What of pride?

The folded object was thrown on the floor at my feet accompanied by the single Creole word, “Mi.” An ordinary act? Perhaps. But, this single, innocent, and well-intentioned deed produced a torrent of extraordinary emotions in my childish heart that helped shape my evolution. Watching me from outside―from where she had thrown the object―with her face, arms, legs, and clothes blackened by the coal she sold at the market, my mother stayed long enough to witness my retrieval of the red and blue thing. Then, her ever-present basket balanced perfectly on her scarf-covered head, she made her way to the kitchen. Once she was gone, I slowly unfolded what I was now sure was an item of clothing, then laid it beside me as my thoughts threatened to burst right out of my head. What my mother had unceremoniously dumped at my feet was a used pair of boys’ briefs.

An overpowering sense of indignation enveloped me; indignation directed at my mother, at the unknown person or people who had made the offer, and at the circumstances that led to my mother’s acceptance of it. What was my mother thinking? Like many other families, we operated the hand-me-down system where older siblings who had outgrown their clothes would pass them on to eager, younger brothers or sisters. Tradition notwithstanding, I had never heard of or seen intimate items of clothing like underwear being used in that fashion. And if items of underclothing were not handed down at my house, what made my mother think it was all right to accept the piece of clothing on my behalf from someone who was a complete stranger to me?

Who were those people who had made that ruinous offer to my mother? Why had she not taken offense? This was a woman whose fiercely independent and irreverent nature imbued her with iron determination and pride; this was a woman who had made it sternly clear to us that no matter what the fare at our house, lunchtime or suppertime should never be spent at someone else’s house. So what had inspired her to engage in such a demeaning business? Why had she not scoffed at the very idea of being a party to this transaction? Had she temporarily taken leave of her senses? Had she experienced a momentary lapse? Did she feel beholden, in some way, to the people from whom she had received this revolting thing? Who were those people?

Author’s note: The preceding is an excerpt from the story “What of pride?” from the novella, “House of Tears” – now on Amazon kindle.

 

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