Just about everyone has his or her “awkward teenage” phase. My teenage angst was rooted in the race division of Williamsburg, VA, a small town where I spent my middle school and high school years. Like many towns, Williamsburg was ,and perhaps still is, divided by race and class. Consequently, I was the only Black girl living in a gated, golf resort community situated on 2,900 acres.
Being the “only.” was cool for a while: I was the only black person in my school, my church, my neighborhood. Race issues were something that I learned about in History class. I happily went with my friends to the Police, Def Leppard, Joan Jett, Duran Duran concerts, dances, movies. I was part of the crew—somewhat.
But, around the time that the neighborhood spin the bottle games started, my difference seemed to matter to my friends, which really made it matter to me. Teenagers spend an exorbitant amount of energy trying to fit in and no clothes or make-up, would allow my Blackness to blend. I, in a teenage rage, insisted that I go to public school or that I would drop out of school altogether. Surprisingly, my no-nonsense mother acquiesced.
When I started at the new school, I was so happy to be around so many people who looked like me. But let’s just say, they weren’t as excited to welcome me. On my first day, a skinny girl named Vern squared up, with a cheering and watching crowd, to kick my ass because I evidently thought I was cute. Huh? I was called “white girl”, oreo, etc. endlessly throughout that first year.
The White folks certainly weren’tinviting me to their tables at lunch either. We, students, may have all been placed in the same school to ensure an equal education, however, it was certainly still separate.
I didn’t feel as if Ibelonged anywhere. I definitely wasn’t White; but it didn’t seem as if I was Black-enough.
But then I met Ms. Pauline,mother to my favorite classmate, Tracie Edwards. I would take the bus home with Tracie and Ms.Pauline always just treated me like all of the other “chillin”, who were hanging around her house.. “Girl, I know you hungry. Get you some Nuuu Nuuus .”She didn’t care where I lived, how I spoke, if I was light skin or dark, she just saw me.
She was just who I needed. Myangel.
No week passed that I didn’t go to Tracie’s house. As soon as I walked in the door, I would see Ms. Pauline. She’d be sitting in the kitchen, sewing a dress for somebody’s prom or wedding, and we’d sit in the kitchen. I’d share a bit of gossip and she’d chuckle “go on” as she bent over and laughed.
Some afternoons, while Tracie would take her daily naps, I would again be in the kitchen with Ms. Pauline watching The Young & The Restless. We couldn’t get enough of Victor Newman and his shenanigans. One of my fondest memories of growing up is eating Nuuus Nuuus and watching Newman with Ms. Pauline in her kitchen.
When I became an adult, Ms.Pauline and I became friends. Time and distance did their damage, but we would talk from time to time. She would call me over the years when she didn’t like a situation that Tracie was in. I would also tell her my concerns in life. After my mother passed away, it became too painful for me to come to Williamsburg; but I came so my kids and husband could meet Ms. Pauline. They needed to know her.
I drove them to her home from memory. I don’t know many addresses from memory anymore, but I’ll never forget 105 Indigo Terrace because it became my second home, my safe place. Ms. Pauline was always there, in the kitchen with a dog and usually afew kids around her ready to give me some time, a laugh, and some food.
I loved her. I will continue to love her. She was an angel here on earth, so there is no doubt that she is in heaven right now, it her rightful place.
My intention is for Black people to love themselves and each other. It sounds somewhat silly, I guess; but oftentimes my people are overwhelmed with negative images, bad news, and stereotyped characters about us. I’d like to flip that script. I’d like to remind us, as often as I can, how incredible we are. Read more