Gloria Faye Brown Bates as the little girl who tried to be good, not get into trouble. I didn’t want to go to hell, because my ‘little tail would surely burn’, if I did. When the world came to the end… I didn’t want things from the sky to fall on my head…
By Gloria Faye Brown Bates/aka Granny Gee
I opened the bottom drawer to peek inside. I was very young, no older than six years old. I was a very curious little girl. I was mischievous; I got into everything. I saw things I shouldn’t… I knew things I shouldn’t… but, at that time… I didn’t know that I shouldn’t.
I would watch, study things trying to understand all going on around me. Of course, I would be a big girl to understand one day the images, memories I had as that little girl. If I had a little girl, I would protect her, never just trust everyone to be what they ‘seemed’ to be.
Sometimes… fine, up-standing citizens of the community are the ones people need to keep a secret eye on… when around their children. Pretend to trust them… all the while watching how your child acts around them.
You all know how a lot of ‘good citizens, and Christians are’… they are the ones who can do ‘bad’ things, get by with it. Why? Because, everyone knows ‘they’d never do such a thing! That’s ‘why’ they do.
Want to know my answer to that? Yes, they will… oh yes, they will. They’ll do everything you think they ‘would never do’. Going to church, preaching at a church… being a banker, business-owner, barber, doctor… millionaire…. doesn’t automatically mean they are ‘good’ people. They are good at what they do… to little girls. No one ever knows ‘they will do that’…
I promise you, I met some of those people as a child… they can touch, hurt little girls all the while smiling, being ‘good people’. No adult ever knows the difference.
If a little girl doesn’t know that a good person will do ‘bad’ things… when they do them… she doesn’t know the difference. She just knows… she becomes afraid… but, ‘why?’
Back then… grown ups were different. They didn’t let children ‘be themselves, be educated, learn to tell on someone who tried to touch, molest them. Grown ups told children that …. ‘children should be seen, not heard’. That meant ‘you’d better shut up’……
So many things happened… I don’t think things were ever still around me. The calmest times were when Josephine came each day to care for my little brother, and I. I loved her dearly. I wish I could have found her when older, before she died. I would tell her how much she meant to me ‘back then’.
She would sing to us, hold us, tell us about Jesus. The only time she made me afraid was when she told me about the ‘end of the world’. The end of the world was coming soon. I couldn’t understand, felt fear. I didn’t want things to fall from the sky, hit me on the head. I didn’t want my little tail to burn in hell. She said if I wasn’t good, that’s exactly what would happen. I tried to be good… I did try.
I was scared; sometimes, while drinking ‘tea’ in my little tea cup outside, I would look up at the sky. The sun seemed to always be shining when I did. Things she would talk about, tell us were things only grown-ups could understand.
I’d think about them when I played. She’d tell us about Cuba, and Castro… I’d feel fear. Not only was the world coming to the end, someone was coming here that hated us; he was going to get us, too.
This was the time, also… I would hear the song about the ‘Streets of Laredo‘… and I ‘felt the lonely’ from the words. I didn’t know then, what it meant… I just felt sad.
The sandman would come every night to put sand in my eyes, so… I’d go to sleep. Strange, I never worried about ‘sand’ being put in my eyes… then. I did love for my mama to tuck me into bed… how loved I felt… then.
Later in life when I became deathly ill, after being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (cancer)… I would imagine my mama coming to gently tuck my blanket around my ears so, they’d stay warm. I didn’t know I was in the world, but… I felt my mama doing that. I felt such comfort; I was dying… I didn’t know to be afraid. I was the darkness with only fleeting thoughts… I ‘just was’…
The Purple Beep-O-Leter, or some silly song played all the time, then. Puff The Magic Dragon… whenever I lost a tooth, the tooth fairy would bring me lots of bubble gum balls… happy colors. She would bring me lots of coins, also. I’d chew all the bubble gum I could get in my little mouth… until I’d become sick, throw up.
Josephine was a kind soul, her eyes soft when she looked into my little face. I loved her; I just didn’t want her to talk about those bad things. I think she just wanted everyone to go to heaven with her when she went.
She decided one day that she would take both my little brother, and I … to her church to a funeral. A black funeral. I’d never seen black people excepting Josephine… her daughter, Maxine… at that time.
The church was within view from where we lived on the corner of Elm Street. She pointed it out to me. I wanted to go! I loved to ride in the car, lay on the soft carpet on the ‘hump’, fall asleep. When I would wake up, we’d be at the drive-in show.
We didn’t ride in the car to the funeral. We walked hand in hand with Josephine in the middle. We just walked as far as I could see… the church was ‘right there’…
We walked up the steps, I heard music! I loved music. She took us into the church where I saw many dark faces looking down at me… their faces full of kindness, their eyes were soft.
People sat down, a man began to talk; as he talked… he got louder. I felt nervous… loud meant someone would be hurt. Josephine put her hand on mine, smiled. I trusted Josephine, I leaned into her for comfort.
She stood up, took my hand… I’m sure she had my little brother’s hand, too. I can’t see him in my memory… what I do see, hear in my memory is singing. I saw dark faces smiling happy smiles, singing; clapping their hands. I placed my hands together, smiled.
We were in a line walking to the front of the church… there was someone lying there… there was a man sleeping there on white pillows. He was dead. Josephine said he was going to heaven to meet his maker. He was a good man. I stood on tiptoes… I wanted to see, too. The man lay there, his face was so kind.
I could tell that people liked him… glad he was going to heaven. He never woke up while we were there… I watched closely.
Where was heaven? Whatever it was, it sure was a good place to go. Josephine had already told me to be good, so… I could go there, too. She said I sure didn’t want to go to hell… my little tail would burn!
Sometimes, after the funeral… I would be worried. I was becoming aware of life around me… sometimes, I was afraid. Especially about when the world came to the end… things were going to fall on my head, people would cry, scream. If I wasn’t a good girl, my little tail was going to burn in hell. I tried to be good…
I had begun watching tv… and that’s when I first saw Popeye the Sailor man, Olive Oil, Brutus, Wimpy, Sweet Pea. I was most familiar with Popeye, and Olive Oil… and ‘that’ mean Brutus.
My little brother and I were always told to eat our spinach, so we’d grow up to be strong like Popeye. I wanted to be strong; I don’t remember if my brother wanted to be, too. One would have to ask him.
Well, I do remember my mind was on Popeye the Sailor man… I saw something in the bottom drawer that looked like him. I wanted to look in that drawer again. Somehow, I knew to not make a noise. I eased the drawer open…. how does a little girl know… to sneak? How does she know the meaning of ‘sneaking’?
Sneak, I did. I reached for the ‘comic book’ in that bottom drawer. There he was! Popeye the Sailor man, and Olive Oil! I liked them, and disliked Brutus.
The only thing was… even at that young age… I knew somehow Popeye the Sailor man was doing something…. something. You know. Mmmmm-mmm…. well, I was older before I knew what ‘it’ was… and the name for it.
I heard a sound, and hurriedly put that comic book back in the drawer, closed it quickly! I don’t know if I ever looked at it again. I didn’t see on the tv cartoons those things he was doing to Olive Oil… that he was doing in the comic book.
One day, I was walking through the hall. The wooden floor was so shiny, glowing with a soft light. I loved my home. My little brother and I would chase each other through the hall into the kitchen, living room, back into the hall, bypassing the bedrooms, and bathroom.
My ‘daddy’, at least at that age I was told he was my daddy, had a huge wooden chest in the hall near the back door. So many times the corner of it would cut my knee as I turned to run into the kitchen. It left a permanent scar there.
I had been outside playing in the white sand in the front yard under the huge, old Oak tree. I had been entertaining my friends no one could see… we drank ‘tea’ from my tea cups.
I walked over to the bank, where the sweet peas grew, sat down. I watched the cars go by. As a grown up now… when I see that little bank… I was too close to the street.
I looked to my right, and thought about climbing up the huge hill, to walk on the railroad track. I didn’t. There was a man who would see me every time when I sneaked up there… he’d come tell on me, all the while looking down at me. He said he just didn’t want to see me get killed.
The screen door made a sound as I pulled it open. I was going to go find my mama, my ‘daddy’. My little brother was taking a nap. We had to take naps everyday. I can’t remember ‘why’ I wasn’t napping.
I tiptoed down the hall to my mama’s bedroom. The door was open, I turned to the left, stepped through the doorway; something stopped me.
I put my little hand to my mouth, and began to snicker. I couldn’t believe what I saw… I didn’t want to make a noise. I kept my hand on my mouth, and I raised up on tiptoes. I held my head up, looking down my nose to see what I could see…
I’d never seen my mama, ‘daddy’ … naked. I was fascinated. I did accidentally see my ‘daddy’ one time; I went to the bathroom, he was in there. How does a child always look where they shouldn’t? I guess maybe … because when little, ‘everything’…. is at ‘eye-level’.
I vaguely remember not knowing ‘what that thing was’…. now, I was seeing it again. I was seeing my mama and ‘daddy with no clothes on! They both were on their backs, asleep. No one would believe this! I was giggling through my hands…
I tiptoed back through the hall quickly. I opened, closed the screen door, and ran lightly across the porch, down the steps. I was going up the street to my friends’ house… they wasn’t going to believe it!
“If you give me a quarter, I’ll show you something you won’t believe”! I told my friends, Connie and Rhonda, that I could show them something they wouldn’t believe. They gave me a quarter, and I told them to hurry, come on!
We all three ran back down the street, I was giggling. I couldn’t wait for them to see what I had to show them. We all three got to the porch, I told them to be quiet.
We began tiptoeing, holding our little shoulders tight, being ever so quiet. I put my hand over my mouth, I was getting hysterical. I wanted to giggle out loud! They put their hands over their mouths, they knew it was going to be worth the quarter they gave me.
I got to the bedroom door, stood there looking… motioning for them to come on! I pointed my finger, whispered, “look”! They both came to the doorway, I watched their faces.
Their mouths fell open, making me begin to overflow with laughter. I had to run down the hallway, to get out of the house before someone heard me. I would get into a lot of trouble! They followed me, holding their mouths… I could hear them giggling!
We made it outside… no one was ever the wiser. I never told my mama about ‘selling her out’ for a quarter!
- No one could protect us (windierae.wordpress.com)