September arrived and it was back to school time for me. Rose had taken me school shopping for some good-looking clothing and shoes and registered me as a second grade student at Henderson Elementary School on 56th and Wolcott.
This school was quite large, but my classroom was in a trailer next to the school. The only times I remember my class going into the school is when there was an assembly program scheduled. My teacher’s name was Ms. Johnson. She was a pretty, young-looking, black woman who wore a short, curly afro. Ms. Johnson was a nice teacher who really cared for her students and loved her job as a teacher. She had a prize poster board that was covered with different kinds of items such as toys, jewelry, candy and small reading books. She would reward us with a prize from the board when we had good conduct and the best penmanship on the daily writing assignments for the week. We used the old school writing paper to do our daily assignment.
I was an intelligent student who did not talk or interrupt the class. I sure was not trying to make friends with anyone, but I had good reasons as you will find out real soon. All of my work was done in excellence and I had excellent penmanship. My goal was to earn a prize off the board every week because that was the only way I was going to get a toy. School was a safe haven for me and I did not want to miss a day sitting in that classroom. My teacher was great and my classmates did not bother me at all, but the place that was supposed to be home was not as good as it seemed.
Rose was a wicked person. Yes, she made sure I looked good on the outside, completely covered when dressed. But if you stripped me of my clothes you would have found a frail body with many scars and bruises from physical abuse and a soul torn apart from daily emotional abuse.
My first instinct about Rose had been right and the truth about her spirit has arisen right before my eyes. Yep, the Ms. Nice Lady role just flew out the window. Rose had plans for me. She decided to quit her job as the black slave and create her own business which is known today as child labor. And she had the nerve to hand over that position to me. Yes, I became her little black Cinderella, except there was no glamorous ball, fairy godmother or prince to come to my rescue. Please do not get me wrong, I am an advocate for children participating with household chores, but that was not the case. It began with washing the dishes which I felt was not a big thing. I took it as something I needed to learn anyway.
Then it went from cleaning the inside and outside of the refrigerator to wiping down all the kitchen cabinets to sweeping the kitchen floor. Now, I do not know if the vacuum cleaner was invented at the time but, I kid you not, this crazy woman had wall-to-wall carpet throughout the entire lower level of her home including the kitchen. And trust me she did not have a small kitchen either. I guess these are the strange things that people do who do not have any children of their own. As if cleaning her entire kitchen was not enough, she decided to invite me into her living room. Believe me when I say it was not because she was rewarding me by letting me sit on her couch to watch some television, but to completely clean that entire area also. I did not know that I could polish that much wood in my life. I was tired and hungry and the boss was not feeding or paying me for all this hard work. I never complained or showed signs of ungratefulness towards her.
I was a good child, who was being treated terribly and who was about to encounter her first day of physical abuse. When I completed my chores, thinking I had done a great job considering I was seven years old, but it was not good enough for Rose. She began to yell and scream, telling me that it was not clean and it was not done right. I remember watching her storm off into the kitchen saying, “I am going to teach you” and rambling through the kitchen drawers to find the beginning of my worst nightmare, an electrical cord, known to us black folks as the extension cord. I didn’t have any idea what she was about to do with this cord wrapped in her hands until she raised her arm and struck me with it. The pain I felt was unexplainable. All I know that is it hurt and it was something that nobody should have to endure.
Now, I had been spanked by my mother with a belt but I promise you it was never, and I mean never, as painful as getting beat with a cord. As if a beating with this cord was not enough, she thought it would be a better punishment if I took off all my clothes. I was screaming from the agony of this sad horror while she was beating me with delight. I tried to grab the cord, but my hands stung from every strike of the cord. Finally, the moment came when she stopped beating the life out me and I was lying on the floor crying because I could not move at all. I didn’t know if my brother understood what was going on with his sister downstairs in the living room because he was upstairs in our room, but soon he would find out for himself what I had experienced. Rose told me to get up and get dressed because I had more chores to do. As I was putting on my clothes, I noticed bruising and welts had formed on my skin from that terrifying beating. They were all over my skinny body, even my hands were blood red and some of the welts were oozing blood. She then ordered me to scrub the stairs that led up to our bedrooms. She gave me a pail, a brush and a rag to use to clean the stairs. It was about ten steps that had to shine or else. As I was scrubbing these stairs, I was aching and torn with hurt but did as I was told because I did not want to face that pain ever again. It was not the last time that I would be a victim of her wrath. Any small thing would set Rose off into a rage and whenever I did not meet her expectation of cleanliness she would beat the living daylights out of me. She made me clean every room of that house except her bedroom and to this day I can remember every inch of that psycho woman’s house.
I don’t think Rose liked the sight of me because she always made me go into the basement until she told me I could come out from the dungeon. Sometimes being in that basement was like a great game in a ballpark because I was away from her presence. It was a finished lower level that had a laundry room on one side and a nice-sized sitting area on the other with a couch, lime green carpet and an old radio that I enjoyed. I learned how to braid my hair while in captivity. This is also where I learned to use my imagination at its highest level. I can remember when I lost my baby tooth from Rose throwing me down the basement stairs in one of her irrational rages, but don’t worry she did get some karma returned to her one day in that basement.
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Passed Around By Man But Not Passed Over By God Chontate Brown Copyright ©2013 All rights reserved.