daughtersofnormabates











{September 5, 2012}   Recee

The house I grew up in had two bedrooms. One was Mother and Daddy’s room. The other bedroom was for me and my brother. Late at night when I was supposed to be asleep, I could hear my parents talking in their bedroom. Sometimes I only heard whispers as I fell asleep. When I couldn’t sleep, I got out of bed and sat near the door so I could hear what they said. One night Mother told Daddy we were running her ragged. She said she couldn’t mop, iron, shop, cook and watch after us, too. Daddy said she could hire someone to help.

A few days later, a dark skinned woman came to our house. Mother said her name was  Recee. She was going to work at our house. Recee smiled and said hello. I hadn’t seen a dark skinned person at our house before. I had seen dark skinned people at the A&P and Rich’s. But nobody who lived in my neighborhood had dark skin. Mother asked Recee if it was easy to take the bus to our house. She said “Yes.” Mother told her about the ironing she wanted done. I stood near them while they talked. My little brother clung to Mother’s leg. He looked up and pulled on her skirt. “Mamma, Mamma, Mamma…” “Yes, dear?” Mother said in a sweet voice. She always used a sweet voice in front of other people. “Mamma, why is she dark?” he pointed at Recee. Mother said, “Honey, she isn’t dark. She just has a good suntan.” I couldn’t believe it. Why did Mother lie? I started to say something to my brother. Mother grabbed my arm. She dug her fingernails into my arm. Mother did that when she wanted me to be quiet in front of somebody.  I looked at Recee’s face. She was smiling at my little brother. She didn’t say anything to correct my mother. She just nodded and smiled. “Ouch!” I said, and pulled my arm away.

I had a hard time getting to sleep, so I got out of bed and sat by the door so I could hear my parents talk. They were talking about Recee. Mother said she was going to have to let Recee go. She said the last time Recee came, her sweat dripped on the clothes she ironed. “I have to re-wash all the clothes now. There’s no point in paying her if it’s going to make more work for me” she said. It was hot in the den where the ironing board was. I sweat in there, too. There was just one window and no fan. Daddy said it was up to her.  If she wanted the help, maybe she could find something else for Recee to do besides iron. Recee came back two more times. Then, I never saw her again.

One day, Mother dropped me at my aunt Carla’s house to play with my cousins. Carla had the same kind of house as we did. A dark skinned woman named Lucy helped her around the house. Lucy was sweet. She talked to me while she folded clothes.  I offered to help and she said okay. I told her that I liked cleaning, especially sorting out junk drawers. You never know what you’ll find in a junk drawer! I spent the whole day with Lucy.  It made me happy to be around her. Sometimes we would take a break and sit in the kitchen and drink a Coca Cola. Then, we’d go back to cleaning. It was getting late when Mother drove up. She walked in the kitchen to talk to Aunt Carla. She said she could only stay a minute. After a few minutes, Mother called me and told me to get my things. I didn’t want to go. I had a good day with Lucy. As we were leaving, Lucy came in the kitchen and gave me a little wave goodbye. I broke away from Mother and ran to her and threw my arms around her. Lucy bent down and I hugged her neck and gave her a big kiss on the cheek. She hugged me back. I ran to the door where Mother stood waiting for me. Mother did not look happy. We got in the car and Mother started yelling at me. “You knew better than that! Kissing a maid! You’ll never learn!”  I didn’t care if she yelled. I had a good day, laughing and folding clothes with Lucy. Mother always comes along and ruins everything. I didn’t say anything to Mother all the way home.

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