- زمان مطالعه 19 دقیقه
- سطح ساده
دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»
این فصل را میتوانید به بهترین شکل و با امکانات عالی در اپلیکیشن «زیبوک» بخوانید
متن انگلیسی فصل
A New Family
One Christmas we received gifts from our mother and father, who lived separately in a heaven called California. We had been told that in California they could have all the oranges they could eat and the sun shone all the time. I was sure that wasn’t true. I couldn’t believe that our mother would laugh and eat oranges in the sunshine without her children. Until that Christmas when we received the gifts, I had been confident that they were both dead.
Then came that terrible Christmas with its awful presents when our father, with the pride I later learned was typical, sent his photograph. My gift from Mother was a tea set and a doll with blue eyes and rosy cheeks and yellow hair painted on her head. I don’t know what Bailey received, but after I opened my boxes I went out to the backyard behind the tree. The day was cold. Frost was still on the bench, but I sat down and cried. I looked up and Bailey was coming toward me, wiping his eyes. He had been crying too. I didn’t know if he had also told himself they were dead and had been shocked by the truth, or whether he was just feeling lonely. The gifts opened the door to questions that neither of us wanted to ask. Why did they send us away? What did we do so wrong? Why, at three and four, were we sent by train alone from Long Beach, California, to Stamps, Arkansas, with notes attached to our arms and only the conductor to look after us?
Bailey sat down beside me, and that time didn’t tell me not to cry. So I cried, but we didn’t talk until Momma called us back in the house.
“You children are the most ungrateful things I ever saw,” she said. “You think your mother and father took all the trouble to send you these nice presents to make you go out in the cold and cry?”
Neither of us said a word. Momma continued, “Sister, I know you’re tender-hearted, but Bailey Junior, there’s no reason for you to be crying just because you got something from Vivian and Big Bailey.” When we still didn’t force ourselves to answer, she asked, “You want me to tell Santa Claus to take these things back?” I wanted to scream, “Yes. Tell him to take them back.” But I didn’t move.
Later Bailey and I talked. He said that if the things really did come from Mother, maybe it meant that she was getting ready to come and get us. Maybe she had just been angry at something we had done, but was forgiving us and would send for us soon. Bailey and I tore the insides out of the doll the day after Christmas, but he warned me that I had to keep the tea set in good condition because any day or night she might come riding up.
A year later our father came to Stamps without warning. It was awful for Bailey and me to meet the reality so suddenly. We, or at least I, had built such strong dreams about him and our mysterious mother that seeing him tore my inventions apart like a hard pull on a paper chain. He arrived in front of the Store in a clean gray car. (He must have stopped just outside of town to wipe it in preparation for the “grand entrance.”) His bigness shocked me. His shoulders were so wide I thought he’d have trouble getting in the door. He was taller than anyone I had seen, and he was almost fat. His clothes were too small too. And he was extremely handsome. Momma cried, “Bailey, my baby. Great God, Bailey.” And Uncle Willie stuttered, “Bu-Buh-Bailey.” My brother said, “I don’t believe it. It’s him. It’s our daddy.” And my seven-year-old world fell apart, and would never be put back together again.
He spoke perfect English, like the school principal, and even better. He had the attitude of a man who did not believe what he heard or what he himself was saying. “So this is Daddy’s little man? Boy, anybody tell you that you look like me?” He had Bailey in one arm and me in the other. “And Daddy’s little girl. You’ve been good children, haven’t you?”
I was so proud of him that it was hard to wait for the gossip to get around that he was in town. Wouldn’t the kids be surprised at how handsome our daddy was? And that he loved us enough to come down to Stamps to visit? Everyone could tell from the way he talked and from the car and clothes that he was rich and maybe had a castle in California. (I later learned that he had been a doorman at Santa Monica’s fancy Breakers Hotel.) Then the possibility of being compared with him occurred to me, and I didn’t want anyone to see him. Maybe he wasn’t my real father. Bailey was his son, no doubt, but I was an orphan that they adopted to provide Bailey with company.
For three weeks the Store was filled with people who had gone to school with him or heard about him. Then one day he said he had to get back to California. It was a relief. My world was going to be emptier and less interesting, but the silent threat of his leaving someday would be gone. I wouldn’t have to wonder whether I loved him or not, or to answer, “Does Daddy’s baby want to go to California with Daddy?” Bailey had told him that he wanted to go, but I had kept quiet. Momma was glad too, although she had had a good time cooking special things for him and showing her California son to the poor people of Arkansas. But Uncle Willie was suffering from our father’s presence, and like a mother bird Momma was more concerned with her crippled child than the one who could fly away from the nest.
He was going to take us with him! The knowledge swam through my days and made me both excited and nervous. My thoughts quickly changed. Now this way, now that, now the other. Should I go with my father? Should I beg Momma to let me stay with her? Did I have the courage to try life without Bailey? I couldn’t decide.
Momma cut down a few give-aways that had been traded to her by white women’s servants, and spent long nights in the dining room sewing dresses and skirts for me. She looked pretty sad, but each time I found her watching me she’d say, as if I had already disobeyed, “You be a good girl now. You hear?” She would have been more surprised than I if she’d taken me in her arms and cried at losing me. Her world was bordered on all sides by work, duty, religion, and “her place.” I don’t think she ever knew that a deep love hung over everything she touched. In later years I asked her if she loved me and she avoided answering by saying, “God is love. Just worry about whether you’re being a good girl, then He will love you.”
I sat in the back of the car, with Dad’s leather suitcases and our boxes. There wasn’t enough room to stretch. Whenever he thought about it, Dad asked, “Are you comfortable back there, Daddy’s baby?” He never waited to hear my answer, which was “Yes, sir,” before he’d continue his conversation with Bailey. He and Bailey told jokes, and Bailey laughed all the time and put out Dad’s cigarettes.
I was angry with Bailey. There was no doubt he was trying to be friends with Dad; he even started to laugh like him.
“How are you going to feel seeing your mother? Going to be happy?” he was asking Bailey, but I understood and was concerned. Were we going to see Her? I thought we were going to California. I was suddenly afraid. Would she laugh at us the way he did? How would we feel if she had other children now, whom she kept with her? I said, “I want to go back to Stamps.” Dad laughed, “You mean you don’t want to go to St. Louis to see your mother? She’s not going to eat you, you know.”
He turned to Bailey and I looked at the side of his face; he was so unreal to me that I felt as if I were watching a doll talk. “Bailey Junior, ask your sister why she wants to go back to Stamps.” He sounded more like a white man than a Negro. Maybe he was the only brown-skinned white man in the world. But Bailey was quiet for the first time since we left Stamps. I guess he was thinking about seeing Mother. How could an eight-year-old contain that much fear? He holds it in his throat, he tightens his feet and closes the fear between his toes.
“Junior, ask her. What do you think your mother will say, when I tell her that her children didn’t want to see her?” The thought that he would tell her shook me and Bailey at the same time. He leaned over the back of the seat toward me-“You know you want to see Mother Dear. Don’t cry.” Dad laughed and asked himself, I guess, “What will she say to that?”
I stopped crying since there was no chance to get back to Stamps and Momma. Bailey wasn’t going to support me, I could tell, so I decided to shut up, stop crying, and wait for whatever seeing Mother Dear was going to bring.
To describe my mother would be to write about a storm in its perfect power. We had been received by her mother and had waited on the edge of our seats in the overfurnished living room. (Dad talked easily with our grandmother, as whitefolks talk to Blacks, unembarrassed and never apologizing.) We were both fearful of Mother’s coming and impatient at her delay.
It is remarkable how much truth there is in the expression “love at first sight.” My mothers beauty astonished me. Her red lips (Momma said it was a sin to wear lipstick) split to show even white teeth. Her smile widened her mouth beyond her cheeks, beyond her ears, and seemingly through the walls to the street outside. I was speechless. I knew immediately why she had sent me away. She was too beautiful to have children. I had never seen a woman as pretty as she who was called “Mother.”
Bailey fell immediately and for ever in love. I saw his eyes shining like hers; he had forgotten the loneliness and the nights when we had cried together because we were “unwanted children.” He had never left her warm side. She was his Mother Dear and I accepted his condition. They were more alike than she and I, or even he and I. They both had physical beauty and personality.
Our father left St. Louis a few days later for California, and I was neither glad nor sorry. He was a stranger, and if he chose to leave us with a stranger, it made no difference.
Grandmother Baxter was nearly white. She had come to St. Louis at the turn of the century to study nursing. While she was working at Homer G. Phillips Hospital she met and married Grandfather Baxter. She was white (having no features that could be called Negro) and he was Black. Their marriage was a happy one.
The Negro section of St. Louis in the mid-thirties had everything. Drinking and gambling were so obviously practiced that it was hard for me to believe that they were against the law. Bailey and I, as newcomers, were quickly told by our schoolmates who the men on the street corners and outside the bars wen we passed.
We met the gamblers and whiskey salesmen not only in the loud streets but in our orderly living room as well. They were often there when we returned from school, sitting with hats in their hands, as we had done on our arrival in the big city. They waited silently for Grandmother Baxter.
Her white skin brought her a great deal of respect. Moreover, the reputation of her six mean children and the fact that she was in charge of voting in her district gave her the power to deal with even the lowest crook without fear. If she helped them, they knew what would be expected of them. At election time, they were expected to bring in the votes from their neighborhood. And they always did.
St. Louis also introduced me to thin-sliced meat, lettuce on sandwich bread, and family loyalty. In Arkansas, where we preserved our own meat, we ate half-inch slices for breakfast, but in St. Louis we bought paper-thin slices and ate them in sandwiches. In Stamps, lettuce was used only to make a bed for potato salad.
When we entered Toussaint L’Ouverture Elementary School, we were struck by the ignorance of the other students and the rudeness of our teachers. Only the vastness of the building impressed us; not even the white school in Stamps was as large.
The students, however, were shockingly behind us in their skills. Bailey and I did math at an advanced level because of our work in the Store, and we read well because in Stamps there wasn’t anything else to do. We were moved up a grade because our teachers thought that we country children would make the other students feel inferior-and we did. We learned to say “Yes” and “No” rather than “Yes, ma’am,” and “No, ma’am.”
Occasionally Mother, whom we seldom saw in the house, told us to meet her at Louie’s, the bar she worked in. We used to come in the back door, and the smell of beer, steam, and boiling meat made me feel sick. Mother had cut my hair short like hers and straightened it, so my head felt skinned and the back of my neck so bare that I was ashamed to have anyone walk up behind me.
At Louie’s we were greeted by Mothers friends as “Bibbie’s darling babies” and were given soft drinks and boiled meat. While we sat on the wooden benches, Mother would dance alone in front of us to music from the radio. I loved her most at those times. She was like a pretty kiss that floated just above my head.
The family was proud of the Baxter loyalty. Uncle Tommy said that even the children felt it before they were old enough to be taught. They told us the story of Bailey teaching me to walk when he was less than three. Displeased with my awkward motions, he was supposed to have said, “This is my sister. I have to teach her to walk.” They also told me how I got the name “My.” After Bailey learned definitely that I was his sister, he refused to call me Marguerite, but addressed me each time as “Mya Sister,” which was shortened to “My.” In later years it was lengthened to “Maya.”
We lived in a big house on Caroline Street with our grandparents for half the year before Mother moved us in with her. Moving from the house where the family was centered meant nothing to me. It was just a small pattern in the grand design of our lives. The new house was not stranger than the other, except that we were with Mother.
Bailey called her “Mother Dear” until our nearness softened the phrase’s formality to “M’Deah.” I could never completely understand her realness. She was so pretty and so quick that even when she had just awakened, I thought she was beautiful.
Mother had prepared a place for us, and we went into it gratefully. We each had a room, plenty to eat, and store-bought clothes to wear. And after all, she didn’t have to do it. If we annoyed her or were disobedient, she could always send us back to Stamps. The weight of appreciation and the threat, which was never spoken, of a return to Momma were burdens I couldn’t think about.
Mothers boyfriend, Mr. Freeman, lived with us, or we lived with him. (I never quite knew which.) He was a Southerner, too, and big. But a little fat. Even if Mother hadn’t been such a pretty woman, light-skinned with straight hair, he was lucky to get her, and he knew it. She was educated, from a well-known family, and after all, wasn’t she born in St. Louis? She laughed all the time and made jokes. He was grateful. I think he must have been many years older than she, but if not, he still had the inferiority of old men married to younger women. He watched every move she made, and when she left the room, his eyes didn’t want to let her go.
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