My neighborhood

Oct 18, 2019

She took the fork and she pulls a piece towards her. And I was listening to you, but I was watching her. See, for me, things bring back memories. And I remember how Grandma was always very curated. Put the napkin in the lap. Some things are finger foods, some things are fork foods. But the older I get, I want to eat food the way I want to eat it. But I hear that little voice, and I think I give them some pause. What I wanted to say about, you mentioned neighborhood, how you grow up. Well, I think I wasn’t raised like that because my grandparents raised me. My mother wanted to be a career girl for the government so she lived in New Jersey. We lived in Manhattan. I got my post and my grandparents came from Virginia and Kentucky. Now, I’m not talking about how you take kids to the movies. I mean, every single moment. They were sweet people. They never hit us, they never raised their voice, they called themselves refine. So they taught us how to be ladies – my sister and myself. We had two cousins because her younger daughter died, she didn’t bother with them so much because she said, well, their father’s what you know. So they didn’t work on them, you know? But Courtney, I don’t know anything about it. The way I get singing abilities, but I generally don’t think about it. She told me that one reason she couldn’t stand you mother’s husband, my father, because he had a band, a music band. And in those days, show-business was still considered wrong. We were churchgoing people. And so I grew up not making a sound in the house. Cuz they wanted to hear pin drop. We couldn’t drop it, but they wanted to hear a pin drop. We couldn’t do anything, and this was all in the house, you know, play outside and all summer long until 9 o’clock. They didn’t care. They never gave us any control over us like that. We were our own I grew up doing my thing. But sometimes because I sing here, I realize, people like to say, “you like to sing years ago. I don’t know when I did that, because I never sang in college. I sure wasn’t singing, I was studying. So that’s what I did.

But as far as neighborhood goes, the question you asked, I didn’t grow up like that. My neighborhood was right in the house. Outside we played, but we played as kids you’d jump double dutch, you’d play in the park, you’d play whatever, I don’t even remember, whatever you’d play. And what the neighborhood looked like, I was in high school when I came down the street and noticed these buildings across the street. They’d always go in, they told us what the buildings were they told us what the people were. We had no opinion. Being originally someone that has something to say about every single thing, which puts me in the right mood for here. No matter what you do, someone has a comment on it. But with my own life growing up, at this point in life, I don’t care. I don’t care what you wear, I don’t care what you say. Because I never get angry with anybody. You better have a good memory. I don’t remember what anyone says. Don’t get angry with me and I don’t get angry with them. I just don’t care. Have your say, whatever you want to say is fine with me, about anything! If you think I’m wrong, well, that’s your opinion, I’m just passing on. 

I’m free in that my relatives are not here to tell me what to do. My grandmother had, let’s see, her mother had 18 kids. I had great aunts by the dozen. Here comes Easter. People in their bowler hats, little baby dolls. They all had their separate apartments from Conduit Avenue. The part that I lived in was called Sugar Hill. And there were the West Indian people down there who had money. I remember them talking about anything. Hamilton House across the street. We would play but during holidays and school we had to study. They didn’t tell us anything, you know why, because they didn’t know anything about the neighborhood anyway because they never grew up there. So they gave me the freedom. I’ve always had freedom of movement. I’ve always had the freedom to think what I want to think. What I’m saying to you as seniors, I do know this. 

Like this morning, I live by the river in Hell’s Kitchen. I know it’s cold, it’s long blocks, right? You hear, “Maggie where are your gloves, you don’t have gloves.” Don’t tell me I don’t have gloves, don’t you think I’d figure that out by that time? Don’t you think maybe I don’t want gloves? If I got one pair, I got a hundred pairs, don’t you think I’d figure that out by now? That’s exactly, it never changes, just the way I want it. 

And I don’t care what anybody thinks. I mean there’s nothing fixed. You’re supposed to be acting flexible. This is New York where I grew up in. There’s all sorts of things to do. I lived in Paris many, many years. So over the years, a lot of Americans come there, expatriates. They all have opinions about the French. Why can’t we just let them be French? But they have opinions that the French are no good. It’s there country, why can’t they do what they want to do? They make themselves very unhappy, travellers and living there, because they don’t like what the French do. I don’t feel that way. You can do whatever you want to do. I don’t care what you do with that, but if you do something I don’t like I’m gonna tell you about it, but Im not going to tell you up front. Because I don’t know, I don’t know the future. And it might be something I very much like. 

So that’s my future. There’s no neighborhood, my neighborhood was the apartment. When we went outside they told us what we were supposed to see. You see how people can make you see what they want you to see? They didn’t always have it right. They saw ghosts. Now they’re dead, they grew up Baptist. So they didn’t go to church too much. But the point I mean, I always knew whenever she was going to cook, she would clap her hands. Swing Low Sweet Chariot was a Baptist song. My Catholic friends they light a candle to get their prayers answered. Baptists lit a candle because they didn’t pay the bill with Con Edison. See the difference? The baptists didn’t pay Con Edison, that’s why they lit the candles because they couldn’t see without light. So they didn’t go to Church very much, but they had ideas about coming back – reincarnation – coming back. And here’s what they say. They say, “Don’t be talking about grown folks business. Stay out of our business. Don’t talk about the other folks. And we’ll hear you from the other side.” So that’s where this ends for me, because I have nothing to say about it just in case their listening! There’s no problem, because what am I going to say?

What’s a good song to end this for with me? How about “Hello Darlin”

Download the Free Story Prompt Cards

Enter your information below for instant download

Newsletter Signup

Sign up for our monthly email newsletter to stay up to date with our work and upcoming events!