AfriGeneas Writers Forum
Here's a sketch of my mother. As always, tell me what you think of my writing. All critiques are welcome.
I'm putting my stories on my new blog: http://www.geder.wordpress.com
Pearle Hancock Geder
Pearle Hancock Geder
We moved from the 'colored' section of Binghamton to the south edge of town. My new backyard was open fields, wild orchards, woods and a creek. Mom's voice had to reach across the horizon to get my attention. At age 5 I was allowed to drift nearly a quarter mile away. The year was 1956.
We lived in Saratoga Terrace, a new development for modest income families. We were one of a handful of African Americans. For a couple of years I was the only black kid in my age group. It didn't matter; my Jewish, Italian, Slovakian, Irish pals and I formed some friendships that continue to this day.
As we got older, we hopped trains, explored abandoned barns, floated rafts - Huck Finn style - down the Susquehanna River, and pricked fingers to become 'blood brothers'. We would go to the wild orchard and pick berries, rhubarb, apples and pears for our moms. Us older kids instinctively watched out for the younger ones.
For Pearle things weren't that much different in New York State from her birthplace in Williston, South Carolina. When she was about 9, she witnessed her sister (Aunt Sadye) being thrown in the holding pen for staring at a dress in a 'for whites only' shop window. It took Hancock pistols to get her out.
Two uncles were murdered; one placed on railroad tracks and the other submerged in a water trough as coverups. Both were shot beforehand. Another survived being shot eight times (he died some thirty years later with those same slugs still in him). It must be said now that Pearle’s uncles were also gamblers and bootleggers.
One of her brothers (Uncle Robert) had to flee Williston as it was thought he had killed his teacher. Actually he hit him, knocked him out and didn't hang around to see if he got up. Things got progressively worse for this sharecropping family. In the early 1920's, the family packed up and headed North.
When I told Mom that my second grade teacher wouldn't call on me, she gave Benjamin Franklin Elementary school a visit. In the third grade, we read 'Little Black Sambo' aloud. Pearle was in the classroom monitoring the teacher the next day. The curriculum changed; we never saw that book again. Pearle did not play.
Mom would make an appearance at least once every report card period, taking a seat in the back of the classroom. She would bring cookies or cupcakes on those occassions when other parents also brought treats for us. I certainly had to behave in class– and so did all my teachers through the sixth grade.
By the time I entered junior high Mom had grown weary of this. She taught me enough to fight my own battles. I remember one lesson. If they throw a stone, you pick up a rock; if they pick up a rock, you pick up a brick. The Hancock blood in me stops at pistols.
Pearle never told me about her uncles. She never told me that her father perished in the famous 1928 hurricane in Florida. She never kept in touch with her South Carolina relatives. I would not learn of my Hancock ancestry until I spent time with Uncle George in 2003. My namesake was Mom’s favorite sibling.
To be continued....