Queens, are you ready for another sneak peek of my upcoming book: When Life Serves You Lemons? Last time, I gave you a couple of pages from the intro. Here are a couple of pages from Chapter 1. This chapter is all about my mom and her upbringing and everything that led to us being homeless. If you're an OG Phorbe Queen, you've heard me talk about this story many times before. This is the moment where everything came to a hilt for my mom and she was never the same again.
Arriving back in Cleveland was like a snap back to reality. The house, a side by side duplex with my grandmother’s sister living on the other side, was coming apart. There was a hole in the roof that leaked through the top of the third bedroom. Plus, mom had not been able to afford any furniture except for three beds for us to sleep on. Still, it was our home to do with as we pleased. So I was happy. Until, the next time I needed my hair relaxed.
My mom had relaxed her own hair the week before. By this time, her cosmetology skills were only put to use on her head and mine. A couple hours after she had finished her hair, my great aunt came over complaining that the chemicals from the relaxer were coming out of the faucet on her side of the house. She also took the opportunity to accuse my mother of not paying her portion of the water bill. From my understanding of the situation, the house was paid for so the water and electricity bill were being split by my aunt and grandparents.
Regardless, we went on about our lives. The next weekend, it was time to relax my naps. Thinking it would make some difference for my great aunt, we used the downstairs kitchen to rinse my hair. We had only just begun to rinse the chemical out, when my great aunt came to our back door complaining that it was coming out of her sink again. She threatened to turn the water off if we didn’t stop.
For those of you who don’t know, you can’t just stop rinsing chemical relaxer after you’ve started. This is a chemical made up of some really powerful stuff that transforms the nappiest of beady balls into the smoothest locks. The chemical is so strong that if it stays on your head, even a second longer than it should, it starts to burn, your scalp, your neck, the backs of your ears, whatever skin it comes in contact with. I only speak from experience. There was no stopping the process now.
So, my aunt kept good on her threat and marched right down to her basement to shut the water off on our side of the house. With a tick, tick, tick of the pipes, the water in our kitchen sink stopped running. We had to make like Denzel’s Malcom X and dip my head in the toilet to finish rinsing my hair.
My aunt didn’t turn the water back on.
There were forced apologies, begging and pleading. The water stayed off.
My mom called the police, she called the water company, she called her parents. There was nothing the police and water company could do and nothing her parents were willing to do. All the begging and the pleading in the world didn’t help any, my aunt refused to turn the water back on.
For three months.
Three months we lived as the people of Flint, Michigan are living now. We bought distilled water and used that to cook our meals. Tick We poured bottled water into a large pan on the stove and, once it began to simmer, into the tub to bath. Tick We used a bucket to fish our waste out of the toilet and dump it outside. Tick We didn’t wash our hair.
My mom plunged into depression.
No one in our extended family was willing to stand up to our Aunt.
No one was willing to help her. Tick
No one was willing to help us. Tick
Neither was she. Handwritten letters were picked up by the mailman and delivered to Alabama. They spoke of emptiness. Tick Tick A vast emptiness that was so thick, so heavy that nothing in this world could break through it. Tick Nothing in this world could release the pressure except—killing her children and then taking her own life. SNAP.
The cycle had been broken.
I didn’t notice it at first; the change in my mom. In fact, I didn’t find out about the letters until much, much later. But overtime, it was hard to ignore the change in her. She stayed upstairs in her room with the door closed. Her eyes revealed a sadness too deep to swim out of. Her actions were no longer deliberate. Her motivation, no longer apparent. They broke her. They broke my mom and just as the king’s men, I didn’t know how to put her back together again.
When Life Serves You Lemons:
My Life From Tragedy to Triumph and Your Guide to Making the Best Lemonade
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED OCTOBER 23, 2018