Page 19

North Carolina African American Literature

some pants were held up with safety pins instead of belts. Or worse, a child might rely on an incessant hitching up throughout the day because sometimes fit was of no consequence; the point of clothing was simply to cover. In contrast, a preacher’s son had far better clothing and way more flesh on his body; his family rode in late model vehicles. Three dainty girls also come to mind – clean, always in socks and shoes, waving and smiling when they passed in the back seats of their grandparents’ cars. One season, our band of friends was expanded when Mr. Aaron increased the size of his household. His relatives lived in their shotgun shack with no amenities. Episodes of the familial discord spilled down Sandhill’s arteries. After a tragic accident, Mr. Aaron and his wife, already parents, took in the kin’s offspring and raised them as their own. Mr. Aaron’s condition kept him from holding down a regular job, and I suspect there were disability payments of some kind. There were, however, no large buffering checks to offset the cost of more than doubling the members of his household.

N C L R ONLINE

19

Mr. Aaron continued to whistle and walk and wander over, in good spirits, in all seasons, and the four children assimilated happily among the rest of us – never revealing any signs that they’d suffered from the dissolving of their nuclear family. No matter the disparities among us, in Sandhill there was little judgment and no underlying imperative to improve, to overcome, to reform, to fret. Perhaps it was the era or the collaboration and tolerance that grew out of organic community. At any rate, that locale taught me that the world is comprised of a diverse cast of characters. Some are cut from sprawling yards of lush materials and others from scratchy remnants that might easily be cast aside. Regardless of tendencies and idiosyncrasies, everyone’s place on Sandhill was as warranted and accepted as that of any other’s. There was no waiting, wishing, or petitioning for the likes of so-and-so to move on. There was no agonizing over two and sometimes three juke joints and liquor houses splattered among us – which meant Friday and Saturday nights, all year long, brought the sounds of heavy bass reverberating through the night from jukeboxes turned up high. Chevy Impalas, Dodge Coronets, and Chrysler Imperials lumbered and weaved down the pocked roads and spun their wheels in our loamy ditches till dawn. Morning gossip fresh as air-dried sheets travelled across clotheslines about shootings or cuttings or fights from the night before because those juke joints were sites wherein dramas played out: gambling debts, cheating spouses, the unleashing of frustrations. Still, there was no deepening fear about their proximity to impressionable children. There was a natural order even in the chaos. Everyone didn’t frequent such places. Everything wasn’t for everybody. Individuals picked and chose where they went, as well as the games they played. Such was life. Decades later, when I was shoulder deep in research and writing grants in support of programs for underserved communities, I realized that Sandhill had been an intervention model beyond replication. The heterogeneous population ranged from the poor and indigent to the solidly middle class. There was a communal sharing of knowledge, skills, expectations, and often resources that gave all the children a leg up. There were real-life role models of all ages and factions: for working hard,

Profile for East Carolina University

North Carolina Literary Review Online 2019  

A literary review published online annually by East Carolina University and by the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association.

North Carolina Literary Review Online 2019  

A literary review published online annually by East Carolina University and by the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association.

Advertisement