My Childhood (a memoir excerpt)

By Ellicent Daley

Childhood memories are the most cherished in a person’s life, whether they were good or not so good. Looking back, my childhood days were both good and not so good. I can remember my mother who was just four feet ten, but a little spitfire and my dad, six feet four, but a gentle giant, and my brother, as mean as a star apple tree. You see, the star apple would not fall from the tree, regardless of how ripe it is. If you did not pick it, it would stay on the tree and dry out into nothing.

So who was I? I was this shy, scrawny, back of the class, little girl with a head of hair like that of a horse’s mane, and a texture as curly and rough like steel wool. It was so long and coarse that my mother could not comb it every day. Sunday was my “Mane combing” day, which was an ordeal in and of itself both for mom as well as for me. I was so afraid to have my hair washed and combed that I wish Sunday would never come. I wished the week would stop at Saturday, and begin again on Monday that would skip my ordeal, but that was just “wishful thinking.”

Mom would wash my hair every Sunday, oil, and twist each part and twist them into each other. She would tie my head at night with a scarf and brush it up every morning. Mom would say, “Why ain’t you a boy so I could cut this thing off your head?”

Not only my hair was a problem, but she really wanted me to be a boy because she preferred boys to girls. But who is it that said we have freedom of choice? If we really was free to choose, I would have chosen to be a boy just to please my mother then I would get some of the love she showered on my brother. She would refer to him as her, “loving stomach.” But I was glad I was born a girl. Girls are gentle, delicate, tender, dainty, lovely and all that goes with being a female. Girls can be dressed in the prettiest little dresses, hair can be adorned with ribbons, wearing the little pattern leather shoes with frilly socks. That was how mom dressed me. Whereas boys can only be dressed in pants, a shirt and tie. People would always compliment me, “What a pretty little girl you are with all that hair.” That made me feel special. Mom didn’t like me getting all that attention from strangers, and my brother was not being complimented.

Mom was the disciplinarian. She would not fail to use the strap for the smallest things. My brother and I would hide the strap so mother would send us to cut the redwood switch, but then we were a step ahead of her. We would use the knife to cut around the switch, so with each strike of the whip, it would break. Mother caught onto our trick, so she started wearing an apron with a pocket. This was where she kept the strap. “Hide my strap now,” mom would say. Mom was just four foot two, but she was a little spitfire. She was always busy caring for the family. She was an excellent cook, a work from home dressmaker, but with all her busy family life, she would find the time to care for the sick in our area.

People who have sick family members would come get her at any hour of the night, and she would light her lantern, and go and administer to the sick. Dad would say, “But Ina, you can’t go this late, who will come back with you?”

“Don’t worry Vic. I’ll soon be back. God will protect me.”

Most times she would not return until morning, but she was certain to come back on time to make breakfast and get my brother and I ready for school. Mom was called “the lady with the lantern.” She had a good, kind heart always ready to hear the burden and sorrows of others and especially those she loved. 

Dad was six feet four. He was a gentle giant. The laid-back parent, but one who instilled morals in his children with words instead of the strap. I can remember a code dad would often use. “Before you speak ill of your neighbor, ask yourself these three questions: Is it right? Is it true? Is it necessary?”

Another he would use especially to my brother who would always lie, dad would say, “A liar is not believed even when he speak the truth.”

He was a stone mason by trade, a farmer, a good husband and father, and a good provider. He loved his family.

 

I was daddy’s little girl.

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