Candies in Church

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When I was a little girl, the ushers would walk up and down the aisles looking for people sneaking candy in church. Children would be forced to spit it out immediately, if caught in the act. Do it discretely. That’s when we learned how to eat  discretely. Not in class. In church.

I remember all children would enter the sanctuary with mini brown paper bags filled with peppermints, Choward’s Violet Mints, mini gummy hamburgers, mini gummy pizzas, war heads,  tootsie rolls (only chocolate), sour gum, winter-fresh, and the list goes on. The girls would hide the bags in their purse and the boys would place it in their suit jackets.

In those days, you only needed a dollar or two to fill a brown paper bag. Offering money went to the man at the store across the street (we never said corner store because it wasn’t on a corner and we had to stress that it was across the street because only certain children were allowed to cross the street). If you were like my friend Angela who could not go across the street, then you went to Mother Woods who was the alternative. She ran her own candy store inside the temple.Which was where you got more for your money. She supplied everyone with candy for Sunday night service.

We ate so much candy, rules were created. Gum chewing was the greatest sin. Teens would chew gum and place it under the pew. Then, children would scratch the chewed gum off and place it in their mouths. If caught in this act, you were made into a laughing sport and everyone crossed their fingers and whispered cooties. This only lead to someone being escorted out of the service to be spanked.

There were also ways to pop candy into your mouth- act like you are coughing and then put the candy into your hand and place it in your mouth or bend down like the adults would do. And the instructions to how to eat a huge peppermint ball some still follow now.  Find someone with strong teeth (those days my strong person was Patrick ) and ask him to bite the mint. This rule was created because of kids choking on hard candies.

Finally, the demographics of the church changed and the new temple was built and just that fast, the store across the street went out of business.

I remember my last talk with the man across the street. I was now a teen and could go across the street anytime. He said to me, after your pastor died, not many people come anymore. Why?

I don’t remember my answer. But I remember a feeling of sadness being washed over me as I walked back into the temple.

A couple of years I stopped eating candy. This doesn’t stop people from offering or asking me for candy. Every Sunday after church, my purse have 5 more soft peppermints. Which I save Sunday night broadcast, for choir members who ask for candy.

 

A visit to Norfolk, Virginia

 

When I was a little girl, my mom would send me along with my siblings to Virginia to spend time with her family. Those trips south ended too quickly and as an adult I have only a few memories.The memories are the ones my siblings and I spoke often about when we returned back home.

The most popular memory is of  my little sister telling my Grandma her spanking didn’t hurt. We were all stun when she spoke back after getting a spanking! And, we remember what happen afterwards, my Grandma got another switch from the tree outside. Somehow my sister became a hero of us all and we celebrated that story by reciting it to all who would listen. We didn’t care that she got another spanking, what mattered was, she was not afraid to talk back!

Another favorite character of our memories was The Eagle. For some reason, we were also obsessed with The Eagle. Our grandma would warn us not to wander far from her house (which was in the country) and told us of the bears and other scary animals which lurked behind the trees. We were most afraid of The Eagle that could come at anytime and swoop a child up from the ground.

One day her stories turned into a frightful event when she ran outside her house while we were all playing and told us to hurry back in. She could see The Eagle in the distance. We ran back inside and watched The Eagle land in her yard. We were all sitting on the couch looking out the window, our hearts beating fast. The only two not crying were my older sisters. But everyone was truly afraid.

When we arrived back in New York, our mom had a time telling us that The Eagle didn’t travel to the Bronx.

Then there’s memories that are very faint.

One of me stepping on my older cousin’s feet just to see him get mad and ask my grandma ‘What’s wrong with her? She keeps stepping on my feet!” But of course I don’t know which cousin it was? Andre, Raymond?

Then there’s one of my grandma telling us to come back inside. She had a swing set attached to a see-saw that was made out of metal. It was green and white and as a little girl, I thought it was very huge. Every morning after a hot breakfast, we would run outside to play.

I remember the clothes line and the wash machine at the back of  her little house. The clothes were always white and smelled of fresh lemon and grass. I would run back and forth between the white sheets until my grandma told me to stop.

I remember eating lunch and dinner. She would make mashed potatoes and ground beef with lima beans. That’s the only meal I could remember. I think it was my favorite.

And we always ate ices or ice cream for desert and snack. It was served to us at the diner table. The ice cream was always served in cheap, plastic bowls. The ones you’ll find at the dollar store. The ices were always on a stick. I remember us watching our grandma bite the ices without a care in the world. We didn’t know she could not feel the cold because of her false teeth.

Of course she took us to church services but I don’t remember much. So recently when my cousin drove me to the temple in Norfolk, I was certain it was my first time there until my aunt reminded me that I used to come to Norfolk as a child.

I did?

Yes. With your Grandma.

As she spoke, the memory of the layout of the church returned to me. I remember thinking how strange it was that all the pews in the sanctuary were not facing toward the pulpit, but some were on steps and placed against the walls. I remember running up those steps, thinking, a church with steps in the sanctuary is so cool!  I remember sitting with my older cousins, Shawn, Mona and Dina who had the best handbags filled with stuff to satisfy a little girl’s imagination. I remember being given money to go to the offering but then, that’s where the memory stops.

 

Mr. Greg at Crown Trophy

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I’ve been going to Crown Trophy for three years now.

Its a trip I enjoy taking (even though I wait till the last minute sometimes).

Every year I would rush to the shop to pick up  the spelling bee trophies and while there talk to the owner, Mr. Greg.

When I first went, I was surprised and impressed to see,  he was the owner. Like, I said many times before, most of the shops I go to are owned by Spanish employers.

While some may say it does not matter who own the businesses in your town,  I found out that the latter is not true. It matters a whole lot.

When a child see majority of his people owning restaurants, day cares, car washes, sign shops, party stores and so many corner stores that the phrase corner store is interchangeably used with bodega, then that child inwardly feels a sense of self pride (without much begin said).

Seeing Mr. Greg own the trophy shop helps me to puts this race thing into perceptive.

When I first met Mr. Greg, he spoke to me about his daughter who is a dancer in California. Like most proud fathers he boasted of her while telling me of her achievements and how the road raising her was not easy at all but she some how made it.

This time, he spoke about his daughter again but the focus was not so much on him as it was on her. His tone was more serious. This time he was not so much raving about her as he was sharing her testimony. I felt like while he was talking, he felt her hurt.

She’s grown now. I’ve watched her transform from Daddy’s little girl into a full grown women. She has matured in every way. She has learned that your hair has to be a certain texture and your skin a certain tone  for you to be fully accepted in the industry. While she was growing up, I provided the best way I could for her to be comfortable and go after what she wanted. I couldn’t explain all of that to her. When you are great at your craft and there are 30 other people in the room great at the same craft, how are you going to make them choose you?

When he was done talking about his daughter, I thought how beautiful it is when parents talk about their children! And if you are a good listener, you can tell that the conversations shifts as the parent and the child grows. The tone and diction the parents use changes as life changes for them.

Rice & Rocks by Sandra Richards

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.Today I brought all the books I bought at the book fair into the classroom.

Pick a book to read. I told them.

Something about a book begin new and signed by the authors made the children really excited.

Dominic looked at all the books and picked Rice and Rocks. He saw there quietly, reading and turning each page slowly.

When he was done, he looked up at me and said in a slow and emotional way,

Ms. Lilly, I really liked this book.

He sat there thinking and I didn’t interrupt. But now, I want to know what exactly he was thinking about. Maybe tomorrow I will ask him why he liked the book.

Pictured: The author of Rice and Rocks (Ms. Richards) posing with her book

 

Cousin Raymond

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When I saw my cousin Raymond in Virginia whom, I haven’t seen in years, we hugged really tight.

His little grand daughter was the cutest thing. She reminded me of an old student of mine, Kaylie, who would go around introducing herself by saying her name and her birthday.

“My name is Kaylie and my Birthday is January first!”

She did the same thing and had the same birthday. Because I knew how big of a deal it was to be born on the first day of the year, I gave her a piece of candy for having the best birthday in the world!

Macho

Moncho

 

Macho, the gardener’s grandson, in the garden. He was so happy that my class came to visit, that he offered to give us a tour!

During the tour of the garden every plant was just ‘a flower’ or just ‘grass’. He even stepped on some beds and told us to follow him, which lead to the gardener screaming.

The last straw for him was the story he created around the missing fish. Georgie had a tub of fish in the garden and when the kids asked what happened to the fish, he put his hand in the shape of a gun and said he killed them all. I thought that was a bit outrageous and consulted Georgie who told Macho to stop lying. Turns out the fish were in the apartment living a happy life!

Before we left I told Macho thank you and thought about the tour. It was the best tour ever and I am sure the Macho would agree.

Kayla, Natasha & Mathias

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Natasha told me she got her dress from H&M two years ago. I loved her look, especially her natural hair.

When I told Kayla how beautiful she was, she removed her glasses and exclaimed: this is how I really look! To which I said, Wow, you are still beautiful!

I was proud when Mathias started to smile because right before I took the photo, he started crying. Then, I told him how much I loved his Biblical name and he begin to smile!