The Day My Mama Beat The Devil Out Of Me

Beginning today and through the entire month of September, I’m going to share with you some excerpts that were taken from my autobiographical book, Growing Old in Newtown, that was written and published in 2015. I hope that these experiences and segments of my life (when I was growing up as a boy) will both entertain and enlighten you to some of what it meant to be a young black boy growing up in a small southern town during the days of Jim Crow and segregation. In all truth, as it states on the cover of my book, many of the things that I will share with you was what marked me, what marred me, and what made me!
Though my father was the primary disciplinarian in my family, the beating I most remember happened one Saturday evening when I was around six years of age.
Aunt Bea had come over to visit us and Mama had decided to accompany her back to her house. Though it seemed like a long way back then, it really was not that far, perhaps two miles. Now, I must be perfectly honest. Though I am told that I look more like my father than any of my other brothers, I was a full-fledged Mama’s boy.
I was not a Mama’s boy in the sense of acting like her or wanting to wear her clothes because I was always 100% male (made of snakes, snails, and puppy dog tails). However, I have always had an unbreakable bond with my Mama. As a matter of fact, when I was four and my brother Charles was the suckling baby Mama was nursing at the time, she had to give me a slap in the face to keep me from cutting in on his feeding time at her breast. Maybe this gives some explanation as to why I was so determined to follow Mama to Aunt Bea’s house that particular day (when she had given me instructions to stay at home with the others). They left, and I struck out behind them in tears and hot pursuit. She finally realized I was following them when she heard me crying and yelling out, “Mama, can I go? Please, let me go with you!” She turned and shouted, “Michael, you had better go back to that house! Didn’t I tell you to stay home with your brothers?” Aunt Bea felt sorry for me as I kept crying and pleading to go with them. “Marie”, she said,
“Let him come on and go with us.” Mama would not take her advice for she knew that she was dealing with a stubborn little boy whose will needed to be broken and whose butt needed to be whipped. She was a master at rearing boys (along with my father) and she knew that if she gave in to me at this crucial stage of my life and development, she would be guilty of helping to create a monster. We were nearing a highway where a few people had been killed; it would be very risky for me if she did not immediately put an end to my defiance.
She stopped, turned around, and headed straight for me. Grabbing and gripping my right lower arm, she said, frowning angrily, “When I get through with you, you will never follow me again like this when I tell you to stay home!”
My little heart sank and pounded with fear and horror of what I knew awaited me. We stopped along the way on our journey back home for a few brief seconds. Mama went over to a wild shrub, the kind that produced long thin limbs that seemed to be created by God just for switches. She broke off a few of these, and went straight to our house. I knew I was in for it; I regretted following in pursuit of her and Aunt Bea. Before we entered the house, she braided the long skinny branches together to make a strong switch that would not break. Unlike my daddy, she did not make me take off my shirt, for that was not her style. She gripped my arm so that I could not get loose and started to lash away at my back and legs. I wept and shouted out for mercy, “Mama!” I yelled. “I will never do that again!”
“I know you won’t,” she responded without showing any sign of easing up. “I am going to whip you so you will never forget this day or try that trick again,” she assured me. On both accounts she was proven right. I never made the mistake of disobeying and following her when she told me to stay put and I never forgot the worst switch beating of my life.
I will conclude with the following passage of Scripture that perfectly captures and expresses the essence of my story: Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him. (Proverbs 22:15)

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