The fall of 1984 was a defining point in my life. I can’t remember the day, but my dad and I were picking up my sister and friend from an after-school program in Detroit near Van Dyke and Harper Ave. Turning onto Harper, a drunk driver flew through the light and hit us on the passenger side of the car.
What I do remember is, before the car hit us, everything went black, and I could hear my girlfriend scream. When I came to, I was sitting on the curb. I remember the paramedics asking who was in the passenger seat, and I told them it was me, but I wanted to know what was going on with my sister. They immediately put me in the ambulance on a stretcher and braced my neck.
Once at Children’s Hospital, my mom told me when she arrived, I told her I was ok, but I kept blacking out. Once an x-ray was done, I discovered I had a broken collar bone, five fractured ribs, a concussion, and a punctured lung. Keep in mind, I felt no pain! I had a chest tube inserted to remove blood from my lungs, a brace to keep my collar bone in place for it to heal on its own, and a wrap-around my rib cage and stitches in my scalp from a large piece of glass removed from my head. Again, I FELT NO PAIN.
The doctors didn’t rule me as having a closed head injury, so the prognosis at that time was that I would recover, with memory lapses in time. They were wrong! I didn’t realize until years later the actual effects it had. Thirty-four years later, I have little to no memory of my childhood before the accident.
With the journey to 50, I felt a need to know more about my childhood that played a significant role in who I am today. I was apprehensive about exploring my childhood because it was frustrating to look at photos and not remember when they were taken. I ignored this part of my life until now. The best person to ask questions about my lost memories would be my mom. I asked my friend/sister Anna Mitchell to interview her.
QUESTION: What was Marietta’s favorite thing to play when she was a little girl?
ANSWER: You know what? Marietta was always grown. She never did have a favorite thing to play with, even with dolls and items. She never had a favorite toy. She would play with a toy when we bought her one, but she never really had a favorite toy. She was always lady-like and never acted like a kid. She was always grown.
MY RESPONSE: I guess I can see that now. Growing into adulthood, my closest friends were much older than me. Now to think about it, they have children my age.
QUESTION: What would Marietta like to wear?
ANSWER: You know, girls use to wear short dresses. Marietta never would like to wear short dresses. She would have a FIT if I bought her a dress that came up above her knees. Mary always wanted a dress that was down below her knees or one that was to the ground. She never wanted to show her legs. And I told her that it looks like things have changed around [mom starts laughing again]. And she always used to wear dark clothes. She would never wear different colors. She would wear dark brown or black. I’d say, “Marietta, you’re a little girl, you would think you would wear something like…” and Marietta would cut in with a whiny voice, “I don’t like that!” And now, you can’t get her to wear a black dress. [As mom starts laughing again.]
MY RESPONSE: Well, I guess I can see this also. I never wanted to draw attention to myself, so I would wear things larger and non-flashy. It wasn’t until I got married that I began to appreciate and embrace my body as a woman.
QUESTION: Now, if you could imagine her life as a child as a TV show, which one would it most resemble?
ANSWER: Oh, the Cosby Show. You know Marietta thought, and both of them (her sister Renee) felt that we were rich! [She erupts into laughter again.] Where she thought that I don’t know, but she always thought that. I mean, they grew up in the hood. Bewick wasn’t the deep hood like Black Bottom. Now that was what you called the hood. Back where we lived, it was nice, you know, for us, but you know, we were “rich” [laughing] by no means.
MY RESPONSE: Well, in my mind, I’m still rich! LOL, I guess that’s where I get my taste for finer things. But the thing about me is that I may like nice things, but nice things don’t have or control me. I’m quick to give things away. As a matter of fact, I clean my closets about four times a year, giving away clothes - many I haven’t ever worn. I go by the principle that if I purchase something new, I have to take something out to give away. I believe God blesses me to be a blessing.
QUESTION: Would you say Marietta was a daddy’s girl or a mommy’s girl?
ANSWER: Oh honey, a daddy’s girl, are you kidding? [She erupts in laughter again.] She had the nerve to tell me – “hey, you’re just related to him by paper. I’m related to him by blood.” Oh, she was a daddy’s girl, my Lord. Oh, her Daddy loved her, I tell you, those two! And Marietta looks like her Daddy – she looks like her Daddy, Willie Otis Mills. He was 80 when he passed in 2000.
MY RESPONSE: My Daddy was my hero!!! He was the father to everyone on the Bewick. He was the first person to show me the love of God, not just through the word of God but through his lifestyle. He was a praying man and very mild-mannered.
QUESTION: What three words describe Marietta best as a little girl?
ANSWER: Strong-willed naturally [Laughing] I would say strong-willed, smart, talkative – once she started talking, she never stopped!
MY RESPONSE: Really, ma! I guess I grew out of that. LOL
QUESTION: What was her idea of perfect happiness when she was a little girl?
ANSWER: If she could be around her dad. He didn’t go anywhere other than the church as long as she could be around him. He was a homebody, and so was she. He wasn’t one who wanted to go here or there.
MY RESPONSE: Yep!!!!! We were the first to arrive at church and the last to leave. I also remember sitting with him on Saturday’s watching wrestling. That was our bonding time.
QUESTION: Did you ever catch Marietta in a lie?
ANSWER: I don’t think so.
MY RESPONSE: That’s the sign of a good liar; never get caught! LMBO. My mom always had a pure image of me; bless her heart!
QUESTION: Did she have any talents?
ANSWER: She could sing! Because she would get up in church, and our pastor would have her get up and sing. Oh, she could sing! She was a speaker then, too. She would get up and speak. That’s why she became a minister; it was in her.
MY RESPONSE: I can say singing became more of a “task” than “fun,” which is probably why I didn’t continue it. I remember my mom having me repeatedly rehearse until I hit the “right” note!
QUESTION: What was her favorite toy or possession?
ANSWER: She didn’t do a whole lot of playing with dolls. When the girls got together, they got together and just got to talking and pretending to be a little missy. They were like talking about clothes. She’d say she got that from me!
MY RESPONSE: From what I can remember, I always saw myself as a wife working in corporate America.
QUESTION: Can you give me a recap?
ANSWER: She had a very happy childhood, I would say. When Christmas would come along, whatever she wanted, we would always see a way to get it. She believed in Santa Claus up until she was about eight, then no more Santa Claus. She wasn’t always a good girl, though; she did get spankings from me. Her Father didn’t spank her AT ALL. When she’d get them, she would go running to him. Probably from her mouth. She was something else. She had a dog named Bozo, a Shih-Tzu mix. It wasn’t a little bitty dog, but it wasn’t a big dog either.
We used to have plastic on the furniture, too. There’s a picture of her sitting on a chair with plastic with Bozo on her lap. She went roller skating. They had a roller-skating rink not too far from my house, and I would take her there on Saturday. They had a thing for the kids on Saturday. She didn’t go out too much. She rode her bike – we were between Warren and Canfield – she wasn’t allowed on Warren because it was a busy street. So, she would ride her bike on the sidewalk up and down our street – it was a long block. Her Godfather was over one day, and she was out there riding with him, and at that time, she could only ride with an adult trailing her. So she got on that bike, flying down the block, “Look at me! Look at me!” She went flying, and my husband and her Godfather, two adults running down the street after her, and she was laughing. She was laughing. That time, for sure, I was going to give her a spanking. She would scrunch up her face and not cry. So, I’d hit her harder, and she wouldn’t cry. Finally, she figured out if she did cry, the spanking would last as long. She was something else. She always ran to her Daddy afterward. But overall, she had a happy childhood.
MY RESPONSE: Reading my mom’s responses and looking over old pictures, I can say that I was and continue to be genuinely blessed….THANKFUL!