How Gramps Learned About Banking

June 01, 2005
Gramps never trusted banks. Maybe I should say she never trusted the concept of handing her hard earned money over to a white person who promised they would take care of it for her. We must remember the time period she grew up in and the things she saw. Most Black people her age hid their money at home instead of taking it to a bank. Besides, the concept of money growing over time was so foreign to most Blacks her age.

So, Gramps kept large sums of money in the house at all times. She was running a business and needed cash on hand to make change, coupled with her distrust of financial institutions. As the grandchildren got older, they began to steal from her. I should say the boys began to steal from her. There were times when they stole every penny she had. After hearing her cry and explain that her mortgage and other bills were due in days, they never admitted they took it and never volunteered to return it. The way they saw it was like this: her activities were illegal, she can make quick cash in days, and to admit it means she won't allow them in the house anymore. Everyone knew it was certain boys in the family who did it, but no one could prove it. Everyone also knew that most likely their mothers had put them up to it. Yes, Gramps' own daughters. My family is really dysfunctional.

Everytime she was ripped off, it hurt to see her upset. She never once accused the boys of any wrongdoing. I did! And so did several other family members! Eventually, her oldest daughter Bobbie sat her down and talked to her about banks and how they worked. Bobbie took her to her personal banker (Bobbie owned her own legitimate business) and got Gramps setup with an account. Miraculously, the boys and their mothers stopped coming around. They started stealing from others. Now they're all grown up and sitting in a state prison somewhere -- no exaggeration.
7:54 AM :: ::

Sipping Coffee from her Saucer

May 31, 2005
I am a coffee addict. I'm sitting in the local coffee shop hijacking a ride on their free Wi Fi and it just occurred to me that I had my first taste of coffee when I was about 11 or 12 years old.

My grandmother drank coffee every morning. She used a tiny perculator that sat directly on the burner. When the perculator whistled, she would pour the water into her cup, then add two spoonfuls of instant coffee. She always spilled coffee, but it landed in the saucer that held her tiny coffee cup.

One morning before school, I asked, "grandma, can I have sum?"

"Chil', you don't need no coffee."

"Why?" I asked.

"Cus it's fo' grown folks."

"Why?" I asked.

"Ya wouldn't like it anyway," she said.

"Yes I would."

She removed her coffee cup and slid the saucer over to me.

"Here, drink that," she said.

I sipped coffee from her saucer. She was right. I remember it tasting very bitter, like something that had sat on the stove too long and burned.

She sent me off to school. The odd thing: every chance I got, I sipped her saucer.
9:55 AM :: ::

Sweet Potato Bread

Gramps always fed my pains with food. After that stopped working, she would tell me God would make everything alright. I preferred food to God when I was a little girl.

I loved Gramps' sweet potato bread. She would make that as a snack for the kids to eat after school. It was her sweet potato pie, but without the crust. She would oil the bottom of a square baking pan and pour the batter in. Bake up the batter until the edges were a golden brown. After the bread cooled, she would cut it into squares, give it to all her grandkids, and send us off to play.

The recipes I've supplied in the left sidebar are not my grandmother's. She never had recipes. It was funny. When I call for a recipe, she would say: "Getcha about a cup of this, and about a cup of that, and a pinch of this, or a pinch of that. And some buttermilk." How do you measure a pinch of something? I would always ask her. My sweet potato bread always tasted like hers, though. Always. Maybe it was the love that made it taste the same.
8:37 AM :: ::

Memories on Memorial Day

May 30, 2005
As a child, I remember lots of children running through my grandmother's house. It was a large old house with hardwood floors and lots of broken things. It also had lots of pretty things in locked cabinets.

A crown I won at a Little Ms. Sapphorette's Pageant was one of them. I was about 8 years old and my mother entered me in the annual pageant at the American Legion post. I could dance and sing and I was pretty. All the men said so. After winning, my crown was placed in my grandmother's locked glass cabinet, in the living room that no one was allowed to enter. It was the only really nice room in that large old home.

As a child, I also remember visiting the doctor's office with my grandmother a lot. We had to enter through a certain side of the building. All the nurses would comment about how pretty I was and my grandmother would later tell me, "Chil' that don't mean nothin'. We still sittin' on the colored side of this here office." It wasn't until I was a little older that I understood what she meant.

I'm searching my brain trying to remember all the names of my grandmother's 13 children and I suddenly realized that "children" I thought were her children were actually grandchildren being raised as her own. I can only count 8 aunts and 1 uncle. I've always heard my grandmother had 13 children -- but you know how people exaggerate when there are a lot of mouths at the kitchen table (and I remember a lot of mouths at the table). I'll have to call her and clarify. But, after yesterday's interview, I need to give her a break for a day or two.

6:59 AM :: ::

First Interview With Freddie Mae

May 29, 2005
I called Gramps today and requested an interview, telling her about this blog and its purpose. She can be quite the embarrassed school girl when all eyes are on her. She was pleased to answer my questions, questions I was surprised I'd never asked before.

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Me: Do you know if you are a direct descendant of slaves?

Gramps: I heard my mama's mama and daddy were slaves but I ain't sho. I'm pretty sho they were. Jean's [her youngest daughter of 13 children] daddy's mama and daddy were slaves, I know that. There was a lot of white men taking slaves as girlfriends. That's why we got so many light skin Black people.

Me: Yes, that's true.

Gramps: It felt like we were slaves growing up. They rationed food when mama went to the store.

Me: Did they ration food for everyone, or just Blacks?

Gramps: I can't remember.

Me: How did you get the idea to start selling alcohol from your home?

Gramps: I didn't get the idea. Joy's [another daughter] husband told me "you getcha some beer and liquor and I'll bring you some customers." I needed money real bad to fix my house up. The livin' room was just to' up. The kitchen was bad. I just needed money bad. That night my house was packed. I made so much money. I never stopped.

Me: What did you do to make money before that?

Gramps: I worked! I was a cook at the Lakeview hotel for 12 years. Befo' that I worked at the Motor Court for 5 years. And befo' that I picked cotton in the fields.

Me: You picked cotton and got paid for it?

Gramps: Oh yea'. I picked 100 pounds of cotton by noon. I would go home for lunch then go back and pick another 100 pounds of cotton by 5. Mama took care of my kids for me while I worked. I would wash diapers on my lunch break and refill baby bottles.

Me: Tell me what jumpstarted your interest in fishing, please.

Gramps: I always loved to fish. I started after Henretta [lesbian daughter, really named Henrietta] was born. It was all we had to back then. We didn't have no tv. All we did was go to the creek and fish. I would feed the kids then go fish. Come back home and eat some corn bread and milk then go back and fish.

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Coming: an introduction to the interesting people in Freddie's life.
1:54 PM :: ::