File Size: 111 KB
Print Length: 69 pages
Publisher: Dondretta Strong; 1 edition (December 20, 2017)
Publication Date: December 20, 2017
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
C H A P T E R O N E
T H E G E N E S I S
It all started July 2, 1965. This is when God saw the need to create a unique being by the name of Dondretta DeGraffenreid in the small town of Aliceville, 30 miles southeast of Tuscaloosa. This is where you would find the heirs of the late Aaron Harris and Roberta Ball. All of my memories are surrounded by childhood episodes that stem anywhere from chores on the farm to wrestling matches with cousins. When I think of the many days of hot summers and mild winter months, I see a clear picture of what my life was like then. This is where my story begins.
Every morning during school days, I would wake up to the aroma of Momma’s cooking. Grits, sausage, bacon, homemade cheese biscuits, fat back… I couldn’t wait to roll out of bed and step on the cold wooden floor to satisfy my growling stomach. The room would sometimes be dim, cool, and poorly lit before the sunshine appeared through the window. This never stopped me on my mission to a delicious meal Momma prepared. My youngest sister, Cicely, was always slow to move from the comfort of her covers. No matter what the meal nor the call, she would be the last to arrive. My niece Belle would come reluctantly. The three of us would sit and eat as Momma looked from a distance as we enjoyed all the way down to the last stroke of molasses. Then there came Momma’s voice, “Y’all better get up from that table before you miss the bus. C’mon now! Get yo’self-dressed!”
With no indoor plumbing, we fought for the wash pan. My niece, Belle, always won because she was the oldest, and then there was me, finally, Cicely. Our teeth were always white as snow, but baking soda left the mouth dry and tasteless. Well, I would also add it left you thirsty—Oh, but it did the job well. We could hear the bus before it arrived at our door. We also could hear our cousin a half a block down the dirt road yelling, “Here comes the bus!” The bus stopped at his house first, so this was the warning that we should make our way out the door. The three of us would charge out, slamming the screen door behind and Momma yelling back, “Didn’t I tell y’all not to slam that door? Imma whip y’all butts!”
Out the front door, down the dusty pathway to the bus stop, this is where we’d meet our serious cousin, the bus driver. She’d fling open the door and bark, “Hurry up! Get on the bus!” Before we could make our way to a seat, she would hit the gas pedal and of course, we’d all go at an angle to the back of the bus and later come back to the mid-section for a seat. Every morning and afternoon, you could always find noise on the Harris Quarter bus. The noise never prevented me from daydreaming about Friday and Saturday evening. This is when I looked forward to Momma and cousin Bueller as they found their way to their favorite rocking chairs on the front porch. Cuffed in the center of their apron they had tubs of corn to be shucked. The sun would be just starting to set. My cousin and I were done with chores so we would meet up in the front yard with our mason jars lined halfway with grass for the grasshoppers and fireflies we would plan to catch while Momma and cousin Essie Mae would eagerly work to get to the weekend. The next day would be Saturday, which meant a fish fry in the backyard. Momma would convince our adult cousins to head to the creek with fishing poles and rods to catch the biggest of the catfish. “Hurry!” she would say, “I know they biting. We had a fresh rain come through late last night.”
About 4pm Momma and Betty Ann, my oldest sister, has the grease heating on the kitchen stove and backyard burner while one of the cousins from across the road plugs in the extension cord from the socket connected to the ceiling bulb. In the front room my niece Belle is setting up the hi-fi for Johnnie Taylor, “Disco Lady,” Al Green , “Love and Happiness,” Bobby Womach, “If You Think You’re Lonely Now,” BB King, “Thrill is Gone,” The Floaters, “Float On,” The Staple Singers, “Let’s Do It Again,” The Chi-lites, “Have You Seen Her”… I would be remised to leave out Johnny Taylor, “I Believe In You(You Believe In Me).” Before the first .45 or LP hit the record player and the needle went on top, Momma would stand in the middle of the backyard to make the disclaimer “no strong drinks around the children ...beer and wine only. My younger cousins and I, ranging from ages 7 to 10, played hide and go seek, tag, and filled our mason jars with lightening bugs, crickets, and frogs. About the fourth hour, the adults would start to slur their conversation. This brought us to boredom, so we’d start a match of arm wrestling, girls against boys. The girls often walked away with the victory cheer.
On the School Grounds
Ten to fifteen minutes after pick-up, we would find ourselves lined up to walk into the school building. This is where I would meet my girls, Dean, Funda and Besy. Funda came from a large family, but for some reason, I got the impression she felt left out or disconnected from her family. She hardly spoke and there was just something about that brown sweater she wore day after day. I couldn't wait for Monday just to smell the fresh linen that came from the smell of her sweater after being hung on the outdoor cloth line. I never had the heart to say to her ‘A bar of soap could be your best friend.’ Although I thought it many times. Besy came from a large family; most of her siblings were on the same bus as us, and my niece Belle became friends with one of her brothers. Later the two married and had three kids. Then there was Dean. She was quiet and reserved, and eventually went on to build a solid career in a field of her choice. Besy and I remain connected through kinship. Back then, nothing could ever get in the way of us and our chips! BBQ corn chips, sour cream and onion, and classic potato chips... nothing could pry us from them. That includes being disciplined by Mr. West for sneaking out of the classroom to purchase them.
Mr. West, being an ex-military guy, would stand astutely in the doorway with his leather strap waiting for us. All we would hear after that is, “Fields, DeGraffenreid… touch ya toes, touch ya toes, touch ya toes.” Then if that wasn’t enough to his satisfaction, he would say, “Gimme fi’, gimme fi’,” then he would bend our fingers back, and give us five lashes. Afterward, we would sit down with snoopy faces, but in a couple of days, we would do it all over again without thinking twice.
THE NEW GUY FROM DETROIT
March of 1977 is when New Guy From Detroit came to our school. He was “extremely yellow,” fast talking and not so friendly. But he was the type of person who seemed to welcome challenge.
Intermural sports that spring was exciting and New Guy From Detroit was determined to show off. I’ll never forget the look of those tight knit pants he wore. I don’t think he really knew how awful it was for a girl to see a guy in tight, knitted, flooded pants. He thought he was God’s gift to girls… I was only in the 4thgrade. “Hey, girl. Hey, girl,” he continues to tease me about my last name, “Defraf-fra-freed.” I was determined to make him eat those words. The next time he made fun of me, I pushed him. I mean really pushed him. Down we went. I landed on the top, and that’s when my nosy bus driver of a cousin caught a glance as she sat about 400 yards away on her bus with the door open. The news got home before I did.
“DONDRETTA WAS ROLLING ON THE GRASS WITH A BOY!” My cousin told my mother before I reached home. Back then, kids were seen and not heard, so my mother took every word to heart that dripped from my cousin’s lips.
“DONDRETTTAAAA! Your little fast tail… what were you doing rolling around on the grass at that school house with a boy?”
“Momma… what happened was…uh…”
“Don’t but me. Your fast tail is supposed to be getting an education and instead, you are rolling around the grass with a boy!”
“Momma that’s not—” I cried.
“Don’t say another word! If yo’ cousin said you did it, you did it. She is a grown lady. Go pick your switch—go pick it now”
“Don’t you say NOTHIN!”