I am so pleased to introduce you to Shirley Harris-Slaughter, the author of Joyce Winifred Harris-Burkes: How I Remember My Mama. Today is Day 7 of her “Mother’s Day and Other Favorite Things” blog tour.
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Welcome, Shirley! Let’s get right into reading your post for today…
I had to produce a sample piece for a writing class and this post is it. I had a problem with keeping the past, present and future tense in its proper place. This sample is supposed to address those problems, but I wonder …
A Writing Sample – Past Tense, Fiction
Mom is sitting on the couch rubbing her stomach constantly, feeling miserable. The doctor said, “You are carrying twins!”
I am really feeling her pain. “OMG! We’re expecting twins! Mom, is there something I can do to make you feel better?”
“No darling. There is nothing anybody can do. We must wait until they get here.” Mom said. I am seven years old, and this day will forever be etched in my memory. Even now I can feel her as if the pain is mine.
Mom couldn’t do housework anymore, so dad brought in a relative (Mama Anita) to stay with us. I was forced to share my bed with this obese woman. Because of her size, I wound up on the floor more than once. She got on her knees to pray every night before going to bed. Boy, did she preach up a storm. At least 15 minutes. I lay still, watching her, and wishing I could be somewhere else.
She had her hair braided and her drab clothes hung on her because of her size. She wore heavy duty black shoes. Her persona was easygoing. I could not see what she did for us because our hair is not kept up, and our clothes are wrinkled. I remember getting teased at school about it. She didn’t take care of us the way mom did, and it became so evident. Things changed right before my eyes, and the twins were not even here yet.
The identical twin boys were born on October 30, 1963. It was the day before Halloween and life was never the same. It forced me to grow up fast. There they were in two baskets with handles for carrying. I still remember the cries because the sound was so unique. The incessant crying. Over time, I grew concerned about it because it didn’t seem normal. They cried all the time. It was like something was frightening them. One night the crying didn’t stop, and mom ran into the bedroom to find smoke billowing out of the room. A rag over the lightbulb hanging from the ceiling got too hot and caught fire. Mom placed it there so the glare wouldn’t disturb the babies. Dad and mom got the babies out quickly. The firefighters came but luckily there was no major damage, just a lot of smoke. I wondered if the smoke did any harm to them.
The twins were the talk of the town. They generated excitement everywhere my parents took them. They rode in a baby buggy built for two. I would describe it as all gray and very wide – enough room for two little ones. They were named Dwight Gregory (the right-handed twin), and Dwayne George (the left-handed twin). The first photo had the two of them lying face up for the shot. They looked like mirrors of each other. They were so perfect.
Mom needed a lot of help to handle and care for the babies. Dad regularly went to work and came home and that’s about it. He was not involved in the day-to-day activities of the newborns. Mama Anita takes her leave after a couple of months and I was glad to get my room back.
Things kind of fell to me. I don’t remember if my sister would have been capable of helping much. She was only six years old at the time. My duty was to always keep the diaper pail clean and fresh. Mom taught me how to wash baby clothes and diapers in the washing machine. Hanging them out to dry was next, as we didn’t own a dryer. I used to love the smell of the diapers after the sun dried them out. Only wealthy people had driers alone with color TV sets, and cars.
Cooking is another chore I learned how to do out of necessity, starting with breakfast. This is my life now. Getting up, eating breakfast, running out to play is now a thing of the past. I long for those carefree days again.
My new rule. I’m never going to have kids when I grow up.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the new additions to our family. It was just so much work to do because mom was still trying to recover from the whole ordeal. I know she is glad to be rid of the load because she was huge while pregnant, and in so much pain.
Mom yells, “Leslie Lee, come here.” I shout back, “Coming!” “I want you to sit next to me while I try to pump the milk from my breast. The babies won’t breastfeed. We’re going to have to make up formulas.” My eyes were popping out of my head as I watched her trying her best to produce the milk, but enough of it was not coming, so she experienced a lot of pain. I remember her telling me once that we (my siblings and I) would not take her milk either. We rejected it too. I always thought that was so strange because babies need that first healthy start in life.
I would really appreciate your feedback on this writing sample.
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Mama could tell a joke. Next thing you know, you are rolling on the floor from one of them. She loved to play the lottery and religiously purchased tickets every chance she got. If you fail to buy her tickets when she asks you, she will tell you that was the winning number … “If you had done what I asked, I would have won.” It was classic!
She was just as passionate about her faith and could quote passages from the bible all day long, which she did. She was a good mother and made huge sacrifices for her children.
She was the woman who wanted to be an actress but never got the chance. She was the woman who worked at a naval air base in Alameda County, California, screwing rivets in wings of airplanes. They were called “Rosie the Riveter” during World War II.
She was the constant in our lives.
This is how I remember my mama!
Shirley Harris-Slaughter is the author of Our Lady of Victory, the Saga of an African-American Catholic Community which was written to address a need to preserve Catholic history in her local community. She mentored four freshman girls at the local middle school in the Winning Futures Mentor Program. She is active in her church and Rave Reviews Book Club a virtual book club community where she has added another biography and fiction to her repertoire. She is married to Langston and is a Michigan Native.
And now, Slaughter has written a memoir about her mother, Joyce Winifred Harris-Burkes: How I Remember My Mama. It talks about memories regarding her life, and her works. The theme is about how the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree. Slaughter is an activist just like her mother.
PLEASE FOLLOW SHIRLEY THROUGH ALL HER SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS:
Facebook: Shirley Slaughter
PICK UP HER BOOK(S) TODAY AT HER AMAZON BOOK PURCHASE LINKS:
Joyce Winifred Harris-Burkes: HOW I REMEMBER MY MAMA
Our Lady of Victory, the Saga of an African-American Catholic Community
Ronald L. Powell: Missing in Action
Crazy! Hot! And Living On The Edge!!
A CITIZEN’S GROUP IN ACTION: Saving a Train Station
To follow along with the rest of the tour, please visit the author’s tour page on the 4WillsPublishing site. If you’d like to schedule your own blog tour and have your book promoted in similar grand fashion, please click HERE. Thanks for supporting this author and her work!
Be sure to leave Shirley a comment below for a chance to win an awesome prize!