Times They Used to Be

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  • ISBN-13: 9780440418672
  • ISBN: 0440418674
  • Publisher: Random House Children's Books


Clifton, Lucille, Lewis, E. B.


Mama, Mama, tell us about when you was a girl. Yeah, Mama, tell us one of them stories about the olden days. Yeah, Mama, we like to hear about the times they used to be. Well, I do seem to remember once, a while ago. It wasn't these times. . . . It is the story of what happened to Tassie Scott the time sin broke all out in her body because she wasn't saved. And also about me, and how it was the summer my uncle Sunny followed the nun back and forth across the Grider Street bridge. All us colored lived in Cold Spring or else around William Street, downtown. Our family was Cold Spring Colored and everybody thought we was rich. We lived in a big old duplex right next to Tassie and her granny, and Uncle Sunny, my mama's baby brother, had a cottage in the rear. He was tall and skinny, but had Mama's color and her smiling ways. He got a check from the government so he didn't have to work. Daddy said he never had worked, and one time Mama and him had a big fuss about it. Oh, she was crazy about Uncle Sunny. "He the smartest man in the world next to your daddy!" she would smile. He had been to Tuskegee and then overseas with the 92d, the all-colored division, and he could see spirits and things 'cause he was born with a veil over his face. Uncle Sunny come in our house one early summer night hollering at Mama, and waving his arms all around. "Come with me, come with me, Lil." Daddy grabbed him by the shirt and asked him what was the matter, and Uncle Sunny told about how he was just driving around and got to the Grider Street bridge when he saw a nun walking out in front of the car, and how he speeded up to offer her a ride. When he got right up to where he should of been next to her, she looked over and smiled at the car and disappeared into thin air. Well, Mama was all ready to go with him and see the nun-ghost for herself, but Daddy wouldn't let her. He said it was too late for her to be going out, and Sunny was most probably just shell-shocked from being in the war with the 92d Division; anyhow wasn't no such thing as a nun-ghost. Ended up she never did go, but Uncle Sunny followed that nun all summer back and forth across the bridge; some nights going real fast to catch her quick, and some nights easing on up to her before she knew he was there. But every time, soon as he was close, she would turn around to smile at the car and be gone, just drop right out of the headlights. "I'll catch her, though," he would say to us, "and give her a lift in my car, just like a man and a soldier." That was the summer my uncle Sunny drove after the nun on the Grider Street bridge at night. Satchel Paige was up to the majors and Ralph Bunche was at the U.N. The Elks' convention was coming to town. I was twelve years old and got my first pair of wedgies. I wore a hat with a feather to church, and my wedgies, and fell flat on my behind. And sin broke all out in the body of my best friend. It was 1948. Mama was a riveter in an airplane factory during the war, but when it was over she went back to folding at the laundry. Daddy worked in the steel mill with Granddaddy and Big Uncle, and I just went to school. I was in the eighth grade. Twelve years old and in the eighth gClifton, Lucille is the author of 'Times They Used to Be' with ISBN 9780440418672 and ISBN 0440418674.

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