At Wilkerson Foreign Language School, during fourth grade is when my life changed. I chose to learn German because; my Dad had learned German in the Air Force and then took some German courses in college. I participated in my first and only class play: All Around the World”. The students who were in German class sang Mine Hut Hat Dri My Hat Has Three Corners.
When my mom was hospitalized, during the second half of fourth grade, I fell behind in my homework. At first, I did not want to tell my teacher, Mr. Reed, that my mom was sick, but after I got behind, I had to start writing sentences about not completing homework. I finally said something.
When my mom was released from the hospital, she helped me write my sentences: “I will complete my homework.
She would be the parent that came on field trips. My classmates teased me and joked with me that Mr. Reed had a crush on my on mom
On my report card I had an F in Vocabulary and I thought I would be in trouble, but my mom didn’t say anything except that I should try to do better. Paul started helping me study for spelling test and my grades in Spelling improved.
When my Dad was around, he would get on me about my grades. Since my dad was not around, I continued to do poor academically. I did not study. I would transpose my numbers and that caused me to do poorly in math.
After moving from Laclede, I didn’t really make any friends until I met Rica in fourth grade. She was a brown, skinny, girl with silky, long, black hair. Rica was from Mexican-American. She shared stories about life in Mexico and how her godmother adopted her. Rica attended church and she told me about the Rapture. What Rica had told me about God frightened me. I went to church with Rica one resurrection Sunday. It was the first time I ever attended children’s church. I wanted Shirley Temple curls, so my mother tried to style it that way but I did not like the way my hair looked
. In January, things changed. We had a new girl. Her name was Chelle. She was bi-racial her mother was white and her father was black. She was taller than all the other girls and boys in our class. She was heavier too. She wore two long ponytails. She looked a lot older than her age.
Chelle became my idol, when on a field trip I did something that made my mom mad and she pinched me. Chelle told her to leave me alone. I wanted her to be my friend because I thought I would not have to worry about anybody wanting to fight me. Chelle, like Rica told many stories. Chelle told stories about being from Louisiana. Chelle and this white girl named Barbara always played with me during recess. Chelle and Jerry liked each other. Jerry was the boy who always got in trouble. He had been the first person to see Chelle because he was in the Principal’s office. He referred to her as his girlfriend.
On Track and Field day, I had signed up for the obstacles course. I thought it would be easy at least the ones on TV seemed easy. I was horrible. I could not jump over the trash cans that were used for hurdles. I had slowest time. The kindergarten class laughed at me because I did so badly.
On the last day of fourth grade, I was nervous. I thought I might fail. I was praying all day. When the school officials came they announced who would be going to 5th grade and told us to line up. I was so relieved to hear my name called.
In 5th grade, at Wilkerson Foreign Language School, the classrooms were split. The kids who did worse academically had to stay in the fourth grade room and the students who were better went upstairs with the sixth grades. Rica went upstairs. That finally tore our friendship apart.
During fifth grade, I began to struggle with relationships. I got into my first real fight with a kid named Charles on art field trip. Chelle and I got into a fight she told Mr. Reed I bit her and kept talking about getting rabies. I started fighting with her to stop her from fighting someone else. I thought she would be suspended for fighting but I could say we were playing fighting.
I participated in track and field again. I had practiced for weeks before in the basement jumping over trash cans. This time I was too slow. They did not let me complete the obstacle course, but it was personal victory of me. At least, I cleared the trash cans this time.
My Mother asked me if I wanted to take part in the voluntary desegregation program. I said yes, because my dad said I might get to experience racism up close. I liked the sixties and felt I had missed the excitement of Civil Rights and revolutionary era. While my mom was in college, she did a report on Dr. Martin Luther King. She tried to tell me who he was.
I participated in the voluntary desegregation program; where black inner-city children were transported to a predominantly white suburban school districts. Black and white students might have been in the same school at Holman Middle School but the student population was not integrated. At lunch, all the blacks sat together. A few tables were integrated.
For some class during middle school we had to do family history assignments. I began asking my mom’s parents about when they grow up. I found out my Grandma Helen was the eleventh of twelve children. Most of her siblings died during childhood. Her parents were sharecroppers. Her Dad’s name was Matthew and he was dark skinned. Her mother’s name was Lula Ballard she was ( 1/8 African American). She was baptized in the Mississippi River. A racist killed her brother Matthew. His murder was never prosecuted. Helen attended Hearts Chapel a one-room schoolhouse. My grandmother married her first husband Roosevelt Cubbington on the condition they would go up north to St. Louis. After he died, she met Paul. They met in Tennessee while she was visiting her girlfriend. She was on the way home to see her sick dad.
Paul was a Black Indian. His grandfather was a full-blooded Choctaw (Native American). He grew up in Oxford, Mississippi a hillbilly region. Paul had a sister named Katie and an older brother named Thomas. His grandparents raised him. Paul repeated 8th grade several times because he worked in the fields. He was a cook in the Army during World War II. He told me had worked for a Ku Klux Klan member. He worked for Champ’s manufacturing while I was growing up.
In 1977 I remember watching the miniseries” Roots” on television. I could not stand to watch the whole thing. I could not stand to see the slaves being whipped. I went to integrated schools most of my life. I did not experience prejudice and racism really.
I had only experience overt prejudice once. Some white people getting off the elevator at Famous Bar called me a nigger. I thought I had missed out of the excitement 60’s.
I thought a woman could be anything she wants. I cannot say I got that message from home but I can say from the media.
Being in sixth grade was academically challenging. It was an awkward period in my life. I became withdrawn. My grades were bad I was scared I would fail sixth grade. I did not blend in with the black kids. I tried to make friends but they said I was too sad and depressing.
During sixth grade, I started listening to rock music on a local radio station because Lee a white guy in one of my classes challenged me to it. I challenged him to listen to rhythm and blues. He told me he used to listen to Majic 108 a local R&B station.
We went on a field trip to the St. Louis Zoo. The white girls were saying black people lived in houses with no windows. We passed by my house on the way. I told them to look and see the windows. I told them I lived in a house with 48 windows. Paul had just bought new insulated windows and had them installed.
Mildew and Water Damage
During my preteen years, my lack of understanding in relationships with males began to cause me heartache
By this time, my cracked foundation began to show. I began to withdraw and started acting out more. I did not go outside much to play so I was not good in gym class. I was always the lasted one picked. I was shy and reserved.
My mom would press my hair but it did not last long. I got a Jehri curl. One day I thought since I did not have much self-esteem. I would stop taking a bath. The school slut Ursula asked me, “Could you move because you stink”. I could not stand to smell myself and so as I got home I washed my under arms. I never tried that again not bathing again, but I continued not washing my face and brushing my teeth. Paul had tried to instill that in me as to wash my hands and face in the morning and I never washed my face.
For my 12th birthday, I had a party. Paul paid for it. We went together to buy the cake and food on the South Side. The decorations were pink and white. I bought a Kodak disc camera to take pictures. I wore a red and white outfit. Chelle came and some of the kids I invited from the neighborhood came. A few of the black girls from my new school came. None of the white kids I invited came. I did not wish my parents to get back together because my dad told me to stop wasting my wishes. He had been telling me that for few years. I wished for a stereo.
My best friend Chelle, came to the party. We continued to keep in touch after I left Wilkerson Elementary School. She told me she was pregnant by Mark, a guy that I liked from the old school.
I felt overwhelmed with my life a couple weeks after my 12th birthday, so I took an overdose of pills and wine. I had been taking overdoses of Tylenol pills regularly. This time I felt more out of it then usually. I had taken a whole bottle of Tylenol and some of my Grandma Helen’s prescription medicine and some arthritis pain pills, and washed it down with grape flavored Morgan David wine.
The irony is that we were studying the affects of drugs in school. My mom was at school so I told my grandmother Helen. She called her nephew, Snookie who live upstairs, to take me to the hospital. Paul, my grandfather, went with me. Snookie said he did not believe me but he ran every red light to Cardinal Glennon children’s Hospital.
They gave me some stuff that made me throw up. A nun came in and asked me why I wanted to kill myself. I told her I did not I just want to get sick. She did not believe me. I thought if I could get sick, I could take some time and get things under control. I had to stay in the hospital a couple of days because they feared kidney damage.
Paul came sat with me everyday, while I was hospitalized. I asked my mom not to tell my dad, and she did not. When I was discharged the hospital recommended counseling.
My grandma Helen would constantly tell me honor your mother and father are your days because if you do not your days will be shorter. She would also tell me I hope you have kids just like you I guess she thought I was too mischievous. My relationship with my mother was not good at the time and my classmates got sick of hearing me talking about it.
My Mom and Dad were going to court over child support. My mother would get upset with me when I did not want to call my dad or his mom and curse them out.
After my dad came back from college, he and I started doing model rocketry. . My dad made a remote launcher. We worked on it for months in the basement at my Grandma Rosie’s house. We had a rocket launch at the O’Fallon Park. My dad rented a picnic pavilion and we invited our family. We had a rocket six feet tall. I had my uncle stand next to it to check.
We continued to do model rocketry for a while. We got some white mice and named them Jerry Jett and Astro and prepared them for space flight in a simulator we made from a toilet tissue roll. The female mouse Astro had the babies. We noticed them when were cleaning her cage. She eat them. Later she killed Jerry Jett later.
My Cousin, Lala, told my dad, I had developed a crush on this white guy named Todd at school. He told me about how white men had sexually abused black women during slavery, and I had better not think any more about white guys. I was going through my phase where I want to be bi-racial. I had even told my dad I wished he were a white man. I was darkest on my mom’s side of the family. My grandma Helen would call me spook. My mom and I would stand in the mirror, she would say your black, and I am beautiful. She was joking with me, but I still stuck with me.
In 7th grade, Cyndi Lauper and Madonna came out. I wore the lace gloves and the mismatched Converse until Paul stopped me. I began to daydream and fantasize as I fell deeper and deeper into depression. In my daydream, I was a fashion designer, psychologist, and entertainer. My children were like the Jackson’s. In my daydream, my Italian husband was coke addict and I was an alcoholic.