Keeping Up Appearances
Outside our house, you couldn’t tell we were going hungry so my parents could hang with their friends on the weekend. Two days were worth keeping up with the Jones’ with clothes, cars, furniture or spending. If he was pleased, whatever treachery spoken, done, or felt by others was never thought of by Nate. He knew what he could get away with while still wreaking havoc on his family throughout his adolescence. He takes the idea of it being a man’s world literally. Unless all things met his approval, it’s not going to be done. Emotions are not shared, they are given with instruction. Belittlement or criticism are used to achieve his goals along with playing favorites. Everyone must react to him as you would a king, we all had to jump when he said or deal with his tantrum like warpath. In order to survive, my brother and I had to assume his direction and randomness on every aspect. He disbursed assigned duties and punishments by gender and traditions that are still implemented blindly in one way or another to this day.
But as for now, the rumors of Nate spending while his family suffered spread through our family. My Grandma Kate went to my favorite cousin Renee’s house when my aunt (her oldest daughter’s) wasn’t home. Kate took food without asking for both my brother and me. Debates can be made for her harshness, favoritism, or her being outspoken for a woman. But this was apart of her choice to be the only parent. She provided the life she wanted for her children as a wife and mother. She’d rather be alone and happy than being a doormat to a man who only spoke or showed attention when he could get something in return! She had enough courage to want real reciprocal love, so she moved out. Kate got a smart house in the only neighborhood blacks could live and rent freely in Norton, Virginia. Her landlord and bosses were the rich whites that had left the area because coal mines and factories were paying black just enough to stay in those designated areas. Having her single sister Helen living 10 minutes away while her other sister was a short drive to Richmond. Society expected her to stay silent at home with 4 boys and 2 girls alone most days and nights. While her traditional husband worked, ran the streets chasing women and paid the bills for the household. But he didn’t want to be around Kate so he got the mail, ate, showered, did the holiday and infrequent relations with her yet he claimed to love publicly. Behind closed doors; he was cold, calculating and quick to criticize when she was wrong.
After The Great Depression, Kate’s parents were thrilled to hear their daughter was chosen by a man with of wealth. Every town had royalty and in the 1940’s town of Norton, the Walderton’s were the church going, people helping, railroad engineers for two generations after reconciliation. These people listen to sound financial advice from the men they met serving train riders on their routes. The sacrifice of being away from home 70% or more depending on how much trouble the marriage may have been in at the time. Men had reputations to uphold especially in this new free generation. Marriage felt like an albatross strapped to his body voluntarily. The dance between real and appearances for others became normalcy as dysfunction stayed home behind closed doors for the sake of all that is proper. Kate knew the routine but failed at following them to end up used up with nothing to call her own. Her two daughters would not see the quiet housewife who takes the long days of silence, either because an argument was coming or the mood called for their needs to be met. That silence that hangs heavy on forgotten birthdays and anniversaries.
To be cont…..
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