Photo by Phinishing Touches (@PhinishingTouch)
Growing up on The Hill presented many challenges for a young girl from a poor family, but those challenges did not prevent me from dreaming about having a large church wedding when I got older. Without a doubt, I shared this dream with millions of other young girls around the world. The exact age at which I started having this dream slips my mind, but I do recall having it repeatedly. The dream, which was fairy tale-like in nature, depicted me marrying my one and only true love—someone whose face was and still to this day is a mystery to me. Despite not being able to make out his face, my Prince Charming was tall, dark, and handsome.
Most of the young girls who I played with on The Hill, they too had a similar dream. We would smile from ear to ear and giggle whenever we talked about one day meeting and marrying our future husbands before family and friends. We each envisioned ourselves as being beautiful brides dressed in white standing shoulder to shoulder with the love of our lives. In fact, I would close my eyes, slowly wrap my arms around myself and pretend that I was squeezing my Prince Charming in sheer delight. The very sight of a loving man with a warm gentle smile hugging me and taking care of me along with our children was a vision permanently ingrained in my heart.
Being that I was in grade school at the time, my perception of marriage was slightly skewed to say the least. My mother and father were married; therefore, I saw some of the goings-on between a couple, but I failed to base my view of marriage entirely by their relationship. I honestly believed that whenever I got married it would be for life. I had learned a few things from church and I truly believed that having one husband was the right way to live. Ironically, I did not see divorce as being a bad thing back then—especially if it involved someone else’s marriage. Looking back, my contradictory views of marriage, clearly show the mind of a little girl not fully comprehending an adult matter.
People wonder how a poor little black girl from The Hill could have dreamed such a dream of marriage and of having a husband given that she ended up having five sons out of wedlock by the age of eighteen. Frankly speaking, while growing up on The Hill I saw many broken families where a father was missing from the picture. The distraught wives and children who were left behind struggled to make ends meet. They did their very best to keep the household afloat. I would say that a lot of the men on The Hill struggled with alcohol addiction. A good many of those fathers who were supposed to be at home, would often go on long binges and not return home for several days.
The wives in those strained relationships began to turn their attention towards other men. Even as a child, I noticed men hanging around houses where they were not the husbands of the women who lived there. It would be years later before I fully understood what was taking place. I could put some of the pieces of the puzzle together when I witnessed firsthand an aunt and her niece becoming highly upset with a young minister-in-training at the local Methodist church. Us kids were always instructed to be quiet, and thus our attention turned to the adult conversations around us. Evidently, the minister’s fiancee had come back in town. The aunt and niece openly voiced their displeasure during church at her infringement in their territory.
It was not realistic for me as a little girl to understand the intricacies of an adult relationship where passion and strong feelings were involved. I really had no idea of the heartache and pain husbands and wives sometimes inflict on each other when dreams are shattered by the person most dear to them. How two people could go from loving each other with all their heart to hating each other with a passion, was beyond me. I would venture to say that television largely influenced my views of marriage. The male and female actors playing the roles of husband and wife seemed real to me. In my mind and in my dreams, finding and marrying the right man would be magical—or so television portrayed.
In my dream, the big wedding took place in the local Methodist church. I saw myself walking down a huge stair case just like the ones I saw in the black and white films on television. Everybody was standing and looking in awe as I slowly walked down the steps as Here Comes the Bride was being played on the piano. My father was proudly escorting me down the rose-covered aisle while the whole congregation along with my family and friends noticed the train of my white dress. Everyone was on-hand to witness my arrival right next to my future husband. The vows were exchanged and the command was given to kiss the bride. If only my real life had turned out like that little girl’s dream.