|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.33(d)|
Read an Excerpt
He Lives to Take Away My Shame
By Shelia Washington
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2012 Shelia Washington
All right reserved.
Chapter OneBeginning of the Storm or Ending
On January 21, 1990 Mama went home to be with Jesus. I know she did, because He told us "In my Father's house are many mansions. If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you that where I am there ye may be also". John 14:2
I returned home the following morning, and lay on my bed with a pillow cuddled in my arms, squeezing it like a security blanket. Tears began to flow down my face. I got up, walked over to the patio window and watched the rain pouring down and beating against the house. The thunder was loud and the lightning strikes light up the room. I unlocked the glass door, and walked out onto the patio and stood there for a while, letting God bathe me in his blessing. I raised my hands toward heaven and asked, "God, is this the beginning of the storm or the ending?"
My name is Shelia Washington. This is my story.
My mama's name was Henretta Chance. She was beautiful, with a body that captured the attention of both men and women. Her smile was electrifying and her clothes were as stylish and expensive as if she had her own personal designer. Mama always knew she deserved the best that life had to offer, but she also knew she would have to work extremely hard to get it. Mama was always ready and willing to work wherever she could, be it house-sitting for rich white folks or working as a dispatcher for different cab companies. Once, Mama picked cotton in the fields just so we could survive. She was the hardest working woman I ever knew. She was tough in spirit, in mind, and in life, not necessarily because she wanted to be. She had to be. When I think of my Mama, I'm reminded of the poem by Langston Hughes.
Well son, I tell ya,
Life for me ain't been no crystal stair
It's had tacks in it
And boards torn up
And places with no carpet on the floor
But all the time I've been a climbing on
And reaching landings
And turning corners
And sometimes going in the dark
Where there ain't been no light
So boy, don't turn your back,
Don't you sit down on that step,
Cause you find it kinda hard,
Don't you fall now
For I still a going
I still a climbing
And Life for me ain't been no crystal stair.
This poem is symbolic of the struggle Mama went through to make me the strong woman I am today.
I was born in Noble, Texas on January 23, 1951 in a two room shack. Mama was home alone. She said when the pains came she just laid on the wood floor and let nature take its course. When she looked down and saw the split she was surprised because her other three children were boys, John, Edward, and Bobby. Mama said it was raining, thundering and lightning that day, the shack was dark as midnight and the only time she saw light was when the lightning pitchforked across the sky and the shack would light up. I believe that was God's way of warning Mama and I that we were going to begin life's journey together. Later that day the midwife came and asked Mama where would she would have cut the umbilical cord, Mama put her finger on the place and the midwife said, "You sho nuf right."
We moved to Midland, Texas when I turned five years old. Mama was now a single Mom of four. We lived in another shack on Tyler Street. Ms. Anderson, the landlord, was close to 70. Her skin color was a beautiful bronze; she had large brown eyes, and a sharp pointed nose. Her hair was extremely long and silver gray, but she dyed it purple. Sometimes she let me play with her long pretty hair. Ms. Anderson didn't look like the typical black person, and, although she lived among people of color, everybody said she was part Indian. I never saw a man in her life, only her daughter and son. Her house was a lot more modern than what I was used to. It had a front room, inside toilet, kitchen, and two bedrooms.
Our house had two rooms, the front and the back. We also had an outhouse. I hated going to the outhouse. It was surrounded by weeds and tall grass. It had an old wooden door that hung from the hinges and there were always bees swarming around. There was no toilet seat, only a round hole to sit your behind on and the chickens were always there to eat what you dumped out.
Ms. Anderson's chickens strutted around her yard every day. Every Saturday I'd run and catch a chicken for Ms. Anderson, making sure I stayed away from the rooster. He seemed to think that the back yard belonged to him and if you came close to him he would surely try to peck you. I would give her the chicken and she'd take it, put its neck in the palm of her hand, ring its neck and then let him go. Man! That headless chicken would run all over that yard for a moment, no longer doing the fine strut like before, and then fall dead. Afterwards, Ms. Anderson and I would pluck the feathers from the chicken together, and that chicken would be her Sunday dinner. Later, on Sunday evenings, she would stand in her yard and yell for Bobby and me to come over for Sunday dinner.
I recall a day when one of her shacks was on fire. There were kids still inside. Without hesitation Ms. Anderson grabbed a blanket, wrapped it around her and told her daughter to soak it down with water. She ran into the house and brought three kids out. Everybody on the street was clapping and yelling for her. She became my first hero. The kids' mother was crying and thanking her. She must have been a single parent because when she moved into another shack I still never saw a man coming or going.
When Mama was at work, Ms. Anderson would let Bobby and me come into her home and watch TV. She always watched the news, while Bobby and I watched 77 Sunset Strip. She loved cooking chicken feet soup. I believe she cooked every part of the chicken. Ms. Anderson was the grandma figure in my life. Even at the age of five I could feel the love she had for me.
Mama always sat under the big oak tree in Ms. Anderson's yard and looked out into God's big world as though she was looking for something. I would be talking to Mama at times, and she'd smile, but absently. I knew she was someplace else.
Mama was a member of Bethel Baptist Church under Pastor Woodrow. Mama was in the choir. Sundays I would sit on the front row in church and watch her and her sisters sing. Mama would sing loud and hard as if she was trying to get God's attention. I could see in her eyes that she was unhappy, but she always gave me a smile. One day Mama was cooking and the skillet on the stove was bubbling with grease. Mama was talking to my uncle L.G. and I wanted to help my Mama cook, so I picked up the meat off the counter and threw it in the skillet! Grease splashed everywhere! The majority of the grease landed on my stomach and the pan was blazing. I yelled, "Mama!!" She came running into the kitchen and grabbed me by the hand. The look on her face was terrifying ... so terrifying that I was scared when I looked at her face. She patted my hand; my stomach was huge with grease bubbles. I stood beside Mama as she got a pot from the table and some flour; she took the flour, browned it in a pan, we walked outside to her favorite spot under the tree and she begin to pat the flour on my stomach, as she was patting my stomach I felt no pain. I felt secure. Mama looked me in my eyes and I knew everything was gonna be okay.
Mama did a lot of talking with her eyes. She always looked straight in your eyes when speaking to you. Bobby would tease and run around me busting the bubbles on my stomach. I could see the grease run out but I never cried. Mama checked my stomach daily. One day I asked Mama, "Mama, why my stomach not getting well?"
She said, "Shelia, the inside has to heal first, healing comes in two different stages, slowly starting from the inside to the outside." I watched my stomach go through a healing process and eventually, it healed. I still have that scar and every time a doctor or someone notices it they ask me about it I tell them the story.
In the first grade at Booker T. Washington Elementary School I learned how to write my name on my school paper, Shelia "Dennis." When I got home I proudly showed Mama what I had done in school that day. Mama erased "Dennis" and said "Shelia, your last name is "Wilson". Mama taught me how to write "Wilson." One time Mama and the teacher exchanged words about my last name because my birth certificate said "Dennis," and the teacher wanted me to write "Dennis," but Mama told her with authority in her voice that, "Shelia is to write "Wilson" on all her school work." Not "Dennis" ... and that was the end of that problem. Mama said my daddy was in the Navy. Once my brother Edward ran home to get me, telling me my daddy was in town, and that he was at his brother's house. By the time we made it to my daddy's brother's house, he had gone. Edward was disappointed. He talked about my daddy something terrible because he did not stop by to see me.
One Christmas my Grandma Dennis had all the grandkids over to her house. She had a huge beautiful Christmas tree in her front room and so many gifts underneath the tree. Bobby and I arrived at Grandma Dennis' house late. My cousins were all sitting around holding these white dolls in their arms. The dolls wore brown bonnets and had features like Barbara Stanwyck. I was sitting across from my cousins excited, waiting for my Grandma Dennis to call my name and give me a doll, and she did. "Shelia!" she says and hands me a pair of red corduroy pants, unwrapped! I was hurt. I never let anyone know it, but I never felt the same about my Grandma Dennis after that day. All I wanted was a doll just like everybody else.
One week later, I was walking behind Grandma Dennis' house. She saw me and said, "Shelia, come here." I followed her into the kitchen, where she gave me a slice of chocolate cake and a piece of fried chicken, the leg my favorite piece. She talked to me, trying to get me to smile. I guess that was her way of trying to make up for the corduroy pants on Christmas. In walks Mama and she appeared angry. Grandma Dennis immediately said "Shelia did not ask me, I gave it to her."
Mama brought us up to never ask anyone for food or anything else. She said, "If you beg it makes people hate you."
Mama was the black sheep of her family. She never talked to her parents and they never visited either. I always thought, because Grandma Dennis and Grandpa could not control Mama's life, they kept their distance.
Grandma Dennis' favorite children were her youngest daughter and my older brother John. She always lent a helping hand to her youngest daughter's family, never to Mama's, but then again, Mama would not have accepted her help. She was too independent.
Grandpa Dennis was a controller. He had control over his other daughter's life but not Mama's. Mama had her daddy's behavior. Mama was a fighter in her day and she was known to carry a switchblade in her bra that she'd use in a second. Mama told me when her sisters' boyfriends tried to control them, she told her sisters to bring their boyfriends to a certain place in the woods, and she'd be hiding, waiting for them and when they arrived she'd jump out and beat the heck out of them!
Mama worked for a young, wealthy white woman named Mrs. Chancellor. Mama babysat and cleaned house for her. They had a great relationship. Mama was a hard worker. I don't know if it was because of Mama's good work ethic or her good work in general, but Mrs. Chancellor had a beautiful red brick house built just for Mama and her family (us). There were two doors in front of the house, one on each end and a very large concrete porch. The doors led to different parts of the house. One door lead to the living room and the other lead to Mama's bedroom. Ours was the only brick house on Madison Street. Before we left our shack, Ms Anderson walked up to me, put my face in her hands and put one finger on my forehead and ran it down past my nose to my chin and said, "I live up here and you live down there. Come and see me sometime." Those words are said in my family now. We didn't have much to move; in fact I can only remember moving our clothes.
I loved our new house. I had my very own room and my brothers shared a room. Oh yeah, we had an inside toilet. For the first time things were looking up. Mama's dining room was separate from her kitchen. She had a huge, wooden dining room set. Mrs. Chancellor brought Mama beautiful expensive furniture.
Mama's living room was gorgeous! No one was allowed in it, especially kids. She had a huge fish tank in her living room. There was a big fat fish in the tank that we called Charlie. He would always end up on the floor and I would always pick him up, even though he would be so slippery in my hands. I would say, "Mr. Charlie, how do you get out the tank?" and then throw him back in. He would be so happy that he would swim round and round in that tank.
I had a pet dog named Frisky. He wasn't a big dog, but he sure was smart. I would be playing hula hoop over to my friends' house, and when it got late in the evening Frisky always came and barked to let me know it was time to come home.
One night there was a big fire in the uptown area and Frisky never came home. Earlier in the week before the fire, this white man had asked to buy Frisky. We all said NO! After the fire was out we went home and I begin to call Frisky, but there was no Frisky. My family rode around and looked for Frisky calling his name aloud. We never found him. Mama's friend, James said he might have gotten burned in the fire.
But I said, "No". Frisky was too smart for that. And guess what? We never saw that guy again, either! Hmmmm. bit suspicious.
Every now and then Mrs. Chancellor came over to visit. Her visits were suspicious. She would come over and stay for a short time, 15-20 minutes, then leave, come back later, shower and go home. One night I woke up to go to the bathroom and when I opened the bathroom door, Mrs. Chancellor was standing there, naked, drying her hair with a towel. She looked at me with a big smile. I ran to my room and put my head under the covers. I was some kind of scared. In the back of my mind I thought she was dating a black man, which meant she could have been cheating on her husband.
Mrs. Chancellor had a son a few years younger than me. He loved Mama and always followed her around, hanging onto her dress. His hair was blonde. Mama would cut it short; his eyes would be blue one minute and the next green. When he came home with Mama, which was often, when it was time for him to go home he would yell and cry fall on the floor. Mama would have to pick him up and promise him she would see him soon. He always wanted to stay with us.
Around 1957 Mama married a man named James Chance. James was a handsome man, tall and slim, with dark skin and he wore a thin mustache. His skin was smooth; his hair was nicely trimmed and cut short. When we were staying in the shack, some days James would take all of us riding and buy us hamburgers. James was a good step dad. He was good to me and my brothers and especially good to Mama. He was also a great cook. He made this dish a cow kidney. After chopping onions he'd make thick brown gravy, a pot of rice and pour the chopped kidney over the rice it would be "um um" good with biscuits.
Excerpted from He Lives to Take Away My Shame by Shelia Washington Copyright © 2012 by Shelia Washington. 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.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1. Beginning of the Storm or Ending....................1
Chapter 2. Mama....................2
Chapter 3. Me....................3
Chapter 4. Bright Lights, Big City....................12
Chapter 5. Kraft Work....................17
Chapter 6. Growing Up....................20
Chapter 7. Changing Times....................22
Chapter 8. The Big Hotel....................25
Chapter 9. Well, We?re Moving On Up ....................29
Chapter 10. Unplanned Parenthood....................34
Chapter 11. Oh No! Not Again!....................37
Chapter 12. December 25, 1965....................41
Chapter 13. A Child is Born on Christmas Day....................41
Chapter 14. Back To School....................43
Chapter 15. Mama?s New Job....................48
Chapter 16. Welfare!!! Headaches to Heartaches....................50
Chapter 17. Money Money Money....................57
Chapter 18. 21 No More Welfare! No More Kraft!....................60
Chapter 19. Daddy Secrets....................61
Chapter 20. Let?s Go Get High....................65
Chapter 21. White Man?s Revenge....................66
Chapter 22. Local Business Man Dies....................69
Chapter 23. A CHANGE OF PACE....................72
Chapter 24. The Prophet....................78
Chapter 25. Doctor Visit....................79
Chapter 26. Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled....................82
Chapter 27. Happy New Year 1990....................88
Chapter 28. Mama Walks Into Heaven....................90
Chapter 29. Return Home....................91
Chapter 30. God IS Up TO Something....................96
Chapter 31. Marriage....................97
Chapter 32. Gus....................100
Chapter 33. Shelia's Secret Manifest....................102
Chapter 34. Sowing Seeds....................106
Chapter 35. Who Are My Relatives....................111
Chapter 36. To God Be The Glory....................113
Chapter 37. Inheritance-$1.00....................117
Chapter 38. A Son?s Perspective....................118
About the Author....................125
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
fabulous book! and a very quick read!. It's always a good feeling to know that even in the darkest hour God is Always there! learning through another person's testimony is a inspiring. Thank you for sharing your journey! Check this book out everyone!.. Its very well worth your time!...
Amazing! Incrediable! "He lives to Take Away My Shame" has washed my soul. No longer will I ever be bound by my past. Through Author, Shelia Washington's hurts I was healed. This book isn't just about Shelia Washington, her story is my story. Her story is your story. Her story is our story. Most of all, her tragedy is our triumph. I am in awe of her courageous strength and ability to openly share her heart with the world. It is easy to see that this book was written to change lives and mine was. Thank you Shelia Washington for helping me to be whole. Your pain has given me purpose and for that I am eternally gratefully. Do NOT miss your opportunity to purchase this book. I even recommend giving it as gifts. Trust me, it is that refreshing. Dr. Leslie Reed
"HE LIVES TO TAKE AWAY MY SHAME" by Sheila Washington is a masterpiece in cathartic self healing literature and a master class in heart healing TRUTH setting one free. In this riveting true tale comprised of the complexities of lust, betrayal, lost innocence, tainted love, greed, jealousy, regret, abuse of power, perversion, remorse, redemtion, salvation, resurrection & (finally) FREEDOM, Sheila leaves no emotional stone unturned as she bares all of the sordid, morbid & dark details of a childhood ensconced in secrets, dirty deals, lechery & debauchery. She makes it clear from the title itself on through a seamless thematic thread throughout the book that God is The Source by which she has redeemed her self esteem from the sin she found herself in and discovered a way to make peace with her past and the plethora of perfectly imperfect players within it! Her irresistible story is compelling from start to finish and stands triumphantly as a testament of one woman's reconciliation with a past she didn't choose, a baby Son she refused to lose & her eventual redemption from a myriad of childhood abuse. THE only book I have ever read that made me cry real tears and swear out loud while caught up in the midst of it, and thankfully, it equally made me stand up and cheer in silent prayer by the end of it. A deliciously infectious emotional roller coaster ride that should be made into a movie ASAP! GET THIS BOOK FOLKS & LET THE HEALING BEGIN! Awoman! Amen!
sometimes I like to look through authors that are unknown and read their work! I often find a few diamonds in the ruff!.. and "He lives to take away my shame" is definitely one of the diamonds that I found, I thought at first this story would be overly religious, but I was wrong! This story has grit to it! A lot of grit. I couldn't believe what I was reading at times. But honestly I couldn't put the book down! I completed it in 2 days! Thanks for sharing your story!.. Keep writing!
While growing up, I did not have the best childhood. I was making terrible mistakes and repeating the same cycle. I felt as if there was no hope. At the age of 21 I was told to read this book from a family member. After reading the first few pages, it was hard for me to put it down. This book has truly been a positive inspiration in my life. I felt a connection between me and the author as I understood her story and pain, I felt like we could relate. After reading this book I have gained so much strength and courage. I have learned I can beat many trails and obstacles with God near my side. I honestly can't imagine where I would be if I never read this book. To know of someone who have experienced similar pain and have made it to become a very successful book writer, give me daily hope and belief. Thank you for sharing your story Shelia. God Bless!!!