|Posted on April 15, 2018 at 5:25 PM|
Annie Mae’s House
The train ride seemed long from Dunn, NC to Baltimore, MD. We caught a taxi-cab ride from the train station to Annie Mae’s third floor one-bedroom apartment on Linden Avenue. This is where she resided with her two teenage sons, Garrison and Five-Cent. She also worked nearby at the neighborhood lounge as a barmaid. The depth of love that Annie Mae felt for her sister by raising the three of us was remarkably profound. Months earlier the two promised each other that if anything ever happened to either of them, they would care for the other’s children.
A motherless child herself, Annie Mae and baby sister, Bernie were the youngest of six daughters of Robert (Bob) and Cora Clark. Their mother died during childbirth of a seventh child when they were only toddlers too. Except for one sister, Mable who died by food poisoning, the other three sisters were grown.
Granddaddy Bob was later remarried to Georgetta –-from Georgia. They moved to Baltimore to start a new life. The two little girls were left behind, and court ordered to be raised by their mother’s sister, Great Aunt Ruth Ann. Overwhelmed and stressed, a child abuse case eventually brought both little girls to Baltimore to live with their father, Bob and stepmother, Georgetta.
In 1957, when Annie Mae became a sixteen-year-old teenage mother, Granddaddy Bob made her quit school. She stayed home to care for her baby boy, Garrison. Two years later another son Allen (nicknamed Five-cent) was born. Later in life she went to night school and earned her High School Diploma. Her untimely pregnancy was also during the time Grandma Georgetta was expecting a baby girl, Rachel and a few years later, little Beatrice.
Before we were a twinkle in Momma Mittie's eyes, she would send for her two small nephews, Garrison and Five-cent. She helped to raise the boys for her teenage sister Annie Mae. By this time Aunt Bernie had her first son, Terrell. He would also spend time with Momma Mittie in Dunn, NC. This could have been one of the reasons Annie Mae felt so obligated to raise the three of us. She was overly protective and very strict but the three of us stayed together because of her outspokenness and strong determination. Some say, "she could cuss like a sailor and hold her liquior."
The family’s child abuse and domestic violence legacy began long before we were born though. It continued throughout several generations. Like so many other African American families, we were victims of “the slave mentality” - feelings of inferiority complexes, verbal and physical abuse coupled with depression, drugs and alcohol.
Often, we thought Annie Mae was the meanest woman that ever walked the face of the earth. But we knew better. She had a huge caring heart and shared a lot of the little we had with many others who were less fortunate. She was the backbone of our existence and we loved her for it – mean and all!
One thing for sure, she never allowed us to forget Momma Mittie and how she was killed and we could never call Annie Mae, "Mother!"
Categories: Short Story Series