I grew up in the lower middle class, in a neighborhood populated by Appalachians who streamed north from Kentucky, West Virginia and Tennessee during World War II in search of work. They found it in the Dayton factories churning out airplane engines for the war effort.
It was a pretty neighborhood when I was a small child, full of graceful old houses with small front lawns and huge trees growing in the narrow strips between the sidewalks and the curbs. In a few places, mounting blocks resembling tiny stone sofas still resided in those tree lawns, a relict of the days when people traveled by horse or carriage, instead of by car. My sister, Rita, and I used to kneel on one of those sofas, lining up our mudpies for sale along the back.
In the early 1960's an influx of Dutch Elm disease and maple blight all but eliminated the trees, leaving the houses lumpy and exposed, like the bald head of an old woman with her wig removed.
Still, it was a good place to grow up, where youthful entrepreneurs sold Kool-Aid for 2 cents a glass between games of kickball and Hollywood tag. I can remember struggling to get a hula hoop to twirl around my scrawny hips as the warm March afternoon cooled into a chilly March evening until, finally, the street lights came on and it was time to get into the house -- or else.
Since then, fifty years of urban blight and multi-generational welfare has stripped the remaining beauty from my old neighborhood. It's now a ghetto to another group of migrants, and I pity them for the chain-link-fence-and-plywood-over-the-windows ugliness their children are forced to grow up with.
Told you all that to tell you this: The downside of growing up in the lower middle class (or anywhere below that economically) is that you don't experience a lot of things, growing up, that wealthier children do. For example, I was in my late twenties before I ever flew in an airplane. And nearly forty before I first visited New York City.
Now, next month, I'm going to repeat both experiences. I'm heading for NYC in March to attend the Story conference, where Robert McKee will, for four 10-hour days, attempt to impart some of his encyclopedic knowledge of how to build a good story to me and a bunch of other pilgrims.
To tell you the truth, I'm kind of scared, because this is not something I'm used to doing, this jetting off to the big city.
But I'm going.
Last Week's Winners:
My character is a French gentleman who lived three or four hundred years ago.
He is highly intelligent and competent. He gets along well with the other employees, except when they make fun of his rather large nose.
He is shocked to learn that the company has decided to let him go.
He marches into his boss's office and waves his sword about as he shouts:
"What would you have me do? Seek out a powerful protector, cling like a leeching vine to a tree? CRAWL my way up again? No thank you!"
His boss tries to placate him: "Take it easy, Cyrano. Calm down."
Steven G:(Happy Birthday, Old Friend!)
I'm Dicey Washington. A few years back, I got fired by that sonofabitch that's been tryin' to keep me in his employment all my life.
Y'all know me, or as least you kids know old black grandma's like me with our age and wisdom and all. Let me tell all you kids somethin'. I was on top one time, I had it all. But when it all came down around me, yeah, and it bit me on my arrogant ass, I layed down in complete, lost despair one drunken night and waited for a train to run me over and smash every bit of pain outta my life in an instant. That's when I remembered the stupidest, most silly thing you could imagine. Child, I heard that song in my head from Momma's church so long ago when they all made us sing, " Yes, Jesus loves me...yes, Jesus loves me."
I was the youngest girl in a family of eight kids, and every one of them except me, lived a life of sin and misery. I did too, until I was layin' on those train tracks on my birthday, That was Feburary 13th back in 1984 when I was just sixty two years old. You kids wanna celebrate Black History? Y'all need to understand Jesus first. The man who fired me was....you ready for this? It was Satan himself! He stood over me, laughin' mean on those railroad tracks as that train came closer and louder....and I just squeezed hard that rusty old goldish plated cross around my neck that Mommy had given me when I turned 12. I looked him in his black hole eyes and cried as I started singin', "Yes, Jesus loves me, yes Jesus loves me. Yes Jesus loves me, the Bible tells me so..."
Satan FIRED me then and there, with his fire and brimstone cracklin', but I jumped off them tracks and cried out as loud as I could as the train screamed by, "You can't fire me, You can't fire me, you devil, 'cause I quit! I quit you! From this moment forward, I'm workin' for for your MASTER, YOU BASTARD!!! God forgive, but that's just what I said. I ain't never looked back, And God help me, I'll never ever take it back. Praise Jesus!
So, y'all enjoy Black History Month, but remember, bein' black or white ain't got nothin' to do with it. Nothin' at all.
This Week's Prompt:
My clearest childhood memory is....