When the idea for this edition of my column originally came into my mind, I first wanted to name it in honor of my great-grandma who raised my mother (when she was only around twelve years old) after her mother passed away.
After hearing my mama talk so much about her Grandma Orilla and how she had instilled so many good standards and values in her about life, certainly I reasoned that this piece should be named in honor of the woman who laid such a sturdy foundation for life in my mother.
A foundation that instilled in my mother the importance of working hard, saving your money, owning your own home, which was a great achievement of Grandma Orilla back then), as well as many other notable things.
However, after further consideration, it came to me that my mother should be the one who I ought to give due honor to in the naming of this piece today.
After all, she has been my greatest encourager and motivator since the time of my birth until this present day.
From a foundational perspective, the morals and manners that have greatly contributed to the shaping of my character and who I am today have (by the grace of God) come through the medium of my mama.
This piece is the first edition of what I hope will be a series of short stories that I will present in my column once a month under the heading of “Mama’s Morals and Manners”.
The Chickens Have Come Home to Roost
As I sat with my siblings and a few of the neighborhood children on our front porch, my mama sat rocking in her old rocking chair.
The old chair had been one of the few material things that her grandmother had left her. It was a treasured piece of furniture and more like an heirloom to my momma.
I can vaguely remember my great-grandmother because she died when I was a toddler. One thing I do remember about Bunch (as they called her, but whose real name was Orilla) was that in her old age she was a grumpy woman with little tolerance for children, even if they were her own great-grands. From that bitter and bad memory of her in retrospect, I once referred to her as “Orilla the Gorilla.”
However, I stopped calling my dear great-grandma by that name when I came to the realization that she was an outstanding and remarkable woman.
She reared her own children, as well as two sets of grands, practically single-handedly after my grandmother died. Also, her youngest son left his children with her while he went “up the road” (to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) in pursuit of a decent job.
Then once I truly thought about it, my great grandma was very old and chances were that she had some degree of being senile.
To be truly honest, how could I dishonor or speak in a mocking way about the woman who had raised my mother and instilled so many good principles and practices in her that were passed down to me and my siblings.
So, as my mama sat rocking in the old rocking chair, she commenced to telling one of her stories that she always said were to teach us valuable lessons in life.
One of the strong convictions of my mama that I believe was passed down from her grandma was that a person would always reap what they had sown or as she would say, “Their chickens would come home to roost.”
So as she captivated us with her dramatic and very humorous way of telling her stories, she said, “Children, there was a white man who had a huge farm in our area and a lot of black people worked on it doing seasonal work like picking cotton, putting in tobacco, and a few other things for a little or nothing, she stressed. “Back in those days children,” Mama said, as she looked around at each of us in a very serious way, “black folk did not have any other choice but to work as farm hands because there were only a few jobs that we could get, like cleaning and cooking in the home of a well-to-do white family. The few plants we had in Dillon back then would not hire black people.” Mama paused for a moment, as she shook her head (probably in some degree of disgust, as her mind briefly recalled the difficulties of those days). Regaining her composure, Mama continued with her story. “Children, many days I felt like taking up roots and joining my sisters (who lived up the road in Camden, New Jersey, but being married, I couldn’t make that decision without my husband going along with it,” she said with a little glitter in her eyes and a smile on her face. Now, you all know your daddy. That man ain’t nothing but a country boy. It was hard enough to get him to leave Dillon and go visit his own relatives who lived out of town. Moving up that road was out of the question. So we made the best out of a bad situation and worked real hard, saved as much money as we could and hoped and planned for a better day. I picked a lot of cotton back then for little or nothing.
They only paid you three dollars per hundred pounds; if it rained while you were in the field, they would deduct from that amount.
Mr. Bud Brown was the worst man that we black folk worked for back then. He was the one who cheated and talked mean and nasty to us, when we worked for him.” Shaking her head, she said in a very dramatic way, “But oh he got his… His chickens came home to roost!”
Before he died from a massive heart attack that his diabetes and high blood pressure brought about, both of his legs were amputated above the knee.
Again, Mama paused as she had done before in her story and said, “Now children, I get no joy out of sharing this story with you about Mr. Bud Brown, but he is a good example of how we reap what we sow and there are no exceptions to this rule.”
Bud Brown ultimately lost all he possessed to the bank and his creditors when he died penniless and all alone in a nursing home.
The story that I am sharing with you children today is a very important lesson in life that each of you would do well to remember.
In the eyes of God, there are no big you’s and little I’s. He does not love one race or person above the other. He loves us all the same.
What you perhaps may get by with according to man’s justice, you will not be able to escape His. “So children,” she stressed as she brought this short story and illustration to an end, “be careful how you treat people.
Be careful to treat them like you want to be treated. Don’t be dishonest and cheat in any area.
And by all means, please do not forget that we all will reap what we have sown. Our chickens will come home to roost!”