Stories have always fascinated me — whether they were fictional or not. I used to have a small library in my mother’s room when I was little. All of my books were housed on a set of shelves that my mother assembled one night so that everything would be in one place. Every cent I earned for good report cards (excluding conduct), birthdays, or tooth fairy visits went toward more books. I could hardly wait until my teacher gave us the Troll and Scholastic order forms. I’d check off the titles I wanted before I made it home, and my conversation with my mom would end in compromise. She’d tell me how much money was in my budget, and I’d ask to borrow from anticipated funds for future report cards. Even as a kid, I was a fierce negotiator. She would often times cave and let me get what I wanted, but as I reflect on that time period, I realize that she read all of those books too, so they were as much for her as they were for me.
Those times were special, but they were tough times too. We lived in a small house — not much bigger than those tiny houses you see on TV. It had three small bedrooms, two living areas (one of which had a sleeper sofa), a small kitchen, and one bathroom. It was in disrepair — probably should’ve been condemned, but it was home, and we all have fond memories of living in the old house on Jeff Davis. I even dream about the old shotgun house sometimes — mulberry trees at the front and rear of the house and pecan trees on the right. A gentle wind would blow and would knock some pecans to the ground while others hit the tin roof as if it were a snare drum tapping out an alert to anyone who wanted to grab a bag full to enjoy as they walked home.
I remember wanting to leave that small house and visit places I’ve only seen in books. My cousins had done that by joining the Army. They left Jeff Davis Street years apart in order to see the world, and they did. They both had options. Monique was a gifted athlete, musician, and scholar. Grady was a gifted artist, tailor, and scholar. Instead of using their obvious gifts, I believe they discovered others along their journey like leadership, discernment, and tenacity.
As a kid growing up in a house with two standouts, I never felt inferior because I wasn’t in competition with them. Besides, they always took time to praise me, so I knew that whatever I was doing had passed muster. I did, however, watch them closely. I studied them. I prayed for them. I embraced them when they came back to the old house on Jeff Davis Street. I also sought their advice and approval as I made plans to leave the old house. No one in my family ever thought I would leave my momma. I couldn’t cook, had never cleaned, and couldn’t do laundry. I was relegated to a life on Jeff Davis Street (according to my know-it-all cousins), but God and I had other plans, and we sketched out phase one of the plan as I prepared to play school on the front porch the summer before my seventh birthday. Here we are 40 years later, and he has just revealed phase two. I can’t imagine my life without his constant care and attention — his grace and mercy toward me. Where on Earth would I be? I can only imagine where on Earth he will take me next.