Unforgettable Events and Sights Etched In My Mind

In this third of the four-part series of excerpts from my autobiographical book, Growing Old in Newtown, I am going to share with you a few of the unforgettable events and sights that are engraved in my mind. These events and sights vary in the effect that they have had on me when I was growing up in Newtown. Some were truly horrible, others were grievous, and a few were amusing and appealing to behold.

The Most Awful Sight of My Childhood
Not all the sights of my childhood that are etched in my memory are good and pleasant. Though I have always had a creative and vivid imagination, I do not possess the power to delete or imagine away certain grievous images that still trouble me to this day. Without a doubt, the most horrendous sight of my childhood occurred when I was around seven years of age. It all started with an argument between my parents. (I do not know and have no recollection of what the argument was over). What I do remember is how it escalated and became louder and more intense. Profanity and venomous words that should never be uttered or heard by the ears of children spewed out of my father’s mouth. I am not in any way attempting to cast all of the blame for their altercation upon him, but his words and record of domestic abuse are what I feared the most as we sat in our room in horrid anticipation of what was destined to be another episode of his malevolent behavior. When the words suddenly stopped, the sound of blows drove daggers and bitter anger through my heart. As feisty and robust as my mother was, she was no match for my father’s brute strength. She fought him back and resisted him to the best of her ability, but she was quickly overwhelmed by a blow to the head that sent her to the floor, bleeding and unconscious. At the sound of her falling, I somehow knew what it was and thought to myself, I am going to get even with him when I grow up. If he has hurt or killed Mama, I am going to kill him! When we came out of our room in much suspense and alarm, there lay our mother on the floor in a puddle of her own blood. I remember my father, who obviously was possessed with a demon of violence and rage, picking my mother’s motionless body up off the floor and placing her on the kitchen table. We watched in disbelief and shock at the scene unfolding before our teary eyes. Our poor mother’s seemingly lifeless body rolled off the uneven table and slammed to the floor. Bang! And there she lay, motionless and seemingly dead. Though she would regain conscience in a few minutes and be rushed to the hospital so that trained professionals could attend to her battered body, this incident was without question the most awful sight that I would ever witness in my childhood.
Out of this nearly fatal occurrence came the second most grievous and heart rendering memory of my childhood. It was an experience that I pray no other child will ever have to undergo.

The Sight of My Mother Boarding the Train
Not long after witnessing the awful sight of my mother’s beaten and battered body lying unconscious in a puddle of her own blood due to my father’s fury, the second most grievous memory in the entirety of my upbringing occurred. After my mother was released from the hospital and fully recovered from her physical wounds, she was confronted with the dilemma as to whether or not it was safe to live with my father despite his meek repetitions, “I’m sorry” and “I will never do that again.”
She had heard him say these same words many times before without any real change. Like him, she had threatened to leave many times before without really meaning it. This time, she was serious about leaving him and made plans to take her flight. There was just one very serious thought that troubled her mind and burdened her heart as she waited for her day of departure – the welfare of her children. My mother’s oldest sister was the answer to the problem. Aunt Bertha agreed to look out for those of us who would be left behind with my father. My mother would take the two youngest children with her. My father tried to talk her out of her decision, but to no avail. Her mind was made-up. Her bags were packed, and it was just a matter of days before she and my two younger siblings would be boarding the train for Camden, New Jersey. When the day of their departure finally arrived, I was fortunate enough to see them off. As we waited at the train station, a great sadness gripped my heart. I tried to be tough and not cry, but I was brokenhearted and crying on the inside.
When the northbound train finally arrived on that Sunday afternoon, my mother, along with baby Cynthia and little Charles, boarded. I felt like my world was coming to an end. She had hugged, kissed, and told me goodbye. It didn’t seem fair. It wasn’t right, and I could no longer hold back the tears as I watched the train pull away from the station.
“Bye-bye, Mama”, I whispered as the train disappeared from my sight carrying the most important person in my life far away from me. Although she would eventually come back to us (back to me) in a few months, those were the most difficult days of my young life. As a true mama’s boy, the absence of my Mama was almost more than I could bear.

The Sight of Judy in a Bathing Suit
There were not many whites who lived in Newtown, but there were a few who were called “poor white trash” by other whites. There was one family who lived on Mullins Highway who had a daughter named Judy. She was tall and had blonde hair and blue eyes. She was the girl who starred in many of our dreams and fantasies. Through much subliminal conditioning, we had been programmed to idolize, admire, and desire her. Though she was forbidden fruit and we dared not risk being lynched, it did not stop us from dreaming and imagining.
To be perfectly honest, as a boy growing up in Newtown, I considered all white girls or women attractive and very desirable. Then one day, something happened that I believe Judy deliberately did to tempt and taunt us. She walked down Lucius Road past our house with a bathing suit on. Snook, Joe Boy, my brothers, and I must have gotten the sore eyes from looking so hard at this white girl sporting a bathing suit. It was a sight to behold and one that I would not soon forget.
Not only did it appeal to the lust of my eyes, but it also stretched my imagination and dominated my dreams for a long time.
Now I was dreaming of Judy not only with the light brown hair, but in a bathing suit. Wow!

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