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Chapter OneCaught Up In the Midst
"You would have never known of a rich black family in Tampa unless you were in the inner circle. For the most part, circles are at times easy to disguise and hard to penetrate. Regardless of what social class a person is in, we all face our own struggles." XinXin
March 6, 2009
Sweat had already started breaking at Ron's brow as he exited the doors of Exciting Idlewild Baptist Church. Church services were over at 11 AM. Right in the middle of the Spring Equinox, it seemed as if he were in the middle of another hot Florida summer. There is no other heat like Florida's humid air, so much pollen flying around, it could make you almost have an asthma attack.
The family was meeting over at Grandma's house after church, which was the normal Sunday ritual. The one thing about family is building relationships. What better way to do that then by breaking bread, a dance off, sharing drinks, playing Taboo, throwing your feet up and watching a good movie or chillin not stressing about a thing.
Ron's simmering in his Sunday's spiritual cheer, decided to skip singles class and head right over to some good ole soul cooking brewed right out of the love of his one and only Grandma's heart. Driving on the interstate headed to I-4 Ron flipped on "Never Too Much" from the Luther Vandross' Greatest Hits just enjoying this positive vibe he received from church this morning. It was a beautiful Sunday; the thought of missing Grandma's cooking for the beach was highly unlikely for today. His stomach was just yearning for something to hit that spot. He had to eat something that he knew a drive-thru restaurant couldn't take care of. His hunger pangs made the trip to Thonotosassa feel like long extended journey.
The thought of speeding up crossed his mind, but was immediately cancelled when he heard the familiar chirps coming from his police radar. After almost an $175 increase in tickets and license renewals since Florida had all these budget cuts, Ron was not simply going down for putting any extra dollar into the city or government that had already taxed his pockets for the year. It was a construction area ... looks like the city is taking forever to prepare for the Olympics, that's if they even meet the qualifications and requirements. Oh well God is still working on my patience. Seems like he's putting as many things as he can in front of me to make me slow down lately; and I'll just be ... here's another tourist from Rhode Island jumping in front of me and slowing down, in the fast lane ... Shhhh ....
One of these day's I'm going to come home to Grandma's and surprise her with my fiancée. I know they are going to be taken aback. It has been some years of dating and it seems like I can't seem to make a connection with a good woman. I would often think to myself ... maybe, my Honey list is too long? You know women have their Honeydew list for their men and I have my Honey list for what I want in a good woman. Women who have locked down men, and I'm not talking about 6 months, I'm talking years, those women brought something to the table much more powerful than good sex.
To be honest and frank, I'm just moving around doing too much at this point to focus in on a relationship. My patience is short with DRAMA and stupidity. My type of woman though is dark, thick, has her mind right and her shit together. Right about now, every woman who even thinks of dating me is going on a live and exclusive interview at Starbucks. How this economy is going. I'm sticking close to all my money. I absolutely refuse to spend another dime on a chicken head or gold digger. I need the type of woman that I can spend all day talking to; who I can build an abundant life with. It is imperative that we have a connection deeper than the physical attraction or simply Pussy? And by Pussy, I mean the woman's only value to that man is to satisfy his physical needs. Her job is to make him cum. Pussy isn't just the hoe; the slut or the jump off, it's also the girlfriend who men have no intention of marrying or keeping around past a year. Nevertheless, the day of the Sugar Daddy is over, I am a prime time financial analyst. My new motto, "if she doesn't make dollars, she doesn't make sense." Because women can either make you or break you. I want someone who can stand right by my side and support me physically, mentally, and spiritually. In my mind there's no need for a divorce when everything is lined up at the door. We both would have an overstanding of what we each need from each other.
I'm just sick and tired of some of these lame as motherfuckers in Tampa fucking over some of these women. I better not find one fucking over any of my sisters. They are my heart and there's too much STDs and AIDS being spread around these days and as "man-made" and as "oxymoron" AIDS is; I wouldn't want to have to take them, nor myself to Dr. Sebi. The thought of one of my family members getting it might make me lose my mind. I will support them but the motherfucker who fucked them over I have no love for.
A woozy feeling came over me as I got caught up in my emotions and the sun's heat made a little moisture form to my body. Thonotosassa Exit—10 minutes away. I turned to 98.7 to listen to some smooth jazz to ease my nerves, because I didn't know what to expect.
Well I was the first to arrive, since church services at Exciting Idelwild Baptist Church let out fairly early than most of those sanctified churches. I remember visiting a COGIC church with my mother off of 22nd Avenue one Sunday. They let you out of morning services between 2pm to 3pm, which tripped me out, how they expected you back into service at 6:30pm to 7:30pm. It's just so funny how some of those sanctified people get so caught up in the spirit that they faint, form at the mouth, supposedly speak in tongues and waddle on the ground. It looks more like demonic possession to me. Anyway, my synopsis is people know that it's hot in Florida for one thing. Second thing it's after 2 or 3pm it's time to eat, the body is exhausted from all that running around the church like they are in a 5K triathlon and that's the only exercise some may get through the week.
I see a few cars parked outside as I pulled into this extended driveway. Yeah the infamous quadruple was there, consisting of Grandma, Great Aunty Louise, Aunty Geraldine and Aunty Joyce. Now Grandma was the glue that kept the family together. Years ago she had a hair salon and owned a dry cleaner down on 7th Avenue. Her hair was always done and when you talk about fashion, Grandma always had the best. She was very down to earth. She never had her nose too far in the sky and she would always be looking for opportunities of keeping colored folk working. She would always maintain her house and have dinner served at 6pm. She also made sure everyone had their baths and clothes ready so that everyone would be to bed by 8pm and ready for the following day. "You have to pay the cost to be the boss," she would always say. My grandparents were always family oriented so all the family from my father's side and my mother's side would be together on Sundays. They wanted to make sure that we knew who our kin-folk were.
Grandma loved elaborate things and having a pink and white mansion with her English Garden tucked away in the woods suited her well. You can't tell me if she didn't love her sorority colors. AKA FOREVER, "Ssssskiiiiwweeeee!!!" Now, for a woman to have taste at her age is not rare. My Grand Daddy and Grandma always hosted big parties at the house every summer. You would see some of the big wigs in town all gathered around to feast at this house. You're talking about live entertainment. Grandpa was apart of this local quartet group and all the members would show up and show out. You are talking about a blues festival in our own back yard. Grandpa was the town's B.B. King. He could make that Bass guitar talk, which accompanied his deep silky voice. His dark skin, wavy hair, and tall stature distinguished him from the rest of the group, but they were together. They would ask, "You can make it if you leave ... what's holding you up?" Grandpa simply told them, "I have a wife and child at home." It didn't matter about how light or dark skinned you were in there times because they all knew that in the end of the day all that they had were each other.
Grandpa is what you can call a free spirit. He was known throughout town for being a very charismatic comedian. No matter where he would go people were just be drawn to laugh and listen to him. He was a reporter for the Florida Sentinel and the Tampa Tribune. "If you work hard you have to play hard son," he would always say. He sung with the Quartet Group on Friday Night's at the Fox, Saturday he played baseball in Belmont Heights and to balance him off he would spend Sundays with family.
Tampa is known for its down home blues and the feel of Black love just filled the town. Everywhere you went people always greeted each other even if you didn't know them. Each little section of town had its own culture and people would come together sharing the latest gossip and food. All around some good old music, a few games of backgammon, cards, chess, dominoes and micanobe, Yeah those were the times. There was Great Uncle Al always on the barbeque and in the kitchen showing his new female friend how a man is supposed to cook in the kitchen with so many women flocking around him. It was like Uncle Al had a different friend each summer. He ran a chain of restaurants and for the summer he would come and stay with Grandma and reminisce on the days they grew up together.
Hum, I just wonder if I should go in now or wait for 30 minutes. They may be in the house praying and catching the Holy Spirit. And I know for a fact I'm not trying to get caught up. I will be the 1st one to raise my finger and head straight for the exit
Letting down my window I didn't hear anything, but I smelled the savor of fried chicken and smoking collard greens in the air. I think it's safe to go in. Let me make sure that I have my grown man on because these ladies will pick every inch of dignity out of you if you let them. The thing is everyone is wondering when I'm going to finally settle down and have a family. Knowing that they just want something else or should I say "fresh news" to talk or gossip about. Hummmm
RING RING RING
"Who is it?" a voice blurted out as the sound of feet paced to the door.
"Ron," I said.
"Hey baby, come on in!" Aunty Joyce, my Mom's older sister, said as she greeted me with a hug and kiss as I walked in. Aunty Joyce wearing her Red and Black Delta shirt and jeans it's another Sorority Show Off Sunday. We'll see who wins. Last time it had gotten so heated that Grandma simply had enough and kicked everyone out of the house, I was no exception to the rule. After that one incident you would think that that was enough. Here we are again, I want to make sure I get my stomach filled and have a paper plate wrapped in foil paper for my lunch on tomorrow.
Walking through the house was almost as if you were walking through an African and Roman collector's gallery. There were pictures of the family mixed in with personal portraits with some famous people that Grandpa and Grandma had known. Grandma usually would have her drapes open from time to time to see who was coming and going to her house. Certain parts of the house had white Victorian furniture with hints of gold which always kept this fresh look. While on other parts of the house she liked to keep up with the Joneses with modern designed furniture. On this particular day she was in the kitchen cooking up a storm.
"Who is that?" Grandma's loud raspy voice sounded like an alarm coming from the living room. After the heart ache of losing Grandpa over prostate cancer Grandma has put on 50 pounds. It looked as though she didn't give a care in the world of her health. Doctors had told her that her body was taking it hard with her rheumatoid arthritis and sudden weight gain that she should take it easy because she had developed diabetes. In 83 years of living she really didn't care.
"It's me Granny,"
"Is that my Ron-Ron?"
"The one and only, I'm the real McCoy Momma." Grandma smiling with open arms, "That's who I thought it was."
"What you have cooking in here???" The one thing is to make Grandma mad, but I know that her cooking always suited my belly and soul quite well. After a certain age we are all set in our ways and canned yams, fried pork chops, collard greens cooked with hog jaws, and fried chicken was not going to change from this country woman's taste pallet.
As I walked around the corner I was like OH DAMN. If they ain't praying they gossiping and I'm fresh meat. "Hey Aunty Louise, Geraldine how are ya'll doing?" I said as I went straight for Grandma and went around the room to give my hugs and kisses.
"Fine, just fine baby," Aunty Geraldine said, my mother's younger sister, who always knew how to get on my nerves.
"Alright, that's my boy," Aunty Louise said, my father's twin sister, who always had my back. She was my shield of protection. I couldn't do anything wrong in her eyes.
"Sit on down son, you have to gone and tell us where you been hiding, and what's going on in your life." Grandma said.
"Just taking life as it comes Grandma. I just came back from Atlanta off of vacation and looking at my other company there. I 'm considering opening another branch in Ohio," I said as I made sure I sat down trying to avoid any of grandma's accessories. One break can land you on Grandma's D-list.
"Uhhhh—huuuhhhh, I hear it's a lot of gay men up there. You ain't tipping around, are you?" Grandma asked.
"Here we go, no Grandma I don't get down like that. Now you know.... ," I said.
"Well I know it's a lot of DL men now a days, I saw Oprah," Aunty Joyce said as she just added gas to the fire.
"Well, I know what the Bible says about all that, but this day and age these young people choose whatever they want to, they like it, I love it. I ain't got nothing to do in the final thoughts of what God has to say about it all, because baby surely I don't have neither heaven nor hell to put no one in. And if we can be real about it, God said that he does not judge. It's your own consciousness. A man is a law unto himself and no one else," Aunty Louise said as she took a quick wink at me to show me she's getting them off me.
"Ain't your son gay Joyce, I seen him at the movies one day kissing on a man?" Aunty Geraldine said.
Rising out of the chair to defend her son's lifestyle, "Who told you that; you know you're getting a little too old to see Geraldine. Besides, if he is, that's his God damn business. At least my son ain't gone to jail, have 5 different baby mommas and strung out on Meth. My baby graduated from Hampton College, running his own law firm and other businesses, have 7 houses, paid for my mansion, taking care of my bills and still giving me money. How do you like the way my cookies crumble?" Oh and the reason why I waited to tell you about Aunty Geraldine, she is my mom's sister child who is seven years older than her. They say she is her spitting image and the apple just didn't fall to far from the tree. Pick a nerve of Aunty Geraldine you best be ready to back whatever you have up. "I don't curse only God curses, I just use profane language," is her motto.
"Ummmm not in my house," Grandma said.
After that you could hear the pots steaming in the kitchen.
"Well Grandma, the women that I've been meeting these days have not been what you told me to catch. It's like you never know who you're getting these days. One minute I'm in love and the next minute she trying to find where all my money is coming from. Then in some cases women love DRAMA and you know I'm far from that. I had to cut the silence.
"Well you sure were head over heels for Katrina," Aunty Geraldine slipped in.
See what I'm saying, I can't even speak. "Well I'll tell you, that was my first encounter with love Aunty and I'll never try it again. Like I was saying, but then you have some that are over whelmed with personal issues and I'm not responsible for what some other man's dealing. Then you have others with low self-esteem and don't know how to speak up for themselves, I need someone to think."
"Well baby it's alright boy, you will find that special lady. She'll just come out of nowhere," Aunty Louise said as she leaned back to sip another cup of tea.
"Are you sure about that Aunty because this goose is not getting any younger," I said
Auntie Louise looking at me with a smirk on her face, "Yes boy, like I told you things don't always come easily. When she's into you, you will know. Actions speak louder than words."
"Alright Aunty Louise I'll take your words into consideration," I said agreeing quickly.
"Honey, if you are the man that you say you are she will compliment you," Grandma said.
"Make sure you take care of that woman and she will take care of you," Aunty Geraldine said putting her two cents in.
"Even swap even swindle." Aunty Joyce said with a quick squint.
"I tell you one thing you best watch out for Julian." Aunty Geraldine said.
"I'm just warning you to keep your ass covered."
"She ain't lying about that because that boy will talk to anything that has two legs and a face," said Aunty Joyce
"Well I know the women that Julian and I attract are polar opposites."
"Good Afternoon." Momma came through the side of the house in her church attire.
"Hey ol' girl," jumping up out of my seat to land a big kiss on my momma.
"That's a pretty suite Amber," Grandma said.
"Yes Ma, you haven't seen anything until you see this new dress I bought from Michael Kors Collection.
"Well alright," Grandma said.
"Church folk ain't holier than a penny with a hole in it," Aunty Louise said as she looked at Aunty Geraldine.
Shortly after, the entire family came in like a river and soon I would have to be headed to my house to get ready for the rest of the night.
Excerpted from Caught Up by XinXin Copyright © 2012 by XinXin. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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