Loretta Washington at the MCC-Maple Woods Storytelling Celebration 11/4/2010

Uploaded by smartfuturetv on 24.01.2011


When I first got into storytelling,
you know how storytellers are, your whole life changes.
And I needed all of these things for storytelling.
And every Christmas from the first year I got into storytelling,
my daughters would call me and say,
"Okay, what do you want for Christmas this year?"
And I would give them my list.
So, my second year after starting storytelling,
they called me and asked for my list and instead of telling them,
"Well, I saw this top I really liked or can you get me that bracelet or this watch."
I said, "Well, I need a paper cutter. I need, um, a drill."
I said, "A gift card at the Home Depot would really be nice.
"Um, I could use a saw."
They said, "What?"
And then I said, "Well, don't you need just regular things?"
It's like, "Well, I do, but I really want these things.
"These are things I really need."
[daughters] "Okay."
So they got together after they talked to me
and I usually got one of those things
and then they went on and bought me whatever else they wanted me to have.
So this went on for several years and I never did get my drill.
So I said.
They said, "What do you want for Christmas?"
I said, "Number one, a drill. Number two, a drill. And number three, a drill."
They said, "Okay mom, we got it, we'll get you a drill."
And so, I got my drill, but that's when I discovered I really needed a saw.
I really needed a saw.
So the next year, it's like,
"Please give us something that you want for Christmas that's not a tool."
I said, "But, I need a saw. I really need a saw. Please."
So, "We'll see, we'll see."
So I gave each one of them the same list pretty much
and the saw was number one and two on the list.
So I kinda figured it out and I knew
that my youngest daughter and her husband
were gonna be the ones to give me the saw.
And they had decided that my oldest daughter would give me the other gift.
So it's like, "That's okay."
So, I wanted a saw, a little jigsaw.
A little box about, you know, mm...
So they came in Christmas and they had their bags with the Christmas gifts in it.
And then my son-in-law came in with this big box.
And I'm thinking, "Oh, that must be my oldest daughter's gift
"because all I wanted was a little jigsaw."
So we put the gifts around the tree.
We ate dinner and then it was time to open the presents.
They started handing out presents and
I'm sitting there watching them because I knew that big box was for my daughter
and I wanted to know what were they giving my daughter.
So, the big box kept sitting there and finally
he picked up the big box and he headed around the table
and I knew he was going to head around to her
but instead he came to me and set it on the table.
I'm thinking like, "Uh-oh, what is this?
"I wanted a drill, this is not a drill. What did they get me?
"I didn't ask for anything this big.
"Well, I guess they got me something else I really don't want."
So I tried to move the box to the center of the table so that I could open it.
I couldn't move it, it was so heavy.
So I took the scissors and I opened the box.
When I took the top off and I saw "Drill", I mean "Saw"
and it was a big saw, 10 inch blade,
Craftsman from Sears, in a big box like this.
I opened it up and I smiled and I said, "Thank you."
[audience laughing]
And I reached in, it was so big it had two places for you to hold on to lift it.
I reached in I put my hand on each part of the grip parts and I said, "Thank you,
"I really like my saw but I don't think I can get it out of the box."
And in my mind, I'm seein' me tryin',
all I wanted was a little jigsaw that I could take,
put on the end of the table and cut a dowl rod like this...
And I could see me, just, that big jigsaw puttin' it on the table going, eeerrrrr.
And going across the table with it, on top of it my table would be cut in half.
So I thought, I looked at it, I said,
"I really appreciate this but all I wanted was a saw."
"Well we got you a saw."
It's like, "No, a little bitty saw, just a little tiny saw."
And they said, "Oh, you wanted a jigsaw."
I said, "I don't know what you call it, I just wanted a little saw."
So anyway, I thought about that when he was tellin' me...
I had to end up taking it back, of course.
Well he took it back because I couldn't carry it.
So, and they gave me the money, I went to Sears,
I got me a little jigsaw, I got all the attachments to go with it and I had
about $25-30 left over and I bought me something.
But anyway.
And guess what.
Please don't, if you see my children, don't tell them
[whispering] I never use the saw.
[everyone laughing]
Now, I'm thinking about selling it
so please don't tell them if you see them
that I didn't use it and want to sell it.
So anyway, I thought about that when he was up here being Santa Claus.
But, tonight I wanted to share a story with you about my grandmother.
She was 4'10" tall and in her own words she used to say,
"I never weighed more than 100 pounds, even when I was soaking wet."
Now, that was my grandmother, May Tankey Bell Walker, that was her name.
Now, nobody ever called her "Granny", "Grandmother".
Everybody called her "Aunt Tankey".
Not Aunt Tankey, but a-i-n-t "Ain't Tankey",
she was Aunt Tankey to everybody.
Don't ask me why, I came to the conclusion,
it was one of those country things.
So, it's like, okay, Aunt Tankey.
But Aunt Tankey was one of those little people,
I often used to call her "Little Woman".
Aunt Tankey was one of those little women that if she ever told you to do something,
you better do it because if you didn't
you never wanted that little woman to tell you,
"Go get me a switch off of that weeping willow tree."
And if she ever told you, "Go get me three switches
"off that weeping willow tree and they better not be small."
You knew you were in big trouble.
You-that's the last thing in the world you want her to tell you was,
"Go get a switch."
And when you did it, like she said, they better not be small.
She could stand there and look at us
and put a fear in us like nobody I've ever seen.
That little woman could put a fear in you
that would make you stay straight for a long time.
Well, now, Aunt Tankey used to do this to us
and I used to sometimes think, "Why is she so mean? Why is she so mean to us?"
But in later years, I realized that all of that talkin' about switchin'
and what she was goin' to do was pretty much all talk
because as kids we got very few switchin's.
But up until the moment she stopped talkin',
you never knew what that little woman was going to do.
You would have no idea whether she was goin' to give you a switchin'
or whether you were gonna get three licks with the belt.
Well, I used to think sometime,
"Oh, I wish she would just go on and give me a switchin' and get it over with."
Because if she ever decided to give you one of her tongue lashings, ooohhh.
One of her tongue lashings, if you got a good one it would last you for a long time.
She would scare us straight with a good tongue lashing.
Now remember I told you if she ever told you not to do anything, don't do it.
Well, most of the kids did what she told them to, but me.
I always had to question her.
Every time she told us something,
I always had to say, "But why?"
And sometimes I would ask her, "But why?"
and then ask her the question and it didn't have anything
to do with what she had just said.
Well, Aunt Tankey would stand there and she would look at me,
and she would just shake her head sometimes.
And then sometimes, she'd tell you,
"Just do what I tell you to do girl."
"Yes ma'am." And I would do it.
Well, the day that this incident happened,
the only thing I can say is that day the spirit of stupidity must have taken me over.
Yes, the spirit of stupidity entered my life
and took me over that day because what I did that day was plain old stupid.
I knew better.
I knew exactly what I was doin' but I did it anyway.
I went right on and did what I wanted to do.
You see it was a hot summer day and my brother, Junior,
and I we were playin' in the backyard.
I was makin' mudpies.
He was doin' whatever it is boys do.
Aunt Tankey had told me several times, "Go wash the dishes."
And I kept sayin', "Yes, ma'am."
But I never did stop makin' my mudpies.
Then she was sitting on the front porch
and then I heard her say, "Loretta, didn't I tell you to go do them dishes?"
I could tell from that tone that was the last time she was going to ask me.
So I said, "Yes, ma'am."
And I thought about it so I decided to stop making my mudpies.
So I slowly got up and I slowly started walkin' to the house
and when I passed my brother he started to tease me.
He looked at me and said, "You got to do the dishes, you got to do the dishes."
I gave him that look and I said, "Better leave me alone."
He looked at me and said, "And if I don't watcha gonna do?"
And then he got up.
He got up and walked over to my stack of beautiful mudpies
and he stepped on 'em and he squashed 'em and he looked at me and laughed.
Oh, he made a big mistake.
You see we had this big woodpile in the backyard
and when I walked past that woodpile I reached over
and I picked up a piece of wood and I turned around
and I looked at him and I started crying and I started to run to him,
"You better fix them, you better fix them, you better fix them."
He turned around and saw me running after him with that big,
coming towards him with that big piece of wood,
he jumped up and started running towards the front of the house where Aunt Tankey was sittin'.
Cryin', "Aunt Tankey, Aunt Tankey,
"Loretta tryin' to hit me with this biiiiig piece of wood."
Oh, and I was right behind him when he turned the corner of the house
where Aunt Tankey was, I was right on his tail.
And when I turned the corner I ran smack into Aunt Tankey.
She was standin' there lookin' down at me.
She grabbed my wrist and took that piece of wood.
I was so close to him, so close to him, and she wouldn't let me hit him.
I was mad. Oh, I was mad. I was standin' there.
[Aunt Tankey] "Girl, what's wrong with you?"
I said, "Ju-ju-junior stepped on my mudpies."
And she picked up that held that piece of wood up.
She said, "What you doin' with this piece of wood, you're gonna...
I said, "He stepped on my mudpies and he squashed them all."
And she said, "Didn't I tell you all
"not to be picking up stuff and hittin' each other.
"Look at this piece of wood, you could have really hurt your brother."
And I'm standin' there, tears just rolling down my face.
And she...
She said, "Didn't I tell ya'll that?"
And we both said, "Yes, ma'am." We both jumped.
And then she said, "Look at this piece of wood, just look at it."
And she showed me a sharp point on the piece of wood.
When I saw the sharp point...
I kind of stopped crying a little bit and I stood there
And she was looking at me, she said,
"That's why I tell you kids, whenever you all have a problem come tell me."
I'm the one that give out the punishments around here.
"Don't I tell you all that all the time."
"Yes, ma'am."
And we stood there.
By now I had stopped cryin' because my mind was startin' to tick, I was thinking,
"Uh-oh, I'm in big trouble and I don't think this time
she's gonna send me to the corner of the porch".
That's where she used to send me,
when I did things, to think about what I had done.
I said, "I think this is gonna be
this is not gonna be a switchin' offense.
"I think she's gonna get the belt for this one."
And the belt meant that you always got three licks.
So, I'm standin' there and I'm thinkin' like,
"Oh, I'm gonna get the belt today."
And Junior standin' over there by Aunt Tankey grinnin'.
He was just grinnin' and then Aunt Tankey looked at me and she looked at Junior,
then she told Junior, "Go in the house and get the belt for me."
Oh, when she said that I thought, "Mm-hmm, I'm not getting the belt today,
"I'm gonna be sent to the corner of the porch."
You see Aunt Tankey had this habit of always sending us to get the switch
when she wanted to whip us to get our own switch
and she always had this habit of sending you to get the belt
if she was goin' to give you the belt, three strikes with the belt.
She had sent Junior for the belt
and I knew that he was gonna get it that day and not me.
So I was smilin'. Mm-hmm.
I stood there, that little smile stayed on my face and I was thinkin',
"I'm just going to the corner of the porch today."
In my little mind I had it all figured out what was gonna happen.
So Junior went inside the house to get the belt
and I'm standin' there lookin' at Aunt Tankey.
Aunt Tankey lookin' down at me like this.
She didn't look mad and she wasn't smilin'
so I thought this was a good time for me to ask her, "Why?"
I wanted to know why did she send Junior for the belt
because in my mind I thought this was a switchin' offense, not a belt offense.
But she had sent him for the belt.
And I didn't...I said, "Aunt Tankey, why did you send..."
That's as far as I got.
She said, "Didn't I tell you not to say anything to me girl?"
I said, "Yes, ma'am."
So I decided that day not to press my luck.
So I stood there and she looked down at me.
After a while, Junior came out the house, he had the belt.
He knew he was gonna get three licks with the belt too because she had sent him for it.
Oh and you should have seen his face,
he was gettin' scared and I was grinnin'.
He's gonna get it and I'm going to the corner of the porch one more time.
So I'm standing there, Junior walked over, came out, he walked over to Aunt Tankey.
He said, he handed her the belt. Aunt Tankey looked at him, she said, "Keep it".
Junior looked at her, he looked at me.
He said, "But I-I..."
She said, "Just hold onto the belt."
She turned around and looked at me and she said, "Give Loretta three licks."
When I heard that, my eyeballs almost jumped out of my head
because I couldn't believe what my ears was hearin'.
Aunt Tankey said, "Give me three licks but he went got that..."
And then tears started to swell up in my eyes because I thought,
"That little woman done pulled a switcharoo on us."
Remember I told you, you never knew what
that little woman was going to do until she stopped talkin'.
She hadn't stopped talkin'.
That little woman had told my brother to give me a spankin'.
That was never ever supposed to happen.
My brother wasn't supposed to spank me.
So I looked at her and by now tears are startin' to flow and I'm cryin'.
She looked at me and she, and she just looked at me and said,
"Go on, give Loretta three licks."
I said, "But why can't I give him three licks?"
And she and she just looked at me,
"Didn't I tell you not to say nothin' to me?"
I said, "Well why can't you give me three licks then?"
I couldn't believe my ears, she was gonna let my brother give me a spankin'.
He-that was never supposed to happen.
So Aunt Tankey looked at Junior again, he said,
"Go on, give Loretta three licks."
Junior looked at me.
[Loretta crying]
And I was crying and I'm standin' there.
I really wasn't scared, my feelings were hurt more than anything else
because she was gonna let my brother spank me.
So I'm goin' like...
And I was getting mad too.
It's not supposed to happen like this,
he's never ever supposed to hit me.
It was never ever supposed to happen, why is she lettin' him spank me?
Aunt Tankey gave Junior that look and said, "Give Loretta three licks."
Junior said, "Yes, ma'am."
And he gave me three taps on top of my clothes.
He didn't hit me hard.
But I stood there and I cried like he was killin' me.
I screamed and I hollered and I danced.
I really didn't feel the pain. I didn't feel anything.
When he finished giving me the three licks I cried and went on into the kitchen.
I was going... [crying]
And I was washin' the dishes and I was still goin'...
Now the kitchen sink was sittin' close to the dining room door
so every once in a while I would lean over and go...
[crying loudly]
I wanted them to hear how they had beat on me.
So anyway, when I finished washing the dishes I was still cryin'...
So I went in my little ro- sat in my little rockin' chair. I sat there.
Like I told you, he didn't hurt me.
I didn't even feel it through my clothes
and I knew he wasn't gonna hit me hard
but they didn't have to know that
so I just went on and did my thing.
So anyway when I finished I sat in that rockin' chair and I cried for a long time.
Well after that incident it took me a long time
to forgive my brother for what he had done to me.
I didn't-and I could look at him and tell, oh, he was so sad and so sorry.
And the way I had cried, I know he thought he had really hurt me...
but I didn't let him know that.
And then after a while, I started thinkin' and I finally forgave him
and I realized that I was wrong that day.
If I had hit him with that piece of wood
I could have hurt him badly or I could have put his eye out.
And I just, you know what, I finally forgave him
but I stayed mad at him for a long time.
But it took me almost a year before I got up enough nerve to go ask my grandmother
why she let my brother spank me that day.
And when she looked at me she kind of smiled.
She said, "That day, your brother was wrong,
"he was wrong for steppin' on your mudpies but what you did was dangerous.
"You could have really hurt your brother seriously.
"You could have hit him, suppose you had put his eye out, what were you gonna do?"
And I looked at her and I said, "Yes, ma'am."
And she said, "Besides that, I knew your brother wasn't gonna hit you hard
"but I also knew with him giving you that spanking,
"that was one spanking that you would never forget
"and I wanted you to remember what you almost did.
"That's why I let him spank you that day.
"That day you needed to be taught a lesson
"and that was the best one I could come up with.
"Now I know you and your brother love each other
"but I declare sometimes ya'll just don't act like it
"so I wanted you to remember that spankin'
"so that you would not do that again."
Well all I got to say is it worked.
After that day, I never picked up anything else to hit my brother.
And she also put a fear in my cousin and my brother
because after that day they never threw anything at each other either.
All three of us were scared because we didn't know
what that little woman was goin' to do if that ever happened again.
And I didn't know if that little woman
was gonna let my brother spank me again
so I made sure I didn't throw anything at him.
And that's the end of that. [Loretta laughing]
Thank you.
[audience clapping]
[instrumental music]