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A Southern Womans Voice

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A small decrepit old town was where I grew up. My father was the town lawyer see, and we had it all. I lived in this beautiful old Victorian with white shutters and a wraparound porch that held us children in its arms. My mother was full of herself and a silly woman. She did what she wanted, and hated anyone who told her otherwise. Thing was, we had a house full of Help, as they were called in those days. In reality, they were people just like anybody else, its just the color of their skin was different. And who cares about that now? Not a lot of people I’d say. My mama had about 10 women, and one was our baby nurse. She was more of a mother to me than any other woman I ever knew. My mother went out in her frilly dresses and grotesque hats and walked two blocks to the neighbors to gossip the entire day. She wasted valuable time, and I as the littlest one stayed home. My nurses name was Cali and she had the prettiest eyes. She taught me my numbers, my letters, what flowers were called what, and all those important things a child is supposed to know. The rest of the town well they were mostly self made farmers. There were a few other men like my father but not many. Most folks didn’t have the kind of help we did. And at some point in my life, the world started to change some. Because see, there came a time when we couldn’t be nice no longer to the help. It was like some sort of crime, and I didn’t understand as a child. My mother didn’t care and whatever other people did become commonplace for her. So of course, she tried to enstill these beliefs in her children. I didn’t listen. Mind you I had no patience for that woman at all. My father explained some of it as best he could to a child. I mean how can you? I remember one incident in particular that I think changed me in different ways but scared me for life.


July 17th 1960

The Alabama sun beat down on the small down of Mayville Alabama. Caroline Jones walked to the bus stop and waited. Her pink dress was of her mothers choosing and certainley not her favorite. She had recently made friends with Mayella who was the new girl down the street. Playing with Mayella was a little hard, because most people didn’t like that her skin was darker. Caroline didn’t care. In fact, the two waited next to the bus stop every day. “Hey, Caroline do you think Mr. Wallace will let me ride the bus today”? Mayella was very smart even at ten but had always wanted to ride Carolines school bus instead of walking the 3 miles. “I don’t know Mayella, I wish I did and I wish he would let you”. The yellow monster roared to a halt at the stop sign and Caroline got on. “Hey you n***** girl”. The bus drivers face was cruel, and Mayella stepped back. “You coloreds gotta walk to school, it’s the d*mn law didn’t your n***** daddy tell ya that”? Mayella froze, no one had ever talked about her daddy like that. He was a respected man, or at least she thought so. The bus was about to roll away, when Carolines little feet walked down the steps, slowly and deliberately. She was one of the first people in her small Alabama town. Mayella didn’t move, she couldn’t breathe. A sizeable lump had formed in her throat, one that she had never felt before. Caroline grabbed her friends arm, and dragged her limp self over to the shade. “Mayella, we can’t tell no one about this okay”? “If my mama knew what I just did for you she’d probably kill me.” “Please, Mayella you can’t tell no one”. Carolines eyes were filled with fear, a thing that Caroline did not understand.

It was then that time seemed to stop. Mayellas only white friend did not believe in her anymore, clearly. She wouldn’t even tell anyone about this. The little girl ran home, and told her mom between sobs. Her mother took her to the local church, where Reverend King listened. He said nothing, only smiled at the little girl. He understood, that this was a difficult time for Mayella. He didn’t’ want her to worry, that she should let Caroline know how she felt.

That was the most difficult lesson I ever learned. It had presented itself to me in a way that I didn’t understand, in a way that confused me at 10 years old. It wasn’t until high school that I saw her again. Mayella had grown up and was taller than me. I was surrounded by a group of “friends”, none of which were as nice and kind to me as she was. I had taken advantage of something that I couldn’t get back.



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TigerChild said...
Apr. 26, 2012 at 8:00 pm:
This is amazing! I love how you captured the southern voice in the begining. I wish you would clarify a little though on who Caroline is a bit, and transfer that southern voice to Caroline. But other than that, it's a wonderful piece. Wonderful job!
 
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