Story of Patience

Under My Covers

PatienceP

PatienceP
Birthday
January 01
Bio
On the surface I'm a well put together, successful mother and wife, but under the cover of perfection and smiles lay the story of child abuse, domestic violence, life in the adult entertainment industry, coping with understanding society rules, roles, religion, honesty and crime against humanity. I'm lost under the covers of life, trying to shuffle through all this mess, trying for once....to have it all make sense. * Disclaimer: The people, location and events have been changed to protect the innocent, any similarities to actual persons, either living or dead, are merely coincidental. Thank you for reading

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Salon.com
APRIL 6, 2012 12:29PM

Black Folks and The Prejudice Bitch

Rate: 14 Flag

I had black friends in school up until 5th grade. I hung from the rusty monkey bars upside down giggling with Ronetta as she shouted insults and pried off the fingers of the whiney boys who told us it was their turn to play. I tried to outrun Toneshia in my Zips tennis shoes across the playground, the grass all crunchy yellow. The commercial for Zips told me they would make me faster, but they didn’t. Even though she would allow me a head start, Toneshia would always beat me to the finish line with her big toothy grin and super long legs while sticking her tongue out and laughing as she raced past me. I admired Lawanda’s colorful earrings, painted fingernails and hair elastics with the colorful glittery plastic balls I wasn't allow to wear while she taught me rhymes about bubble gum and fairy princesses getting kisses.

My parents grew up in a time when blacks and whites didn’t go to school together. They sat in separate areas of the movie theater and drank from fountains labeled “whites only”. They were taught to be cautious of blacks, blacks and whites were too different to be friends and above all; never have a romantic relationship with one. This way of thinking was bound to cascade over to their children eventually. I was a slow learner.

I rarely invited school friends over to play. I mostly played with kids that lived in my upper class neighborhood, either outside in the woods or at their house. Where I lived with the manicured lawns and big houses with hot tubs and sports cars in the driveways, there were no black families. My parents would have moved if a black family were to buy a house there. As it were, my mother looked at new homes being built, picking apart each family and why they shouldn’t be able to live in our prestigious neighborhood; “How did they have enough money to build that?”, “That house doesn’t fit in here, it’s too small for god’s sakes” or “You know they had a trial separation, I heard he had an affair with his secretary”.... and she hated them, the newcomers.

Past our neighborhood down a dirt road in old shacks lived a few black families. We were told to never go down there. We would ride our bikes to the end of the paved road just close enough to see by squinting our eyes to get a better look down the dusty path. The houses were grey from old wood and peeling paint, old cars our parents would never drive, toddlers barefoot in diapers. We watched the black kids playing on their bikes with deep curiosity. They would look at us too, but wouldn’t come across the line that separated our neighborhoods.

The only black person allowed in our home was our old maid, Martha. She would make our beds, clean our rooms, do the laundry, dishes, mop the floors, make dinner, whatever needed to be done sighing heavy sighs while my mother sat in her room or ran errands. Her husband James would come pick her up at 5pm in his old rust spotted Cadillac DeVille. He wouldn’t honk the horn or come to the door, but would wait for her in the car as long as it took. I thought he must be a very patient man. Sometimes he had their grandchildren with him, they were well behaved and sat in the back seat with the windows down and nothing to do. They never asked to ride one of the many bikes or big wheels, play basketball with the official sized goal or swing on the hammock in our yard. They just sat quiet like little mice afraid to make a sound.

My parents gave James a job painting our 2 story house. It was a big job for one man. I worried about James up there, high on that ladder. I was discouraged from talking to him and was never sent out to take him a glass of water or Country Time instant lemonade like I did for the white boys that mowed the lawn. I should have, but I didn’t. My parents ended up firing James and hiring someone else to paint the house. My mother said it was because he was a drunk.

Martha kept us kids, me and my two younger siblings, when my parents went out of town. Her hands were always shiny like she had put olive oil on them. Her hair was black with flecks of gray and the tiniest little curls. It was so short I thought for certain she never needed to brush it. My mother often shared Martha with friends as if she was a possession. “Oh, you have company coming? I’ll send over Martha or one of her daughters.” I look back and I feel bad that I let Martha change the sheets to my bed when I should have done it myself. I sat and watched Brady Bunch re-runs and Tom and Jerry while she made her way up two flights of stairs from the basement where the laundry room was carrying loads of clothing and towels several times a day. I feel bad that I expected her to wait on me and fix me dinner and I didn’t appreciate her. I feel bad that I didn’t help her, or at least make her job easier. Many of the kids from the Country Club had black maids; the majority of mothers didn’t work. Martha stayed with my family for most of the 80’s until my mother got a white cleaning lady. I thought it odd Martha was called the maid and the white woman, a cleaning lady.

While watching Phil Donahue, my mother had the great idea of hosting a sleepover in our basement for all the girls in my 5th grade class. Twenty five squealing girls and most of them I didn’t even like, did not sound like a good time to me. Maybe my mother was trying to get me to fit in, figure out who were the good girls for me to hang out with. My father wasn’t thrilled with the idea, but allowed it. In preparation, my mother bought huge coolers of coke in the glass bottles and went to my father’s convenience store and filled two giant sized black trash bags of salty yellow popcorn from the popper like they have in the movie theaters. She went to his pizza restaurant and pre-ordered well over a dozen pizzas. She had me make out a list of each of the girls in my class so she could get enough invitations. When I showed her the list, she told me some of the girls wouldn’t be invited, the black girls.

“Patience, black and white people don’t go to parties together, they aren’t like us. I don’t think they would enjoy coming to our house. Why you would even suggest it is beyond me. I highly doubt their parent’s would even let them. It’s inappropriate and besides, I bet they don’t even own a sleeping bag.” This was the best explanation I got and I still didn’t understand, but that was the way it was.

When I went to school and passed out the invitations. I tried to do it secretly, but they found out. Ronetta, Toneshia and Lawanda didn’t confront me, they stopped playing with me and I didn’t understand. I was sure since my mother knew the rule their mothers must have known it too; black and white girls didn’t do slumber parties together. I didn’t want to be divided into black and white. I wanted us all to be friends, but these were the rules right?

The girls came over one by one, each mother dropping off her child looking at my mother as if to say, “have you lost your mind?" Everyone found a place to unroll their sleeping bags on the carpeted basement floor. Mine had an Indian design that I had picked out, but most were; unicorns, Holly Hobby, flowers and Smurfs. There were pillow fights that got too rough, one girl threw up, too many screams and ghost stories, yelling because some couldn’t hear the Rick Springfield music video on Night Tracks and one girl began spitting up chewed popcorn onto the walls…. on purpose. I went upstairs and slept. The next day I was happy to see them all leave, my mother was angry from lack of sleep and that the girls had made such a mess. She sent me to the basement to clean up. I’m still mad at Mindy Mooney for spitting that popcorn on the walls.

I was labeled prejudice when I returned to school after the horrible slumber party. I had to look up the word in the big dictionary kept on the pedestal in the school library. I was more popular with the County Club girls now and the black girls ignored me on a good day. Other days, they made fun of me; picking on the way I walked, my intelligence level, to even calling me a horse face. Sometimes they pretended they were going to hit me when they passed my desk and they would cut in front of me in the lunch line and dare me to say anything about it, I didn’t. I became one of those compliant white people that began to have a fear of black people. I wouldn’t make eye contact, would move out of the way first if our paths were to cross and I smiled awkwardly when one of them spoke to me. I hung out with the girls that accepted me and I became cautious of the black girls.

I had another party in 9th grade. This one was my idea. It was Christmas and I wanted to invite all 15 cheerleaders to my house for a gift exchange and sleepover. I was really excited about this one. I decorated the basement, put sodas, candy and bags of chips on the bar and dining table. I even had a little tree to put the gifts under. There were three black girls on the squad. I was inviting them no matter what the rules were. I got everyone’s address from our cheerleading coach and gave the invitations to my mother to mail at the post office.

The day of the party finally came; I hadn’t been awake long when I received a phone call. I answered it on my mother’s bedroom phone, she was still in bed.

“Hello Patience, This is Dawn.” Dawn was on the cheerleading squad, one of the sweetest girls I knew. She and I got along well. Her smile was always warm and she had the prettiest mocha skin.

“Oh, Hi Dawn!” I said excitedly. “Are you coming to the par…..” I was interrupted when someone took the phone from Dawn.

“This is Dawn’s Auntie! Who the hell do you think you are? I’ll tell you who you are you white prejudice little bitch, not inviting my niece to your little white girl party! You better hope I don’t see you because I will kick your white girl ass, you little rich bitch!”

I quickly put the phone back on the receiver. I began to sob uncontrollably.  I had sent Dawn an invitation; it was with all the other ones my mother mailed, why hadn’t she gotten it? Maybe I had the wrong address. I felt terrible, I hadn’t wanted to exclude anyone.

My mother called the cheerleading coach. She knew Dawn’s aunt and told my mother she had always been a troublemaker, but this didn’t make me feel any better. I asked the coach to please call Dawn and let her know she was invited and I wanted her to come. I wasn’t about to call and risk having to talk to Auntie again. My mother told the coach she wanted Dawn thrown off the cheerleading squad.

Later that night, the girls started to arrive, not all though. Dawn didn’t come and neither did the other black girls from the squad. The party wasn’t so special anymore and I was still the prejudice bitch.

Disclaimer: You the reader are reading this blog at your own risk. At no time has the writer contacted the reader without their permission in reference to this blog site. If you find the content of this blog offensive you have the right to never visit this site again. The people, location and events have been changed to protect the innocent; any similarities to any persons either living or dead are purely coincidental.

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Oh, Patience. I have a huge lump in my throat. I applaud you for writing such an honest accounting of what you endured -- yes, endured, in spite of your obviously privileged lifestyle. Children get caught in the middle of this insanity all the time. For the unenlightened who think only we who are minority are victims, you have shined a bright light on the ugly truth. Thank you for this wonderful post.

Lezlie
Lezlie, We had a lot of "stuff" that is for sure growing up, but I'm ashamed of my lifestyle, not knowing that other people didn't have "stuff" too. I no longer live that lifestyle and would never have my child tell an adult to clean their room or change their sheets.

When I was married with 2 young children. I hired a mom and daughter to clean my house. They got frustrated with me because I felt bad and helped them clean. They told me to leave the house so they could get their job done! It just didn't feel right.

But this really boils down to prejudices that are past down from generation to generation. I put a stop to that though. You should have seen the look on my mother's face when I brought home my daughter's biological grandmother (bio dad's mom) she was a black woman from Cuba. HaHa
I would have paid to see the look on your mother's face! I relate to your "problem" with letting the cleaning crew do their job. I had housekeeping help all throughout my career because it was so demanding. I would actually CLEAN before they came. I have pride issues and couldn't stand the idea of the crew whispering about what a slob I am. (I'm just the opposite, by the way. Neat freak) :D
Genteel absurd logic here, yet, I bet, it contained some truth, if you can call racist nonsense ‘’truth’’:
“I highly doubt their parent’s would even let them. It’s inappropriate and besides, I bet they don’t even own a sleeping bag.”

The blacks and Hispanics and Asians found our not-so-little suburb, Manchester, “the city of village charm “ as my parents were on their way out….they had “colonized” it in 1947… “only 3 black families in town back then, “ my dad, the principal of the high school, used to say. “I DO like their smiles. Such nice teeth.”

Mom in her 70’s got a crush on a black meteorologist on the weather channel. “So suave! One of the ‘good ones’, not mouthy..” she’d coo..

Ha. Arg.

Good news for society today: I get along better with black folk than whites these days. Not to mention the very polite, uh, brown ones.

Weird place , this town. A lot of wealth. A lot of white old stock Newenglanders comically dealing with their cousins…ha.

“Yo, ma’am, enter, please,” says a nice old black gentleman holding the door for an old lady.
“Oh, thank you sir, you are indeed a gentleman!”
“My momma raised me that way, ma’am,” he might say.
“Such rarities these days, gentlemen…”
“Oh, ma’am, don’t I know it, don’t I know it…it is a crying shame. “ Etc.

Meanwhile, I would like to take the old blue blood aside and school her.
“Ma’am, black people have fine mammas, you may have heard on tv.”
“Oh yes indeed .they do love their mothers…”

Ah, yikes.
Interesting perspective. I'm also struck by how recent all this was, that this was so prevalent as late as the eighties.
Excellent writing. I ended up ostracized from the "popular" crowd in high school for giving a black boy a ride and allowing him to sit in the front seat. I became the token white in a black crowd my junior year, and a hippie my senior year. Now, some of the people from high school who refused to talk to me, have found me on FB. They tell me they think my interracial family is beautiful One said she admired the stand I took in high school and appreciated the way I have lived my life. I actually cried when I read that, and then immediately wondered if she was serious. Silliness. People and situations are delightfully complex.
Wow. It kind of make me glad I was poor. I was raised with Blacks Mexicans, etc,., because my dad was in the military. We all lived on bases and I really didn't know what prejudiced was. My friends black or white would eat and stay over and I would too. But, we were insulated from the rest of the world. When I grew older and moved to the south, I was flabbergasted by the blatant racism. It is better but there will always be racism the same way we will always have ignorance.
Holy god. You're around the age of my daughters (b. 1970 & 72) and they didn't have that many white friends until middle school. Or high school. (Trying to run a quick memory census in my mind ...) Even in Maryland I think the events of your life would have been shocking. I think. Maybe I'm just naive. Thanks for enlightening me. I think.
These stories of prejudice always amaze me. I grew up in Canada at a time when there not many black people. I did not grow up hating them. Wonderfully told story./r
There were a lot of things I missed out on growing up poor. We were treated the same way by the children of privilege. It was years before I figured out it wasn't exactly their fault. We raise our kids to reflect our values.
This was heartbreaking. As Lezlie remarked, what a painful childhood, and what a challenge, to love your mother and believe what she teaches you to be true after that.

My family, while hardly the Waltons, did not teach me to hate people without reason, and I am grateful to them for that. However, my former father-in-law, a salt of the earth daily mass attending Polish Catholic, offered a glimpse. One holiday at the dinner table, he told how his fire department had been forced to hire a 'colored' fireman, and how the white firemen painted their names on their coffee mugs, and made one for him too, their sole motive being that he would not use theirs. My father-in-law was proud of himself and his colleagues for figuring out to how to mask their racist fears of swapping spit with a man who walked into burning buildings with them. I remember telling him that the man knew, of course, he knew! My father-in-law maintained that he did not. He believed sincerely that he had figured out how to be a kind and Christian racist.

One privilege of living white is we're permitted the delusion that racism is over, especially as we look at our handsome black president we elected. Back pats all around, then dusting ourselves off, we'll enjoy the level field we cleared. Racism is not over. Small stories of coffee cups and lost party invitations lead to larger tragic narratives, like Trayvon Martin. We need to witness and to listen. There's not nearly enough of that being done.
Christine, whereabouts in Canada did you grow up? I grew up in Calgary, Redneck Central, and to my parents' generation blacks were (sorry, people) amusing (not that they knew any), Jews were suspicious, and Native Indians, WELL! I was not infected, not out of any innate goodness or intelligence, but because I was a contrary child and, in the privacy of my head, I rejected pretty much everything grown-ups said. It may have been because they took me to the Pentecostal church in my earliest years, and I decided, cynically, that grown-ups were awfully silly and not to be taken too seriously.
How magnificent this read is aside, you portray such an accurate account of our culture. Beautifully sentimental. R
Thanks all for reading and sharing your stories of how you grew up with or without race being a factor. I envy you who didn't have to deal with parents teaching you to dislike someone because of their color. I was raised in the South and it was/can still be really awful, even my grandmother had a racist dog that only barked at black people...how the hell does that happen, I wondered as a kid.

I hope this way of thinking is changing. I have worked really hard to go against everything I was taught. I have a brown child and I think she is most beautiful. Funny, isn't it? When we mix races such beauty comes about.
There was an old house with a black family down the street from our newly laid out Maryland suburb. They did not have running water and one of the men lived in a chicken coop. The family had probably been there since the 19th century. Eventually they were pressured to sell to make way for more of white suburbia. I hope they got twice the market price for their land.

They had almost no interaction with their white neighbors except when some kids flung some old pieces of shingle at their yard frisbee style. Two men began walking toward toward the white owned houses. The kids ran screaming,"The chocolate men are coming!" They were terrified, but the two men simply asked the parents who had come outside to control their kids.

Now that piece of suburbia is no longer new and is racially integrated... again.