Hold on to My Feets
by LaKimbra McKinley
Table of Contents|
parts 1, 2, 3, 4
Life on the mean streets of L.A. gives new meaning to the old saying “If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all.” But a young woman shows a flair for business. With the help of friends and relatives, she makes a bold move to turn her luck around and be able to tell her children, “Hold on to my feets...”
Folks used to say I was an “old soul.” Ever since I can remember, I have always preferred the company of older people. I delight in their stories and wisdom. Thanks to my Grandma, I sigh before I get up, whether it hurts or not.
Anxious to look like my mother at five, I took up drinking coffee, because Grandma said it would make me black. Thirty-two years later, nothing has changed. I have almost the same complexion as when I started out.
I am the middle child between four siblings: an older brother, a sister and two younger brothers. I had a stepfather. He and Mama met when I was five months old. He was the most wonderful thing in my world. Unfortunately, he was killed in an automobile accident when I was nine.
Mainly, Mama was a single parent, but my grandmother helped her out quite a bit. Mama was the youngest of five. She was an old-folks’ child and spoiled beyond belief. My mother had her first child at eighteen and the last one at twenty-nine. Although Mama did the best she could, sometimes she fell short.
When I was five years old, Mama was having crying spells. She called us into her room and, one by one, she gave my siblings and me an overdose of phenobarbital. Then she got scared and called my grandmother. Fifteen minutes later Grandma was at the door with syrup of ipecac. We were forced to swallow a tablespoon then instructed not to go to sleep.
Once we vomited, we resumed running and screaming. Grandma took Mama into the other room. She warned her that the police would put her in jail and throw away the key.
For the next year we stayed under the watchful eye of Grandma. She did pop-up calls, helped out with groceries and kept us on Friday night, to give Mama a break.
Ever since that fateful night, I have been in touch with the miraculous. I could be praying one minute and receiving the next. God has kept me in his loving care.
But here lately, nothing seems to be going right. I am sure this time the Devil has asked God for me instead of Job. My situation has gone from bad to worse.
* * *
Reginald’s sudden urge to buy a house 75 miles away from Los Angeles shook the foundation of our relationship. An “oasis in the desert” is what my mother called it. She claimed Reginald moved me up there to keep me out of his way down in Los Angeles.
In the beginning, I confided in Mama and told her about my problems. She began to take his mistreatment of me personally. She led the battle cry to hunt him down. Because of my mother’s growing disdain for Reginald, I was reluctant to talk to her.
Because I had no one to talk to, it added to my downward spiral. Then I began speaking to God as to an uncle or an old friend. “Lord, help me. You know what I’ve been asking you for. Why haven’t you given it to me yet?” I prayed.
I felt guilty about how we just uprooted and transplanted our children at such an impressionable age. DeShawn was thirteen and Eva, nine. She was the typical little sister, reporting all of her brother’s whereabouts and transgressions. DeShawn was an awkward teenager and had trouble adjusting to his new surroundings. Eventually he fell in with the wrong crowd. And yes, it was Eva that pulled my coattails to that, too.
One afternoon she came in my room and curled up with me, biting her fingernails then thrusting her hand out in front of her, inspecting her work, she asked, “DeShawn sure has a lot of friends, but what I can’t figure out is why do his friends come to our house with their backpacks, yet they never leave with them?”
“What are you saying?” I asked.
“They never leave with the backpacks, and I conducted an investigation,” she said.
“You’re funny,” I said.
Without saying a word, she grabbed my hand and led me to DeShawn’s room. She began pulling stuff from under the bed, out of the closet and inside the clothes basket.
Furious, I collected everything into a pile and confronted DeShawn when he came home from school. He told me stories of survival, betrayal and even recited the law of the jungle.
“Mama, ain’t no honor amongst thieves,” he said, shrugging his shoulders.
I shook my head in defeat. “Lord help me,” I said looking heavenward.
A week later, everything came to a boil. DeShawn and his accomplices were arrested. My heart broke when I learned of his involvement with a teenage theft ring. It was run by older gangsters, who took advantage of younger boys. DeShawn received six months in Youth Authority. The others were also given six months to a year depending on their prior offenses.
* * *
Nothing will crack the foundation of a relationship like lack of money and communication. Things began to unravel. Reginald and I were becoming strangers in a strange town. He was an enemy within my camp and that meant he had to go. An enemy in your camp is certain death, because the enemy knows all your secrets.
I regretted moving to Lancaster and thought there was something off the grid-ish and Twilight-Zoney about that place. The first month we moved there, it was the hottest summer on record. We were an active family, and that meant always under the glare of the sun.
My son was a captain on the football team, and my daughter was a captain on the cheerleading squad. I spent the entire day running from tree to tree. Suddenly I knew why all the white people were pink and I was becoming the color that coffee was supposed to make me.
I received one traffic ticket a week. By the fifth ticket, I went ballistic. I hollered at the motorcycle cop and proceeded to pull out all the tickets from the glove compartment and the door panel. He reviewed the tickets and realized that he had issued two of the four tickets.
“You know that new court building on M Street? Well, I paid for it twice!” I screamed.
“All right, Mrs. Little, this time I’ll give you a break,” he said with a hint of guilt. He jumped back on his motorcycle, and then off he went. That would not be my last contact with law enforcement.
* * *
A year later the sheriffs came, armed with search warrants. They took photos, documentation and a 22-caliber handgun. Six months later, they returned with arrest warrants.
Thank God the kids were at school and Reginald was at work. A big burly cop told me they were looking for Reginald. I also learned that because we were married he was going to be arrested also.
Just as they promised, he was arrested a day later. Reginald spent six days in jail before his parents bailed him out. He bailed me out two weeks later.
We were charged with conspiracy to commit fraud. While attending school I had received welfare and concealed the fact that I was married. Eventually, I got a Bachelor of Science degree from Mount Saint Mary’s. Later, I learned the arrest was the least of my problems.
While I was incarcerated, Reginald took my kids and moved back to Santa Monica. He enrolled them in school and moved into one of his parents’ rental properties. Angry about his impending firing, Reginald put an exit strategy in motion and with the precision of a brain surgeon he executed it to the fullest.
Out of the sight of his family, he pretended we were happy, but I knew better, because his words never matched his actions. God gives women internal cues. Just as eyebrows, eyelashes and nose hairs are protection, so too is a woman’s intuition.
I had yard sales. Anything that didn’t sell was distributed between two thrift shops. But there was one item I decided to keep: the chignons. They are hair accessories, like long hairpins. I had two long chignons that held sentimental value for me.
Folks didn’t know what to make of them, nor did they want to pay the $1.50 I was asking. That summer, my hair had grown rather long. I rolled up my ponytail and stuck the chignons in it. Their long, cylindrical shape doubled as vials. Their hidden capacity was camouflaged by Chinese artwork.
After the yard sale, I returned to scrubbing the floors, washing the windows and wiping the baseboards. I didn’t stop until the house was spotless. The competition on our street was stiff: there were two other houses for sale. When deciding which house to purchase, and they all look similar, a well-manicured lawn and cleanliness win out every time.
The bimonthly yard sales gave me enough money to eat and buy gas for my car. Since Reginald didn’t leave money to pay bills and buy food, I had to find a way to survive.
I went to a Mexican restaurant at the shopping center. They had a buffet style special for $6.99. I stuffed the container with shredded steak, Spanish rice, quesadilla, cheese and salad. I had so much food the lid barely closed.
A week later I was devastated to learn that, because of the nature of the pending charges, Reginald had been fired. What would become of us with all the mounting bills, attorney fees and restitution to pay back?
To ensure the house sold quickly, the realtor suggested we take down family photos and remove all the knick-knacks and bulky furniture. “Staging” is what she called it. She said it helps others see themselves in your space.
* * *
Copyright © 2014 by LaKimbra McKinley