Don’t call us, we’ll call you

May 20, 2009

“Grandma make it better”

I’ve been back in the transcribing business for the last few days, trying to finish these interviews so I can get on to the data analysis.  Today I’ve been revisiting my 19 July interview with Bryant Carter.* He was nearing 40 and in and out of jail/prison his whole life.  He was one of my favorites because of his rich and honest way of describing his childhood, even recreating conversations, voices from his past.  I am particularly struck by the story of his strong, black grandmother.  Could a better person have ever been born?

Here’s part of her story, in Bryant’s own words:

My grandmother raised me and mostly practically the whole family, rest in peace.  She deceased now, but that’s who we looked for, towards, you know. At the time, my mother wasn’t . . . she was young and then on top of that, my mother had a addiction.  So uh, growing up, it was just like my grandmother took responsibility of me and my sister, my older sister.  Then, you know, as time went on, my grandmother took on all of us, including my cousins and you know.

How we was raised, we wasn’t really into father. The father figure . . . cause my grandmother was my mother and my father.  She took care of all the grandchildren.  She had 13 kids of her own.  So it was just mainly my grandmother, you know, just trying to carry, you know, the whole . . .

I mean, she know what we do out there, but in her eyes, we couldn’t do no wrong.  You understand me, she didn’t see us in no type of way.  My grandmother understood and she talked to us. She talked to the way.  Grandma asks us, she tell us where.  She did things that nobody ever do. She understood, you know.  And she sat down and talked to us and she knew that, you know what I’m saying, we was goin the wrong way.  She asks why, you know, explain to her what did she do wrong. You know, but it wadn’t nothing she did.  She raised us good, it wadn’t nothing she did but she, uh, it was just. There was too many of us, she couldn’t.  She did everything in the world she could do, but it was out of control, you know what I mean.  But hey, you gotta house full, you know.  You saying about 15, 15 to 20 of us in the house, you know.  All of us didn’t live there but we might as well have lived there. Because that’s all we, that’s all we knew. Aunties and uncles, some of ’em was good parents and stuff, but then they didn’t know how to raise no child like my grandmother raise a child. They raised us with, with belts and whoopins, you understand me. She did that every now and then, you know, “go out there and get me a switch.”  But we had to dang near, you understand me, we had to dang near, uh, we hadda, I mean, it’s unquestionable what we had to do just to make her whoop us with a switch.

Grandma make it better. Mama couldn’t come close to it.  Mama gonna whoop you.  That’s who we loved, my grandmother.  She was there when nobody else ain’t there, you know.  Hard times. Like now, she, you know what I’m saying, she . . . “Grandma, I need you, I’m in trouble,” you know.  “I’m gonna pray, babe.”  “I need that, I need praying.”  She uh, made sure.  She’d say, I ain’t got it, but I’m gonna try to get it.  You know, she had it, you know.  And she did whatever she had to do to get us outta here.  And she did what she had to do to try to keep us outta here, outta trouble.  You know what I mean, it was her life.  She used it.  To her last breath, she used it, you know. And um, I gotta say, my grandmother, she was special, she really was.  She was a special person and she is.  I, I, you know, I was tellin you, there’s no wrong we done in her eyes.  She know we messed up.  She know we did wrong.  “Stand up and try it again,” that’s her word, you know. “You tired yet?”  “Yeah, I’m tired, momma.”  “Well, you say you’re tired, you know what I mean, let’s try it again.”  My mama, she messed up.  Before you even mess up again you know, momma always say, “You know you’re gonna mess up again.  You know you’re gonna do that.”  That wadn’t my grandmama, you know.  That was a special love that she had for us, I guess.  Yeah, that, that was a special love my grandmother had.  Yeah, it, there wasn’t no looking back, with each and everyone of us.

Watching her, you know what I mean, she seen three generations pass in front of her before she died in ’03, you know. That’s love; that was a blessing.

*Name changed, as always.

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3 Comments »

  1. That was beautiful. Linds, you gotta write a book someday. I’m sure you will actually. It will be great.

    Comment by Audrey — May 20, 2009 @ 1:17 am

  2. Your thesis sound SOOO cool. I love it. Are you planning on publishing it when you’re done?

    Comment by Rachel — May 20, 2009 @ 3:16 pm

  3. Wow. It always amazes me how different some people’s lives are from mine.

    Comment by V. Blanchard — May 20, 2009 @ 3:46 pm


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