Stories About My Family & Friends

Apr. 20, 2018

When I lived in Toledo, I went to Scott High School. At the time, it was reputed to be one of the worst schools in the city. There was a student body of about 1,500 students with a ratio of one white person (or other descent) to every 100 black students. That’s 97.3% Black Americans attending class. Being Caucasian, I was one of the 2.7%.

I loved the school and the teachers that taught there. Some of my best school memories come from my years as a student in that school. That’s not true for all though.

We had a substitute teacher for English. It was my freshman year and our regular teacher had moved to another state so until they found his replacement, Mrs. Levine substituted. I noticed that on her first day she was so jittery she stammered a lot while teaching.

On the second day, another one of the students pointed the stammering out and she openly admitted to be scared to death.

“I’m afraid to work here,” she confessed. “It scares me just to park in the parking lot.”

“What are you afraid of?” one of the students asked.

“I’m afraid of being attacked,” she answered, surprised that the reason wasn’t obvious.

I silently shook my head. At the end of class, I dawdled until I was one of the last leaving the classroom.

“Mrs. Levine,” I called out to her quietly. “You should have never told us you were afraid. If you’re afraid and some students know it, they will eat you up.”

She nodded her head and said, “Yes, I realized that after I said it. I don’t know what to do now.”

“Don’t be afraid,” I answered. “Just because their skin is darker than ours does not always mean they are worse than white kids. We’re all the same inside.”

I’m guessing I didn’t help ease her mind any. She taught one more day and then we had a new replacement: a substitute for the substitute.

Apr. 2, 2018

Some of my favorite “Holly” moments:

My favorite past time has become watching my granddaughter almost every second I’m with her. I don’t want to miss a thing. She’s worth the watch, too because, she’s so full of character and loaded with so much personality that she completely cracks me up. I adore this child that was sent from heaven.

The Michelangelo Touch – Like most babies, Holly is curious about everything. It’s such a wonderful world and so many colorful and bright things to see! I love watching her touch stuff. Unlike most babies, Holly doesn’t just grab things. She’s cautious. Instead, she holds one single finger out (the index finger) and slowly reaches for the object, or person, or whatever it is she wants to touch and feel.

Let’s Dance! – Holly loves to dance. On her first birthday when her mom put her in a new tutu skirt, the first thing she did was dance. She was so excited she had a new outfit (like-mother-like-daughter). Whenever she hears music, she starts bobbing her head up and down and wiggling her legs, feet, and butt.

The Daredevil – Oh this child is so full of it! She loves to be spun around, thrown in the air and anything fast moving. She loves it all! She’s so trusting too and I’ve yet to decide if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. For example, when she was about 9 months, she wanted off the couch and tried to slide down headfirst. It was as if she knew someone would catch her so she made her move: very daring...or very trusting.

Seriousness – On a more serious note, she can be too serious. Holly examines things very intently at times, especially people. I hope this turns out to be a positive thing for her. Some children can get a good feel about people and can tell if they were a decent person or not. I was able to do that in my youth and both of my children were also a good judge of character. Maybe Holly has picked it up as well.

Kisses – Lord love a duck! This child is so stingy with her kisses. It’s rare, but I have been privy to a few of them. She prefers hugs and she’s so stinking cute when she hugs her Mommy and Daddy. She pats them with her tiny little hand. Even with them, she’s stingy with her kisses. Hopefully, that will change as she gets older.

I have thoroughly enjoyed this child. My husband and I both agree this has been the best year we’ve had in such a long time. Holly was so worth the wait and I’m sure we will continue to enjoy every second of her.

Jan. 7, 2018

First, I must describe my brother Michael in order to give a visual. Michael is about six-one; he has a bald head (by choice), very broad-stocky build and is covered in tattoos from head to toe.

He was with us one day when we stopped at a mall. My husband and son were unloading my scooter as the mall security passed by in a golf cart (at the time, I didn’t walk well and used a motorized scooter to get around in). There was a van parked at the curb by the entrance to the mall and it blocked the ramp I would need to use to go inside.

The security stopped by the van and asked them to move. He did move, but it was only like half a foot. His front tires did not even do a full rotation. The security cart rolled back around and asked him again. The van moved up a little further, about the same distance.

I turned to my brother and said, “Can you explain to him that I need to use the ramp? Maybe he didn’t understand or something?”

My tattooed brother walked up to the van, tapped on the window and said, “Can you please pull up? My sister needs to use…”

The driver took one look at my brother and sped off.

“What did you say to him?” I asked thinking I had missed something.

“Nothing,” Michael insisted. “He didn’t even let me finish what I was saying.”

My husband came up behind me and explained, “I think Mike scared him off. I would have run, too, if he had asked me to move a third time.”

It was hilarious. I still laugh when I think about how Michael scared the bejesus out of that driver. 

The picture portrayed is of Tattooboy Holden and not of my brother. 

Dec. 4, 2017

When I was an eighteen year old girl, I worked with a girl, Linda. We worked in a fast food joint. During one of my off days, a friend of mine and I went to get some lunch. The cashier, Linda, took our order and leaned over to say to me very quietly, “The next time I catch you in town alone, I'm going to kick. Your. Ass.”

I turned to my friend and said, "Is she serious?" Then to Linda, I said, "Are you serious?"

Linda replied, "You’re damn right I am."

I had no idea why she was upset with me, but at that moment, I didn't care. I reached over, grabbed her by the collar of her shirt and began pulling her over the counter screaming at her. The girl was terrified. My friend kept trying to separate us as did the other cashiers.

Finally, when we were apart and as I left, I warned her, "Look for me. I'm coming for you!"

I later discovered why she was angry with me. It was because I had requested, and received, a day off from work that she, too, had asked for. Since I was getting the day off and she wasn’t, she was angry with me. Linda reasoned that it was entirely my fault and felt she deserved the day more than I did.

I've thought about that moment so many times in my life: the fear on her face, the ominous warnings we both gave, and wondered why she thought she was more entitled to the day than someone else. Truth be told, Linda was a very smart girl and quite articulate in spite of what others may have thought.

Over the years, I had run into her several times in town (alone) and some of those times, I tried to talk her into going to college, work toward some degree, anything! Instead, she lives from job-to-job as a cashier at grocery stores, fast food places and once, she was one of my staff when she worked as a CNA.

Again, I tried to convince her to go to college. She was/is such a smart girl. I didn’t think she drank and hung out in bars, I knew she didn’t smoke, and I could look at her and tell she was not a drug addict. All things considered, I felt she was worth trying to help, so I even offered to help pay for some of her schooling. We sat in the nurse’s lounge together and I talked to her about possibly becoming a nurse herself.

Linda shook her head and offered a sympathetic smile.

“Okay, no nurse then. Still, there’s a secretarial course at the college if you don’t like nursing,” I encouraged.

Linda shook her head again. “Nah. I don’t want to go back to school. Although, you can just give me the $20-30 thousand you would spend on me anyway. That would help me.”

I recalled the altercation we had at work and her reason for being angry with me to begin with. She felt entitled to that day off even though I had requested it first for a doctor’s appointment to find out if I were pregnant (I was). It still was not a good enough reason for her, though.

It was obvious to me as I sat in the nurse’s lounge talking to her that Linda had no desire to improve her circumstances even when someone offered to help. She just wanted someone to pay her way. I realized at that moment, Linda suffered from Entitlement.

Only days after that, Linda called the facility and I answered. She said, “Michelle, tell them I’m not coming back to work. I do not get paid what I’m worth. “

“What do you mean?” I asked, laughing into the phone.

“I’m saying, they don’t pay enough there to be taking care of all of those people,” she explained passionately. “I need someone to be taking care of me, not the other way around.”

Years later, my son stopped to get a drink and went through the drive-thru. Linda was our cashier (at yet another fast food place). She stuck her head out the window and said, “You still got the money?”

“Are you ready to go back to school?”

“No, but I still need that money you promised me.” She laughed and pulled her head back inside.

I just recently saw her again. She was my cashier at the grocery store. Linda did not even acknowledge me. She rung up my few items, quoted the price and accepted payment, all without making eye contact.

It makes me sad when I see her now. I know it was her decision to live job-to-job and not aspire to be anything more than this. These are her life choices, which we are all free to make for ourselves. Still, it saddens my heart when I see her and I am entitled to that. 

Nov. 4, 2017

It was no secret that my grandmother did not like me. To understand my maternal grandmother, you have to understand the era she grew up in and knew most of her life. In her day and time, socially speaking, whom you knew was everything. A person’s financial situation was also very important. We did not know ‘important people’ and we were poverty-stricken.

Although, I do not believe she liked my mother very much, either, I do believe she loved her. After all, that was her daughter so she felt a certain amount of obligation toward her and tried to help with our financial woes.

I know Grandma did not approve of many of my mother’s poor life decisions, either. For instance, she could not stand the fact that my mother married my father, hence, her dislike for me. I was his child so she did not want to have anything to do with me. That fact was made very clear to me by my Grandmother early on. I grew up knowing that she didn’t like me so her disposition never made much difference to me.

I remember one time asking my mother, “Why doesn’t Grandma like me?”

We were in the car waiting for Grandma to come outside. She was going with us for whatever reason. My mother looked in the rear view mirror and said, “She does like you. She loves you very much.”

“It’s okay, Mom. I don’t like her, either.”

“That’s not very nice to say,” Mom scolded. “Don’t you think that might hurt my feelings since she’s my mother?”

“No,” I answered honestly. “She doesn’t like me. I don’t care what you say, I know she doesn’t and I don’t care. I only wanted to know why.”

It was years later, I learned it was my pedigree that she highly disapproved of. It’s okay. I disapproved of it, too.

However, that conversation ignited my mother’s desire to prove me wrong. She encouraged me to go over and visit with Grandma and spend time together. Grandma only lived a few blocks away and it was within walking distance so I went over to visit one afternoon.

I went into the house. She was in the kitchen baking gingersnaps; my least favorite cookie. To this day, I hate gingersnaps. I sat at the kitchen table and watched as she went about busying herself with pulling a fresh batch of cookies out of the oven.

“Do you want one?” Grandma asked.

No, I did not want one, but remembering my mother’s tutelage to always be polite when someone offered you something, I accepted. Slowly, I nibbled at the cookie until it was gone. To prevent her from offering me anymore, I made some excuse to leave and went back home. When I got home, Mom was just hanging up the phone from speaking with Grandma.

“What happened?” she asked, somewhat irritated. “I did not tell you to go over there and eat her out of house and home!”

“What do you mean?” I inquired. I really had no idea what she was talking about.

“Grandma said she was baking cookies you ate almost a whole batch by yourself! Those are for her church ladies. I cannot believe she offers you one and you made a pig of yourself,” my mother yelled.

“Mom, I did not eat all of her cookies. I ate one!” I said in defiance. “They were gingersnaps!”

With that admission, my mother started laughing. When I revealed the flavor of the cookie, she knew her mother had lied about me. It was determined from then on that I would just stay home and not visit my grandmother anymore, at least, not without someone with me. 

I am usually reminded of that day whenever I see gingersnaps, but not in a bad way.  I just fondly think of my grandmotehr as I chuckle to myself.