Background – In Charge

Draft as of March 30, 2007



In Charge

I was standing in the Dining Room of our home, a large, turn of the century, sturdy house with a wide front porch that ran the width of the two-story house.  This house had a living room, big enough for a basketball game that extended the entire depth of the house, a large dining room, a breakfast room, a large kitchen, a laundry room and bathroom all on the first floor.  We had 4 bedrooms, a bath and a large hall on the second floor and a basement that had been partially converted to a rumpus room.


I lived in a small town in Mississippi in a family that, at that time, had been attending Mass at the same Catholic Church for six generations.  This was the Catholic Church, Pre-Vatican II that encouraged young Catholic to only marry other Catholics and forbid them to use any form of birth control.  This was the same Catholic Church that did not require any level of emotional maturity before being married ‘in the Church’ or before baptizing these young couples’ babies.  The same Priest married my parents and then baptized 5 babies in 8 years without any consideration, or even a thought, about how those babies would be cared for.


I spent every Friday night with my Granny.  If I was 7 years old, she would have been 61 which meant that she was still working full-time as quality control supervisor in the County Welfare Department.  I created a haven for myself in her home.  Those Friday nights and Saturday mornings gave me an experience of being nurtured with a special bath-time, bedtime stories and a big Southern breakfast.   This oasis provided a respite for me of peace and order, away from the commotion that reigned in my home with two parents, two little brothers, an older sister and a baby-sister.


One Saturday morning, after arriving from Granny’s house a block away, standing in our Dining Room around noon, on a day when our cleaning lady (we called her our Maid back then), Lucille Scott, would not have been working, I surveyed the situation.  I was barely able to see over the top of the dining room table, but I could sense the disorder, clutter and the totally unsanitary kitchen and breakfast room.  I knew intuitively from my Mutha’s sarcasm and negativity, that my Dad had been raging before he left for ‘the office’ that morning.  He was probably raging about the condition of the house, the garage, the backyard, really any one of the many possible opportunities for more order and cleanliness in and around our home.  While we were perceived to be upper middle class because of my father’s profession as a CPA and our family history in Vicksburg, we really lived in a state what could best be described as schizophrenic.  We had beautiful china and silver that we used often to entertain.  Our home was filled with family antiques that prior to my Mutha, had been lovingly restored and maintained.   We attended Catholic Schools and belonged to the Country Club.  But beneath that veneer of respectability, there was a wide deep current running through of neglect and abandonment of the home, the yard and on most days, the children.


I was standing in that dining room, with my hands on my hips, at 7 years old and I declared out loud, “Someone has got to make a few decisions around here”!


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