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An Only Child’s Perspective

doodle55bug May 15, 2015
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I am an only child and from another era. Perspective that develops with having siblings does not exist in ONLY children. Author Linda Sunshine is quoted as saying “ If you don’t understand how you could love your sister dearly and still want to wring her neck, you are probably an only child.”

Daddy was my in-control strong male figure and as a Pullman Porter, provided an excellent income for a Black man back in those days. and Mom was the stay-at-home when I started nursery school at 3; my earliest memory of my existence. We lived in a large apartment building in a section of Harlem called Sugar Hill: The building was awash with activity from families with children my age and couples that I remember. I don’t ever remember our apartment not being a hub of activity. Mom was an excellent seamstress, and created garments from scratch, which made her extremely popular. The formal gown I wore for my fifth birthday party at the Hotel Theresa, she created. The affair drew 53 tuxedo wearing boys and gowned girls to the center-fold of the N.Y. Amsterdam News. It was the society event of the season, and free advertising for her creations.

After being away for 2-3 days at a stretch, my father would come home with hugs and kisses. I cultivated some kind of attitude as my Mother also called him “Daddy” and hugged on him way too long, to my liking.. I can actually remember physically separating them. Looking back on it, it must have been funny to both of them, but I was serious. He was MY daddy!!! He always had 2 comic books for me upon every return; Margie’s Little Lulu and Archie. Of course, he had to get a good report from my mother that I had behaved while he was away. It was a hard task for me to manage. Yes, I was a handful and I would scowl as my mother could read off a litany of complaints he would address. Any rebuttal on my part would prompt: “Are you calling your mother a liar?” from him. My perspective of course was that she always embellished the incident. I learned to keep quiet. Chances are I did talk back which was high on the list of no-no’s. Bottom line, I had to listen to “the lecture” from him about the sins of misbehaving. I was sassy and my mother always said my mouth would get me in lots of trouble, which it did as I matured. . But that’s another story. I got the comic books. I got the tricycle/bicycle, I got the doll house, etc. I did learn how to follow the rules in order to maintain being “Daddy’s girl”.

I remember the specific incident that changed the path the three of us were on when I was confronted by 3 older boys one Sunday morning coming back from Amsterdam Avenue after buying the Sunday News. I had begged and pleaded to go alone. My father, who had watched nervously from the Lobby of the apartment house came barreling out to meet his crying child and somehow canvassed the neighborhood until he tracked them down, with police assistance of course. The details of the capture are sketchy. I do remember him scooping me up on his return, sweaty and breathing hard, as I was still shaking, and announce to my mother that we were moving to the suburbs (Queens). Wow!!! My daddy was buying me a house as he put it. I was barely 9 years old.

When we moved into our new home, I was seriously confronted with the Lonely Only syndrome. I made friends, true, but rainy days magnified this new awareness. With apartment dwellers no longer available to provide distraction, living in a home environment the closeness I was familiar with was now gone. At 9 years of age, Public School was now a supreme challenge as I was now surrounded by blond hair and blue eyes. Before we left Harlem, I had attended an exclusive Black private school with a special emphasis on the contribution of African-Americans to American culture giving me a working knowledge of my heritage and self-respect. I was not prepared for this new reality.

I had raised my hand in class that day contesting the “discovery” of America by Christopher Columbus to my class and teacher, giving a valid argument I thought. American history had yet to evolve. I was summarily sent to the principal’s office for insubordination and a well placed called home to my parents. I was terrified!!

Daddy was home and was coming up to the school. I was so afraid as to how he would react to this charge of misbehavior. School year had just started and already I was in trouble. This type of thing had never happened before. While I didn’t understand grownup talk, I understood my father appeared more upset with the principal as he knelt at my chair, insisting to hear what I had to say first; much different when confronted with behavior questioned by my mother, I remember.

The infancy of the Civil Rights Movement, before it even had a name had men like my father. I only remember that the tone of the meeting changed after once more getting a litany of transgressions I’d committed. He countered with the question to the offended educators: “what did YOU do to her?” I was feeling secure, even if he had a few choice words for me as we walked home from 4th grade hand in hand that day. Something was still missing though. Daddy’s love was all of a sudden not enough. I knew a sister to share what I was experiencing in this new world was the answer. Down time from an only child’s perspective is that there is no one else to help share it. I was nine years old that day and as he and I were approaching the house I made my feelings known You want a WHAT???

Well the move was on. I pushed hard for my campaign and by the time I was 11, 2 years later, foster parent proceedings were in the final stages. My parents and I had been interviewed by social workers: 2 that I remember. As an adult, I can only imagine what paperwork my parents went through. The morning after we had been finally accepted is clearly embedded in my memory. My mother sat me down to talk. I couldn’t wait for the longed for “sibling” to arrive and was daydreaming on what I perceived as being the answer to all my dilemmas. I was looking forward to having a companion on so many levels. School was still an issue that required navigating on tiptoe…again another story.

The unfolding went something like this. Mommy and I sat at the dining room table, with the chandelier gleaming overhead. I remember thinking that I would soon have help cleaning that monster the upcoming holiday season. She sat forward in the chair with her hands clasped in front of her on the table. I sat back in my chair wrapped in my reverie of the perks of my new sister. “Ok sweetheart, we are at the point of no return and I want it clear in your head what will happen next…” she started. …Uh-oh, here she goes, bursting yet another bubble of mine. I was secure in the knowledge that things were about to change. After all, Daddy was committed to this. I was ready! “…What do you mean Mommy?” I already knew she’d be about my age and have what was then the guest room next to mine. There were two bedrooms and bathroom on the upper floor; my parents bed and bath on the main floor. Many a thunderstorm or a horror movie experience would send me barreling me down the stairs and pole vaulting into their bed. That would end with the new addition to the family. I had it all figured out in my 12 year old brain.

Ever so patiently, she continued: “You won’t be getting the clothes, shoes or games you are accustomed to. “You will have to share.” “I understand Mommy”, I responded quickly. “You always tell me I have too much. I’ll just learn how too share.” I shrugged it off. What’s the big deal. Even I was amazed at my “deep” understanding at the concept of sharing. I had wanted a walking, talking doll for my next birthday. They were the craze at the time. . Blah, blah, blah… She droned on and on. “… and you just won’t be the only one anymore. You will have to share your father. “ I froze.

Share MY daddy!!! I became like a deer frozen on the road in the glare of headlights as the car bore down on the defenseless creature. The mantra repeated over and over in my mind freezing me in the reality of her last statement. My young mind hadn’t given the dynamics of that concept any real thought at all. Share MY daddy!!! Share MY daddy!!! Share MY daddy!!! I was still hard pressed sharing my father with my mother. Funny how reality can wreck havoc with our perceptions. I’m not sharing my daddy with anyone. “Send her back!!. She can’t come here’. I blurted out. My mother just sat back in her chair…smiling!!

I maintained my position, with both my daddy and rainy days intact. However, being 12 years old at the time, and at the precipice of puberty, it would only be a matter of time until daddy would transform into the Incredible Hulk at the sight of the b word…boys!!! But then that’s another story.

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  1. James Warren May 15, 2015

    This is WONDERFUL! Thank you so much for sharing your story. It truly made my day. I can’t wait to read more about your background and experiences growing up!

  2. James Warren May 15, 2015

    Also, a suggestion: if you want to connect with a larger audience, share your story with your social networks.

  3. theellyedit July 28, 2015

    I felt at times I was right there watching the scene unfold in front of me! Beautiful storytelling.


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