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Standing the Test of TimeLOVE STORIES OF AFRICAN AMERICAN ELDERS
By Julie Rainbow
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2012 Julie Rainbow
All right reserved.
Chapter OneLooking for Peace and Truth
"Most people get married for the wrong reason. Something outside of you cannot sustain your life because what you need is on the inside."
"Hattie! Hattie, the telephone!" Hattie recalls hearing. "I knew it was Ralph because he was the only person that ever called me at college. You were 'hot stuff' if somebody called you, and when he called, he was always somewhere different. Because he traveled a lot, I began to fantasize that this rich boy was going to get me out of this small town. He traveled and that was appealing to me."
"In the beginning I didn't have any particular affection for Hattie," Ralph admits. "I did for her, the same as I had done for my sisters. It was my pattern. I had sent my two sisters to school before I met Hattie. She was in school trying to 'make it,' so if I could help her with the money I was making, I would. It wasn't a strain."
"At first, I didn't like him. He had just gotten out of the service, and one day a friend and I were walking down Duke Street in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. This fella comes up and offers to buy us a drink. I was horrified that somebody would offer to buy me a drink or even think that I would drink alcohol. That was really horrifying to me, so I didn't like him because of that. At the time I was nineteen. To me, he didn't respect me. He talked all the time and always had a camera around his neck. The second time I remember seeing him was at church. He threw his hat in my lap, which was a sign that he wanted me to be his girl. I didn't want to be branded as anybody's girl. He wasn't my boyfriend," states Hattie adamantly.
"I threw the hat in her lap because I didn't want to put it on the seat," Ralph laughs.
"Soon after the church incident, he started calling me at college, Cheyney," Hattie continues. "I really didn't pay him that much attention, even though he was calling."
"After a while he grew on me and I knew he liked me. He had excellent manners, was always attentive, opened doors for me, and all that 'good stuff,' which I wasn't accustomed to. I read about it in books, but the people were always white. I used to read a lot and back then blacks couldn't go to the public library, so whenever I would get a dime I would buy these 'Street & Smith' love stories."
"As for manners, I was raised in a house in a house full of women. My mother didn't know, but since my mother knew she didn't know, she copied the people where she worked. She would copy what she saw and heard on the job," Ralph explains." By this time, I knew I liked Hattie, and we began to communicate more."
"I liked Ralph, too, but I didn't know whether I really wanted to get married. Finishing school was my goal. However, he continued to pursue and bought me a platinum set of rings. I asked him to take those rings back, because I had to finish school. As a senior I needed the extra money to graduate and the rings were expensive. He took them back and bought another ring. He didn't buy a set, he bought me one ring. After we had gotten the license, I decided I didn't want to get married, so I gave him back the ring. He rolled up the receipt for the license, put the ring around it and threw it away."
"She didn't want, I didn't want it," Ralph insists.
"After giving it some thought, I decided I liked him enough to marry him. One Saturday morning I left campus, met Ralph in Westchester, and we went to Maryland to get married, in Elkton, Maryland. We got married in Maryland, because we didn't need a blood test. We went to the minister's house, paid ten dollars, and got married. There were three or four couples ahead of us. When the minister was marrying them, he would look out the window. I said, 'Uh-uh, we're not doing it like this.' When our time came I told him, 'I'm pulling down these shades, so when you marry me I don't want you looking out the window to see how many ten dollars are coming in that door, because I don't intend to do this but once. I want you to give us your full attention.' I told the minister, 'When you say 'le us pray,' wait until we kneel and then pray over us. Don't start praying, no, no, no, we must kneel first.'"
"I wasn't paying attention to him," Ralph offers.
"He took Ralph in the kitchen and told him, 'Don't marry that girl because she's too bossy.'"
"It was too late then," Ralph laughs.
"After we got married, we took the bus to his mother's house. She cooked spaghetti. He was sitting there drinking lemonade and looking at me. I'm eating and he's staring. His mother is upset because he's not eating, so she goes outs and buys calf's liver, his favorite, and he didn't eat that either," recalls Hattie.
"I didn't need any food, because when you have a jewel, you enjoy the jewel. I was enjoying the jewel," Ralph says. "I was too busy to eat."
"Shoot, I was eating, because when you're in college, you look forward to some good food, and I was going back to school the next morning," Hattie continues. "I had two more weeks in college and seniors had to be on campus for Sunday school."
"We got married and didn't have a honeymoon," says Ralph.
"Though we didn't have a physical honeymoon there was this point in time where the relationship changed. Being head over heels was over; we had to get down to some serious business and work through this," Hattie explains.
"After marrying, we lived apart for about two weeks," he says.
"Ralph was working in Middletown, Pennsylvania, as an airplane mechanic, so we lived there, but we didn't stay long. We went to live with his mother and sisters. He told me not to do it, but his mother said it was a good move. She was an elder, and you always listened to your elders, that was the way I was raised. I couldn't understand why Ralph didn't want to live with his mother. Later I discovered Ralph was right; it was a bad move. By that time I was pregnant. We stayed there a few weeks and then he disappeared. I hadn't the slightest idea where he was.
"Ralph couldn't take it, it was too much for him, so he ran away to Boston. He was living in a huge house in Boston, where I stayed with him a couple of nights, then we went to Syracuse, where my father lived. Then they called for us to come home because my grandfather was dying. All of this confusion happened during our first year of marriage.
"We were married nine months and eleven days when Paula, our daughter, was born," Hattie continues. "Immediately, I learned that Ralph was different from the men that I was accustomed to. He'd iron but wouldn't wash. The first month of Paula's birth he washed Paula's clothes because women weren't supposed to put their hands in water. We were pampered. That's the only time he washed. I didn't like ironing. I ironed one shirt for him and he told me not to iron for him anymore."
"Remember, I was raised with a house full of women," Ralph laughs. "It doesn't bother me to be at home. When I'm going to clean, I put her out. My first love and joy is messing in the kitchen. I'm a serious cook and I enjoy it."
"Ralph was different and that was one of the attractions," Hattie says. "I knew he was different from the other fellas when we got married. He takes care of the house. He likes being home, and the first paycheck he got, he gave it to me."
"My father always gave his money to my mother. He said 'As hard as I work, it's easier for her to take care of the money.' My mother always took care of the money, so that's what I was accustomed to; therefore, I did it without even thinking about it," Ralph explains. "My father even went to my mother to get money for cigarettes. It never bothered him."
When I would get mad I would run away, temporarily," Hattie offers. "I'd leave the house, go stay away all day, come back, and go to bed. When I left I didn't take my worries with me. I'd put my worries on the back burner and as soon as I hit the front door I picked them up again. Ralph would ignore me. I'd ask him a question and he wouldn't answer. That would bug me. If he was displeased with something, he wouldn't talk or say he was displeased with it. How would I know what's going on if he didn't talk? He doesn't do it as much now—he'll answer."
"My mother argued so much and so long, that I disconnected. When I disconnect I cannot answer what I don't hear," Ralph explains. "I could disconnect at the drop of a hat, because my mother would go on for hour after hour after hour. She was a spitfire."
"When I got married I was very confused," Ralph admits. "It took me years to understand what was wrong. I was a boy in a house full of women; consequently, I'm a boy, but I was taught to think like a woman. It was confusion and it took me years to understand what was wrong with me. When a boy is raised with a house full of women, he's confused. I was in total turmoil. It took me years to realize men and women do not think alike."
"I really can't say when I realized there was a problem, but when I did I began to work on it," Ralph offers. "You cannot solve a problem until you see it. That took a long time because it was deeply imbedded. When two people get married they both bring their garbage to the marriage. I realize garbage can do one thing—stink! That's all it can do, and you have to work through that.
"I was raised in confusion," he continues, "therefore, I was looking for one thing—truth."
"I think he had been looking for a long time. He was looking for peace. In looking for peace he found truth," adds Hattie.
"When I found truth, that straightened up the confusion. Christ was the truth. I was looking for Him and didn't realize it until I found Him," says Ralph.
"Oh course, I knew there were problems," Hattie recalls, "but they were his problems. At first I thought it was me. We would discuss it, then he would turn it all around and say it was me. We went to see a marriage counselor, and I realized during one of those sessions that he didn't really see me. He was transferring feelings about his mother to me. It wasn't me, it was his mother he was seeing. Initially, it was devastating to realize that I've been married to this man for almost thirty years, and he's confused me all these years with his mother. I'm not his mother! We talked about it and worked through that and then there was some light."
"After we worked through that, then he decided that he was an alcoholic. When he told me, I was like, 'so what,' because all the men in my family drank, including my father, but it never kept them from working, nor did it keep Ralph form working. It never kept them from taking care of their family. It didn't mean anything to me."
"I did not drink regularly," Ralph offers.
"Ralph could go for three or four years and not drink. I never thought of him as having a drinking problem. I was accustomed to men drinking, so it was no big idea. My father drank every day and it never kept him from working. I never saw Ralph drunk. When he drank he wanted to dance and play."
"It took me a while to work through that, to understand that. He wanted to go away to rehab. He signed up before he told me. I was ready to hit the ceiling, because how dare you do that and don't discuss it with me."
"I had been running away from something, running away from myself," Ralph admits. "Most people get married for the wrong reason. Men think women are going to complete their lives and solve their problems and women think the same about men. Not so—life comes from inside of you. Something outside of you cannot sustain your life because what you need is on the inside. Learn what is missing on the inside and do the best you can to solve that garbage that you both have before you get married."
"I tried to change him, but he never tried to change me. I've always been able to be my own person. He would encourage me to do things. I can't imagine being married to anybody else. I tell him, nobody wants you but me, and nobody wants me but you. I know I'm not necessarily the easiest person to live with, we just complete each other. A lot of people get married because they're in love. The goal is not to be in love—but to love."
"When we got married," Ralph continues, "I told her if I didn't trust her I wouldn't be marrying her. She's free because I trust her."
"Once he decided we should have separate apartments. He was going to have the key to my apartment, but I wasn't going to have the key to his apartment. I said, 'Oh no, we're going to work this out,' and we did. I think he was only saying that to see what I was going to say."
"I had thought about leaving, but one of the things my grandmother told us was if you're going to leave, make sure that it's what you want to do and that you have no intention of coming back. If I'd said I was to leave Ralph, most people would have thought I was crazy, particularly most of the women I knew. He always brought his money home and gave it to me and he didn't bother me about the finances. He never asked me how much money I made from teaching and he helped with the homework."
"Communication has been the major problem in our marriage," Hattie adds. "We have better communication now. It's happened in the last five years. He's not the same person he was when we married and neither am I. We have both grown. I always expected to stay married because my grandparents were married fifty-five years. I guess now we're on our honeymoon! We finally go to it!"
"Amen," Ralph smiles.
Chapter TwoOur History Was Parallel
"Trust is the glue that held our relationship together over the years."
One Sunday evening, I was on my way to my cousin's dorm to pick up my books. I was walking alone, went around the building, and standing on the corner talking 'jive' was Holman Edmond, Jr. and his friend Robert Armstrong. As I approached he took this big apple cap off and started sweeping the ground. He said, 'Let me sweep the ground so that she can walk.' It was funny and we started laughing. From that moment we talked and he walked me to my cousin's dorm. That was the beginning," Dorothy recalls.
"During my sophomore year, I observed him more closely. One night the YMCA sponsored an international tea at the museum. Holman was president of the United Men's Congress, which was a men's group on campus. He was in the receiving line and called out my entire name. He said, 'Hello, Lee Dorothy Leonard from Hissop, Alabama.' At first, from a distance, I did not like him, because he seemed pushy and really arrogant. I thought, he's just a little bit too arrogant for me," Dorothy says.
"I met her even before we had the reception in the Carver Museum," Holman adds. "During the early part of her freshman year, there was a Student Leadership Conference. At that conference we broke into different work groups and she was in a work group with my fraternity brother, who was the group leader. She was the secretary. When we reconvened, she presented a well-written report. At Tuskegee, we called freshmen 'crabs.' I asked my fraternity brother, 'Who is that crab?' I thought, 'Give her about three more years, and let her get some of the dirt out of her skin.' She was so articulate in giving the report. She got my attention."
"The summer after my freshman year, several of us girls went to New York for summer jobs. In New York we could get jobs working for rich Caucasian people, and I could make more money there than working in Alabama. While in New York, I asked several girls what they knew about Holman Edmond. The girls that were in the choir with him said, 'He's not really a bad person, but I don't know if you want to get mixed up with him. He's really a nice person, but he's just a ladies' man.' When I returned to school a girl that was living in the same dorm with me liked him, or so I thought. One evening, we were talking and I mentioned Holman Edmond. She said, 'Oh, that's just my big brother. He and my brother are friends. There's nothing going on. We're just friends.'"
"I gave the appearance of being a playboy." Holman replies. "I would take one girl to the movie Friday night and I'd take another girl Saturday night. They thought I was playing, but I did not want to get serious with any one girl. If you took a girl somewhere three times, then everybody would 'plug' you. They were 'plugging' me. I wasn't the playboy they thought I was. I just couldn't afford to get serious with anybody as a sophomore or junior. This was my senior year and I could afford to get serious because I was getting a commission at the end of the year, getting my degree and going into the army. It was as strategic move," Holman explains.
Excerpted from Standing the Test of Time by Julie Rainbow Copyright © 2012 by Julie Rainbow. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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