Momma married Presley Lewis and we moved with him to Dallas Texas. We moved in with my new grandmother Bertha Lewis, who was our new daddy Presley’s mother. She seemed happy and had a pretty smile; she was different from my other grandmothers in North Carolina.
She lived at 3807 York Street in South Dallas, in a house that was hers and she worked! Her house had a small front and back yard with a little cement front porch. The house was not wide, but it was long and went far into the back yard.
The front door opened to the living room, which opened up to the dining area, which led to the small kitchen, that led to the pantry room and it had a room off of it in the very back of the house. That room was daddy Presley’s, but now it was his and Momma’s room.
Off the dining room to the right was a hallway that had a bathroom and two bedrooms; Sand and I stayed in one room and one of grandma Bertha’s brothers, our new Uncle W.C, lived in the other. He rarely spoke to us and he hardly ever came out of his room.
Off the dining room to the left was grandma Bertha’s room, you had to walk down two steps to reach her bedroom floor; her room was big and ran almost half the length of the house.
After my baby brother Presley Lewis, Jr. aka ‘Kooky’ was born about seven months after we moved to Dallas, he shared the room with Momma and daddy Presley. Momma drank, but usually smoked weed more than she drank; and was usually happier when she just smoked weed. But since daddy Presley was always drinking, Momma drank with him, which made her mean; and that made them fight a lot.
Their fighting used to upset grandma Bertha something terrible; it was like her insides broke! “Stop it” “Stop it” she would shriek loudly as she stood shaking and crying! So Sand and I cried with her.
We would be standing in the living room crying, while grandma Bertha stood in the kitchen crying; trying to get them to stop physically fighting! She then would gather Kooky, Sand and I in her room and close the door and turn up her jazz music really loud to drown them out.
Eventually grandma Bertha said she couldn’t take it anymore and that we had to move out.
We moved into an apartment in the Dixon Circle projects; also located in South Dallas. The apartments were white and had two-stories to each building. The buildings were grouped in pairs of two, with their fronts facing each other.
You could stand in your apartment doorway and look across the large court to the apartment building facing yours, and see your neighbor’s front door easily.
The court was large, mostly dirt with very little grass. A portion of the court had a swing set, monkey bars and a see-saw for the playground and a bench for the parents to sit. The court was where most activities took place.
Momma initially sat out with us while we played, but eventually she started watching us from the window of the apartment. She did not like sitting out with the other women in the court and the other women in our court did not like mama. I would hear them say “Pat think she all that; she aint shit”.
There were not a lot of daddy’s that lived in Dixon Circle, so daddy Presley got a lot of attention. The ladies would give him their phone numbers when Momma was not around and look at him in ways that made daddy Presley grin. So I was not sure if they didn’t like Momma cause she had a husband or if it was something else, but they all seemed to want him.
Daddy Presley worked; he was handsome, he was really smart; he talked about everything and had all the answers. He loved all types of music, especially jazz and he had THE record collection to prove it! He even had Tom Jones!
I loved Tom Jones! I absolutely loved him; he was amazing to me! Even if I was already in bed asleep, daddy Presley or Momma would wake me up when he came on TV. “Joyebell, Tom Jones is on” was all they had to say! I would jump up and run to the TV and kiss Tom Jones over and over on the screen!
Daddy Presley was loud and talkative while he drank his liquor. Momma seemed okay with everything at first; then after Daddy Presley was spending all of his time in the court yard entertaining the ladies, it all started to change and Momma started beating us again for every little thing. I blamed daddy Presley.
I could hear them arguing, as he would drunkenly say, “I don’t want to have sex with you anymore, you too fat”. Momma would scream “because I had YOUR baby”!
Momma would be so upset when he came home late, drunk and broke. He drank all day long, every day; he would be so drunk that if I ran to hug him when he came in the door, he would fall down from the contact.
Momma was always yelling about something someone told her that they saw daddy Presley doing. He would get caught with different women’s phone numbers and get mad because Momma went through his things and found them; that made the words even uglier that came out of her mouth in the process!
They would fight and daddy Presley was the first man I saw hit Momma! I didn’t understand why Momma had not cut him up for that? I had not seen her pull out her razor since we moved to Dallas? But Momma gave him a run for his money! She would beat him so badly in his drunken state that he would be out of commission for days at a time! Every payday they fought and Momma threatened to leave him.
Daddy Presley would come into our room at 2 and 3 am waking us up crying. Momma would burst into the room and gather us up and make us get in her bed, then daddy Presley would come in there and cry. So Momma would make us get dressed, pack our suitcase and we would leave the apartment at the crack of dawn; with us crying too.
We would only walk about three blocks, then she would stop and start crying as we watched her in silence; she would then turn us around and go back to the apartment.
One Friday night as they fought, Momma took the light blue and silver ‘Jesus hanging on the cross’ plaque off the wall and hit daddy Presley in the head with it.
The cross gashed daddy Presley’s head open, causing spurts of blood to come out! Momma hit daddy Presley so hard that the plaque broke causing Jesus to fall off the cross and hit the floor breaking and scattering into pieces! Momma stopped, looked at Jesus on the floor, turned around and looked at us with a blank stare…
“Didn’t I tell you Jesus was dead and He don’t hear you!”
Momma had on her fancy pants, blouse and shoes. We knew we were about to go somewhere; Momma hardly ever changed out of her loungers.
“Come on, we going to the grocery store” Momma said. Sand and I jumped up from playing in our room and ran to the bathroom and checked our face and hair; Momma was heading out the front door with Kooky by the hand. “Come on now” Momma yelled from the front door.
We ran past her and out to the cab that waited. We were excited to be going to the store; Momma was always happy when we grocery shopped and filled the refrigerator with food.
We got to the store and Momma pulled out her grocery list; and in her ‘proper accent’ she loudly gave us our shopping instructions. We went around gathering the items and placing them in the cart. Everything went smoothly; as Momma finished up her shopping, scratching the last item off of her list.
We got to the check-out and we were next in line. Chips and candy bars were on the little shelf near the cashier. Kooky reached over and picked up a candy bar. “Me too” Sand and I said loudly.
Momma’s head seemed to turn backwards on her shoulders! Momma took the candy from Kooky and placed it back. “Whaaaaaaah” Kooky whined. Momma’s lips pulled back, as she sweetly and loudly said “Ya’ll have had enough candy for the day” as her eyes widened. Momma placed her hand on Kooky’s shoulder and squeezed. “Whaaaaaaaah” Kooky really started to cry now!
Momma rubbed his back, “Shhhhh” she said, but her eyes said ‘I’m gon kill ya!’ The trip was ruined; we were going to die now! Sand and I were quiet as Momma checked out. “Come on children” Momma said as proper as she could.
“Why ya’ll embarrass your mother” she growled as soon as we were out the door? “Ya’ll gon learn not to embarrass your mother!” Momma frowned the whole way home.
My heart was pounding as we pulled up in Dixon Circle. We unloaded the groceries and started to put them away. We had to really make sure that we put the groceries away the right way now that she was mad. We made sure that the labels and names were facing front and that all of the cans were lined and grouped together or we would be in extra trouble.
We sat in our room hoping Momma had forgotten and was no longer mad. Then we heard it; the squeak of the closet door opening! Momma’s heavy footsteps headed our way! “Come on” Momma said as she stopped in our doorway, turned and walked away.
We instantly started crying “Momma please don’t” I said as we slowly stood up and walked out of the room. I could see Momma standing at the hallway closet door that was open. “Get in” she yelled as we slowly walked to her. “Hurry up” she barked! “Or do you want a beating too” she asked?
“Nooooooo” Sand and I whined at the same time; as we walked to the closet door. I could see Kooky sitting quietly on the floor on the side of the couch as Sand and I stepped inside the monster closet. Momma slammed the door closed; putting Sand and I in darkness!
The little bit of light that was coming from underneath the door soon disappeared as she put a towel down in front of it to block the light; it was completely dark.
Sand and I sat on the closet floor crying. Then the monsters came ‘scratch’ ‘scratch’ ‘scratch’ scratching at the door! We yelled and screamed as we held each other close. We cried until we fell asleep and Momma was waking us up to come out of the monster closet.