I was in her arms looking up at the blue sky with puffy white cumulus clouds. The sun was bright and made the water sparkle like diamonds as we rode in the truck across the Sunshine Bridge.
This is my very first memory. Not something I imagined but a authentic memory. As I described this to my mother, she asked in dismay, “How do you remember that? You were no more than 18 months old”. She explained that we were in the truck with her Uncle Benny headed back to the country, to her hometown, Tangipahoa, La.
From that point on until I entered pre-school at Brooks United Methodist Church, everything is a blank. I could have stumbled across the cure for cancer and the key to world peace, yet it is all forgotten.
Pre-school memories are scattered with flying kites on the church grounds with other the other children and teachers; green finger paint spilled on my white cotton panties – don’t ask because I have no clue; and the bicycle mishap that left me with a scare on my left shin.
My older sister, Vee-Dawg, was tasked with taking me to pre-school one summer morning. Pre-schoolers didn’t get a summer break. My sister was probably around 11 or 12 years old when she put me on the back of her bicycle to head to school. Instead of having me face the direction in which we were headed, she had me facing the direction we were leaving, in other words, we were back to back on the bicycle.
It was a 3 block trek from our house to the church and we managed the ride quite well for 2.5 of those blocks. Vee-Dawg is peddling away and somehow I manage to get my little narrow left leg caught between the bicycle wheel spokes. We hit the ground, legs and arms flailing and gravel flying up creating up a dust cloud. Dazed and confused, sis gets up, dusts herself off and turns her attention towards me sprawled out in the street, crying and in pain because my leg was tangled in the wheel.
In the midst of her trying to free me from that tangled mess, a lady was walking by on the sidewalk, a witness to what just happened. She then asked, “Are you guys okay?”
(Really heffa? Does it look like those children are okay? One is laying in the street with a foot-long gash in her leg bleeding out like a slaughtered pig and you ask if they’re okay?!!)
My sister mumbled something and that heffa kept on walking not bothering to offer to help.
Sometimes adults are assholes towards children.
Vee-Dawg’s bicycle was inoperable at this point so we hobbled out little asses to the church and she walked her broken bicycle the 3 blocks back home.
On this same 3-block route to Brooks UMC was a house with a bipolar aggressive dog. Bipolar because some days you could walk by the house and the dog wouldn’t so much as look your way. I imagine those were his depressed days – laying there wondering where it all went wrong that he ended up guarding a dusty grass-less domain of a gate-less front yard. On other days, his manic days, he was a psychotic demon dog snarling and running out of the yard to terrorize neighbors and walkers-by on the other side of the street.
There are only two things that I know will make my mother shit her pants – dogs and lizards. I believe that even now, at 77 years old, she would run a country mile from both.
Mother had prepared a tray of deviled eggs for a pre-school function and was walking quietly on the opposite side of the street from the demon dog’s domain, hoping and praying to sweet baby Jesus that this would be a more subdued, depressed day for the bipolar mongrel. However, as per the manic protocol, demon dog snarls and barks as he charges towards my mother.
Well, she took off running, Angela Davis afro blowing in the wind (she was hauling ass y’all) putting on full display exactly why she was awarded a partial track and field scholarship to Southern University. In her fear induced adrenaline rush, J-Boogie said to hell with those damned deviled eggs and dropped the tray and didn’t stop running until she reached the church disheveled and egg-less.
Brooks UMC’s pre-school program serviced the children of the St. Bernard neighborhood. This included children from all socio-economic backgrounds such as working class families and from more challenging environments/families who may have resided in the St. Bernard Housing Projects. Emmanuel and I were examples of both demographics.
From what I was told, Emmanuel’s home life was precarious and probably bordered that of neglect as evidenced by his tattered and soiled clothes, matted hair, and poor hygiene. The poor baby was a dust bunny – a pissy smelling dust bunny.
During one of our afternoon snack breaks Emmanuel was seated next to me at the table. In my most authoritative 4-5 year old voice, I proceeded to warn little Emmanuel not to put his grubby little hands on my apple or my juice. I drew the line in the proverbial sand and dared his little dusty ass to cross it.
Apparently Emmanuel took that as a challenge and decided to defy me by touching my apple!! Now I am sure he did not expect what happened next nor would logic dictate it but you must remember, I was 4 years old and logic really isn’t a toddler’s thing. I bit the shit out of that little boy! I drew blood!!
The administrators suspended me for a few days, rightfully so, and Emmanuel had to get a tetanus shot. My mother asked me, “Why did you bite him?”. “Because he touched my apple and I told him not to because he was dirty”, I responded.
To this day she still does not understand why I decided Emmanuel had to pay with a pound of flesh for his infraction – the very flesh I deemed too dirty to touch my apple. Neither do I mom. Neither do I.