudly as possible. Only god know what I was saying that day and if this memory ever fades I can reach down in my purse and pull out the picture that my grandmother took of us that day.