From 1976 to 1984 I lived in Mississippi and raised some goats, children and chickens. These are four of the goats. They needed their hoofs trimmed. I could talk their language. Recently I realized that it would have been a lot less trouble to go buy a couple of gallons of milk instead of milking all those goats twice a day, buying their feed and trying to keep them confined before I gave that up and just let them wander the area, losing garden after garden as they figured out how to break in and eat it. However, it was an experience for the whole family that would not have been replicated by buying milk.
You can read more about those years in these posts:
I spent much time in the summer of 1967 at my Uncle Louis’ cottage in Idlewild, MI. I was there when the Detroit Riot/Rebellion broke out and remember driving into the city on that first Sunday when it began. You can read more about that here Detroit Rebellion Journal.
I spent a lot of time that summer swimming and skating. I don’t have any photos of me skating but I have this whole series of a dive. My sister Pearl, my cousin Jan and my mother also make brief appearances. My Uncle Henry took the photos.
When I was growing up we spent Saturdays at my mother’s parents house, along with my cousins Dee Dee and Barbara and later, Marilyn. When the weather was good we spent it outside in the backyard. There was a vegetable garden, lots of flowers and space for anything we could think of.
In the summer of 1953 I turned 7 in August. Dee Dee turned 10 in September. Barbara had already turned 6 in January. Pearl was 4.5 until December. Poppy was 64. He would retire in December of that year when he turned 65. The yard was surrounded on all sides by a wooden fence that made it feel like a world apart. In the photographs I can see the big house across the alley and a factory on Warren but when I was playing in the yard I didn’t much notice those things.
Pearl and I are holding dolls and I have a purse I remember getting when we lived in Springfield, MA. A young lady who might have been the church secretary had a grown up purse just like it. It was brown leather and had a golden metal clasp that turned to open and close. Looks like collards with the poison Poppy sprinkled to kill the cabbage worms. I think I see a little cabbage butterfly holding on to the underside one of the leaves.
I am standing up at the table where Barbara and I are making something. Dee Dee is sitting on the arm of the swing. She was probably taking Pearl somewhere on the magic carpet (aka swing) the rider would have to say “Geni of the magic carpet, go, go, go!” and then Dee Dee would take you someplace magic. She would tell you where it was when it was time for you to get out of the swing. Dee Dee was in charge of all the magic. Each of our households had a little, invisible fairy that lived in the mud castle we built and rebuilt at the foot of the apple tree. Their’s was named Lucy and ours was Pinky. She also kept a box full of prizes that she gave out at appropriate times. I remember packages of soda crackers, prizes from cereal boxes and pieces of chewing gum.
Here Pearl and I are standing on the grassy part of the yard. The flowers are in full bloom behind us with the vegetables back behind them. We often made the saw horses into mounts. I see my purse over there on the grass to the left.
I have participated in Sepia Saturday for so many years that it is hard for me to come up with new photos when the same sorts of prompts come around. This week I am recycling a post from 2012.
“They set up a table in our room with a white tablecloth and a test tube bud vase. It was a good meal. I had thought I wouldn’t be able to have the dinner and had to call Jim at the Reeses to come eat. I had been on a special diet until that afternoon. James slept very nicely through the whole meal.”
Story of James Birth From His Baby Book – 1982
James was born during an ice storm. Actually the ice storm began the day before he was born. We went into Jackson (we were living about half an hour away in Simpson County at the time) when the storm started because I started having mild contractions about the same time. We stayed with a family with 6 children Jim worked with sometimes in printing. The first night I woke up and the contractions were stronger and we went to the hospital, but they faded away at the hospital and we went back to the Reece’s house. She said she knew I wasn’t really in labor because I was checking on everyone before I left. The next day my water broke and there was some meconium staining in the show. We went back to the hospital around 2 in the afternoon. I said I hoped they wouldn’t have to send me home again but Dr Barnes said since my water broke I wouldn’t be leaving until the baby came.
I was in the same birthing suite I used when Tulani was born. And had the same nurses. They hooked me up to the monitor because of the meconium and even attached a wire to James head to “get a better reading”. I remember thinking as I was laying there listening to the nurses talking and going about their business, that there I was laying there in labor and yet they were living their regular lives. They weren’t actually involved in it at all. I imagine it’s sort of like when you’re dying. But that’s neither here nor there.
I started pushing at 6:30PM and figured the baby would be born soon. After an hour of second stage labor and pushing the head still wasn’t engaged. I remarked between contractions that I hoped it wasn’t going to take me until midnight for the baby to be born. (I said that because each of the babies was born three hours later then the last one and Tulani was born around 9 PM.) Dr. Barnes said they weren’t going to wait that long, if he (she was sure it was a boy because he was causing so much trouble, she said) wasn’t born in an hour she was going to do a c-section. That hadn’t even entered my mind. Soon she sent all the nurses that were waiting for the birth off to get ready. I tried getting on my knees like I had with Ayanna, but to tell the truth, the mood was ruined. I just wanted to get the whole thing over with. If the baby was going to require a c-section, just go on and do it, I thought. Of course afterwards I wondered if I’d tried pushing awhile longer if he would have come on down.
On the way to the delivery room I asked Dr. Barnes if she would tie my tubes since I was going to be opened up and she said yes and I didn’t have to sign any papers, I think Jim did. And she gave me a tubal. Afterwards, when I found out that once you have a c-section you don’t always have to have a c-section if it’s not structural, I wished I hadn’t.
James was born at 8:17PM. He was 22 and 3/4 inches long and weighted 8 lbs and 12 ozs. He was fine and nursed fine and kept on growing. His Apgar score was 9 at one minute and 10 at three minutes.
My mother told me that we should name James for my husband. So we did. She was very ill with cancer and died five months later without having ever seen baby James.
Detroit March to Freedom down Woodward Ave. 1963. Can you find my father?
On April 4, 1968 when Martin Luther King Jr was murdered, I was a senior art major at Wayne State University in Detroit. I was walking across campus with Jim, who is now my husband, when some Rufus and Brenda Griffin stopped and told us what had happened. They offered me a ride home. I lived in the house at 5397 Oregon with my mother and Henry.
I remember going to school the next day and being in my printmaking class when my mother, who NEVER appeared in my classes, walked into the room to tell me riots were breaking out. Dufield, her school had closed (she was a teacher) and we left. We passed a small group of high school students marching down West Grand Blvd. but no violence.
Either that night or the next I was taken to the airport before the curfew so that I could meet my sister Pearl, who was coming in from Howard University, which had been closed due to the disturbance. She was a sophomore. We spent the night at the airport hotel. This assassination, both in itself and coming after so many others was so depressing. I was 21.
The photo above is from my Graham grandparent’s book “A Treasury of Fun”. They received it soon after their marriage in 1919. Although of a certain time and place, it says “home” to me. Maybe I read too many old books. Below is a collage of 4 of my many homes. Click images to enlarge.
When I was growing up, home was where my family lived. I didn’t think about how long we’d be there or where it was, it was home. And when we moved again (as we regularly did), the new place was home. Our familiar furniture and books were there. We ate together in breakfast or dining room, the familiar food. My sister and I did our same chores.
When I was 13 we moved into the first house we bought. We lived there almost 10 years, longer than any place else I lived up to that point. It was at 5397 Oregon. Because it was where we lived the longest, memories of home often center on this house. When I was a senior in college we moved to a 2 family flat with my grandparents. By that time I was planning my escape out into the world and that flat always felt temporary. In 6 month I graduated and was gone.
During my early years on my own, the house I lived in wasn’t always “home”. In my early 20s, I moved 7 times in 3 years. Living in back rooms, attics, other people’s houses, temporary apartments, always waiting/watching for the next place to go.
It usually takes a certain amount of time for a place to feel like home to me. Some places feel more friendly than others. After a year it begins to feel permanent, even though none have been forever so far. Although we usually move everything, or most everything, with us, several times we have not been able to and then home feels bare until we can replace the missing things with different ones. I still wish I could go back and get some of them – the roll top desk, the dressers.
Family, both in the house and in the area, make a house feel like home. A dining table where the household sits and eats meals and plays games. Puzzles, plants, paper, pencils, tools and photographs are always there. Space to work on projects.
In June of 1980 my sister Pearl and her daughter visited us in our home on St. John’s Road Mississippi. My husband, Jim, took this photo of both of us and our children. The one with her eyes closed is Pearl’s daughter. I thought it would be interesting to take an entry from her journal, as it appears in her new book “Things I Should Have Told My Daughter – Lies, Lessons & Love Affairs” by Pearl Cleage and, since I wasn’t keeping a journal at the time, take old letters and put something of what was happening in my life at the time.
Pearl had recently moved to her own apartment, leaving her husband and devoting her time to writing and figuring out freedom. From Pearl’s journal about her life in Atlanta …
“June 5, 1980
I have just discovered the only advantage to freelancing. You get to be stoned while you earn a living. Unfortunately, that is also true of rock and roll stars, actors who are lucky enough to be cast in Robert Altman films, Rastafarians, and particularly foolhardy circus preformers. I think it also applies to the construction crews that do most of the renovations that I know about. It also applies to artists of all kinds, but since I was talking about freelancing, which is a way of making money, let’s leave the art out of it, shall we?”
Meanwhile, several states over in Mississippi…June 17, 1980 from a letter to my father
How’s it going? It’s hot, hot, hot here. It’s been a strange weekend. Kibibi – the 25 year old woman who lived a weird summer with us at Luba when we first came to MS was shot 3 times in the head by her 10 month baby’s daddy during an argument. It was such a ridiculous, unexpected, stupid thing.
I remember Kibibi sister’s husband coming up the stairs of the house on stilts and telling us about the shooting. Given that the civil rights violence had barely ended, it seemed horribly sad that she was shot to death by her daughter’s father.
My sister and I running by the dunes at Ipperwash, on Lake Huron in Canada. It was 1960. I was 14 and would start Northwestern High School in September. Pearl was 12 and still at McMicheal Junior High School. The lake is in the background but the strange distortions at the top make it difficult to tell what is there.
My mother and Uncle Henry had been trying to find a place to spend weekends and vacations out of Detroit. That weekend we had driven through various towns and country to reach Ipperwash. There was a wide beach and cars could drive on it. The beach itself was all open to the public. I remember the house we looked at was like a big farm house and had beds all over, in the attic and in the several bedrooms. We spent the night at a cabin the realtor had and left early the next morning. They decided not to buy there because of the cars on the beach and the public.
I remember driving their or home through a rainy day. Looking through the car window at the towns we drove through, everything summer green, but greyed by the gloomy day.
The Ipperwash Crisis – While looking for photo of the beach, I found that during WW 2 the Canadian Federal Government expropriated the land of the Stoney Point First Nation with promises to return it after the war. The war ended, the land wasn’t returned. In 1995 members of the Stoney Point First Nation occupied the land in protest. There was a cemetery located in what was now called the Ipperwash Camp. During the protests an unarmed member of the protesters was shot and killed. The land was to be returned to the Stoney Point First Nation but it hasn’t been completed yet. You can read more about it at the link above.
I wrote this soon after the birth of my second daughter, Ife in 1973. We had been in Atlanta almost a year. Jim was printing and I was working at the Institute of the Black World doing clerical work. My sister Pearl and her husband lived within walking distance. Jilo attended preschool at Martin Luther King preschool.
March 29, 1973 – 9am – 8lbs 3 ounces – Holy Family Hospital, Atlanta, GA
I continued working at the Institute of the Black World until Monday, March 27, when the braxton hicks contractions were too uncomfortable. For the next three days I slept until 1 or 2 PM or later. Jilo was at school and Jim at work. We were living in a duplex at 2600 Cascade Rd. SW in Atlanta.
At midnight of the 28th the contractions became regular. I threw up. They were not too hard. Jim timed them. He’d read a chapter of a book about birthing this time. Daddy called about 12:30. At 4:10 we called Dr. Borders. Contractions were 8 minutes apart. Pearl and Michael took us to the hospital. Jilo stayed with them. I had one contraction on the way, about a twenty minute trip.
I was checked in, shaved with a dull razor, given an enema. It seemed like the contractions were gone forever. They weren’t. Jim was a lot of help saying don’t panic, don’t breath so fast. I really didn’t need to pant except when they were checking the dilation then it was so cold. In fact the room was freezing and next time I’ll wear a sweater.
Dr. Borders checked every half hour. At 8:30 am, I felt a mild desire to push and told Dr. Borders. She said go ahead and I was moved to the delivery room. Although I had been drowsy I immediately woke up alert and not at all tired. However once again the contractions disappeared. No one panicked though, they just sat and waited. At this time I kept expecting Dr. Borders to say it was taking too long and she’d have to give me a spinal. The nurses tried to help find the right breathing breath, breath push and confused me at first. The contractions were mild and not strong, they said, so gave me something to strengthen them. The one nurse pushed down on the stomach while I pushed. Jim was there in blue but didn’t get to say much. I was quite discouraged, but Dr. Borders said it was coming along and finally THE HEAD CAME OUT! I didn’t feel it come down or anything, it just popped out, I had an episiotomy. The cord as around her neck, but Dr. Borders got it off and out came Ife. It was something as I said before. They showed her to me and they hit her heels and she started crying. She had dark hair. They took prints, cleaned her nose, etc. And it was cold again. I got a heated blanket and we all congratulated each other. It took awhile to get stitched. I felt fine. I didn’t go to recovery, just to the room. Ife was supposed to come with me, both my doctor and her pediatrician okayed it, but the nurses never brought her. They told me her temp had to stabilize.
I felt fine, excellent, never really bothered by stitches. Roommate was weird, had a c-section and kept saying morbid things and complaining. A real drag. I had rooming in. I nursed her when she wanted and was never engorged.
I hadn’t realized before that my first daughter’s birth had been so messed up by the hospital staff coming in every five minutes like it as a public event, my Doctor’s lack or interest and knowledge of natural childbirth, Jim’s absence and lack of knowledge of how to help, the length of labor.
In Ife’s birth all of these things had an influence on me, which I hadn’t realized until labor really started. If I had known I was only going to be 4-5 hours in labor at the hospital instead of 14 and that Ife would indeed get herself born without forceps, etc. I would have been more relaxed and could have enjoyed it more. Things to remember next time-take a sweater, take a bag or breath under covers to avoid hyperventilation, which puts you out of it. THE BABY WILL COME OUT! Get a single room, leave as soon as possible, the hospital that is.