The police came and next thing we knew we were over at my aunt’s house, still trying to figure out what had happened between our parents. Clarence went to jail and I remember my mother had a red blister on her bottom lip from when she shot the weapon the first time.
The story later told to me by my mother is that she had stayed overnight at a girlfriend’s house, but never called to let my father know her whereabouts or what time she would be home. It was 8:00 in the morning when she got her behind back to the house and Clarence had been up worrying and drinking (a 12 pack of beer among other things). I must remind you he was 15 years older than my mother and you can say she was still young minded. He asked where she had been all night and when she tried to explain, he knocked her down and slapped her. Therefore, she planned how she was going to shoot him and how she was going to get away with shooting him.
The happy, good old days were over. My parents separated for the time being and Vivian was back to being a single mother caring for three children on her own. I believe I was in kindergarten by then. We moved to an apartment back on Sawyer Street and living in this apartment was no picnic in the park. The place was dark and gloomy. It seemed like the sun went on a long vacation. Our daddy Clarence was not in our presence anymore. When was he coming back? There were no more awesome toys for us to play with and nothing to sing or dance about anymore. Times got hard for our family. We went from eating eight course meals to just eating a plate of beans.
My mother cooked black-eyed peas for dinner one day with sliced luncheon meat. I got the picture that we were no longer living like the Jefferson’s, but I drew the line when it came to eating this meal. The devil was a liar. I was not eating those beans. They not only looked nasty, but they didn’t smell good either. My mother was mad and was threatening to beat my ass if I didn’t eat my food. Well, let me say that after sitting at the table not willing to eat that mess called dinner, I took my ass whooping like a champion.
Sadly, my mother was back on public assistance trying to make ends meet, but the ends were not meeting because our family was evicted from that apartment. My mother never told us about her financial situation or gave us notice that we might end up on the streets. The eviction people came and put the little stuff that we had right out on the sidewalk. I cannot imagine what was going through her mind while watching all this happening. She didn’t show any emotion or concern. She was not screaming or yelling at anyone, she just stood there quietly. She grabbed a few of our things and we walked up the street to one of her friend’s house.
The next thing we knew, we were staying at the Salvation Army. There we shared one room with two beds and one bathroom, with another family. The place was not as bad as it may sound. Hey, at least we were not on the streets or staying with anybody else. They fed us three meals a day and even had activities for us children. They contributed clothes and shoes to us, and though they were not new or what we were used to we did not complain since we did not have anything. Everyone seemed pleasant and welcomed us into the establishment. I learned that poor was not only for black folks because there were some white people living there too. I cannot say if I ever cried or questioned my mother about what was going on. My brothers and I were considered good children and we didn’t complain or throw tantrums because Ms. Brown was not someone on whose bad side you wanted to be. We were very obedient kids.
Regardless of what the circumstances may have been, Clarence and Vivian were outstanding parents.
During our stay at the Salvation Army we began to go to church. I remember I always sat in the front row, because they gave away old-fashioned dolls to the little girls. I believe I collected about three of these dolls. They were so dazzling with big Shirley Temple curls, pretty blue or brown eyes that blinked and very pretty dresses, too. I would sit them on top of the shelf in our room. Even as we lived at the Salvation Army, I did not have the sense of feeling poor or less fortunate.
After a season at the shelter, Vivian was able to obtain public assistance and our single mother moved us into the Stateway Gardens projects on the south side of Chicago. It was at this point in our lives that I remember everything going downhill.
Passed Around By Man But Not Passed Over By God Chontate Brown Copyright ©2013 All rights reserved.