I was four years old when my mom vanished out of thin air one day.
Both of my parents were high school dropouts and were involved in their second marriages. My father had already produced seven other children that he was unable to care for, and my mother had two boys that had lost their biological father shortly after the Vietnam war.
Having no real education but a burning desire to make a better life for her family, my mother took up the male-dominated vocation of truck driving. When the country was trying to work its way out of the destructive Jim Crow era, my mother was trying to make her way out of the West Dallas housing projects.
After securing a driver’s license to operate a 18-wheeler truck, my mother took a job with Mayflower trucking company. She would take week long-long trips sometimes all over the country, and my brothers and I loved the fact that we were occasionally able to sit in her cab and talk to people on the two-way radio she had.
We thought our mother was cool as fuck! Driving this huge ass tractor trailer that had this unique ability to communicate with people in other places, really made her a Super-Mom! Add on the fact that she would bring us all type of gifts from around the country, you could imagine how my siblings and I would stand guard by our small apartment’s window daily, waiting on her big green rig to pull up.
One day we were all gathered there waiting for her truck to bend the corner. We had been told that she was returning from work that day, and we were all super excited to see what goodies she would bring with her this time. My twin and I were positioning ourselves to be the first to make a mad dash to the two-way radio!
We sat there watching intently as every single moving object came into site. A few closely-colored 18-wheelers had set off false alarms, but nevertheless our joy was still off the charts.
We sat and watched. One hour turned into two, and then two turned into three. “Where is mom?” we repeatedly asked our baby sitter. “Why is she taking so long?” No one had an answer. This was 1981, way before cellphones and GPS tracking devices.
“She will be here,” our baby sitter responded assuredly. “She probably got caught up in traffic.” So we sat there and waited. Three hours had turned into four, and now the sun was descending. We all looked at each other for any signs that what was happening wasn’t really happening. My mother had always come home at the time that she said she would return. There was absolutely nothing that would stop her from getting back to “her babies” as she always referred to us. She loved seeing the joy on our faces as we all rushed her cab in unison, as much as we all loved seeing who would be the first one to make the climb up into it.
Four hours had turned into five, and five had turned into six. It was now completely dark outside and the thrill of being able to have fun with our mom was quickly fading. We all had a strict bedtime curfew that my mother enforced whether she was at home or in the middle of the Colorado mountains delivering furniture. Our babysitter was as no-nonsense as our mother and when the clock got close to eight, we all were directed to go get ready for bed.
Something unusual had occurred and our mother was running behind schedule. To our disappointment, we would have to put off our hopes of turning our mother’s cab into our playground until the following day.
Little did any of us know, we would never be afforded the opportunity to race out to our mother’s truck again. My twin and I would never get the chance to say “Breaker one-nine, breaker one-nine” on my mother’s two-way radio anymore.
In fact, no one would ever see my mother alive again. Her 18-wheeler was discovered at Mayflower Moving Company’s shipyard and her personal vehicle was discovered a few blocks away, but my mother had vanished without a trace in thin air!
Losing my mother was difficult, but moving back into the housing projects on the West Side of Dallas was devastating. My twin brother and I were forced to move in with my mother’s older sister. My aunt had three children of her own and the guy she was married to had two. In all there were two adults and seven kids forced to live in a tiny two-bedroom government subsidized apartment. There was nothing that occurred in the apartment that we didn’t know about. There were frequent visitors at all times throughout the day and night. Some of the people we knew, while others were complete strangers.
They would come into the apartment, follow my aunt’s husband into the small kitchen and leave just as quickly as they arrived. Before long, being the inquisitive youth that we were, Jeremiah and I began asking questions about the visitors. Little did my aunt and her husband know, our curiousity had been implanted in us during all the times we had been in my mother’s living room anticipating what gifts she would bring us.
“We have a candy house,” my aunt said causally. “Your uncle Jimmy sells candy to help us pay the bills around here.”
“Candy!” my brother and I thought to ourselves. We are the luckiest kids in the world, we live in a candy house! The first chance we got, Jeremiah and I would go explore the entire kitchen looking for candy that we knew had to be stashed somewhere in its limited cabinets. While he searched low, I searched high for the Snickers bars or packs of Skittles that were knew were part of our Uncle Jimmy’s inventory. Our goal was to swipe only a few items and lock ourselves in the restroom as we consumed them.
We searched everywhere but was not able to locate anything that was remotely close to the candy that we had seen at the local corner store. Perplexed, we asked our older cousins what type of candy did Uncle Jimmy sell. Did he sell Baby Ruth, Butter Fingers, Now & Laters, Lemon Heads and Boston Bake Beans?
And, why did he never give us kids any candy? Did he not know that kids loved candy?
“My daddy don’t sell kids candy,” my cousin Jesse told us. Jesse was the oldest of all the kids and we knew he was very aware of everything that was going on because whenever my aunt and Uncle Jimmy weren’t around, it was Jesse’s job to run the candy store. “The candy he sell is for grown people only.”
“Grown people,” Jeremiah and I retorted. “What type of candy is made for only grown people?” We had been into a ton of stores in the four years that we had been on earth and we never seen or even heard anyone talk about “grown people candy.” We knew that there were grown people drinks that they called beer or wine, but we had never heard of grown people candy.
Discouraged by our discovery, we decided to leave the topic alone. Our hopes and excitement of living in a real live candy house had evaporated. The despair and sadness that came from the sudden disappearance of our mother had returned.
About three months living with our aunt and Uncle Jimmy, the first of what would become a normal occurrence shook our world. It was about 3 o’clock in the morning. Jeremiah and I were asleep in the bedroom with our five other cousins when we heard a loud BOOM!
It sounded like an airplane had crashed right outside our door. When we opened our eyes, the entire room was filled with a form of smoke that burned your eyes and made it difficult to breathe. Suddenly we were scooped up by men dressed like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and carried outside.
Once my vision had returned, I could see multiple vehicles that had flashing red and blue lights attached to their roof. I knew from my mother that these cars belong to the police. One of them had my Uncle Jimmy in the back seat and another one had my Aunt in the back. All of my cousins were crying and screaming “Let my momma go” or “what are doing to my daddy?” Confused, Jeremiah and I sat quietly on the porch of the apartment trying to figure out what the hell was happening. The Ninja Turtles were going in and out of the apartment and the police was doing nothing to stop them. Occupants of the surrounding apartments began to gather. Most were dressed in night gowns and had hair rollers still in their hair.
It was apparent whatever was going on, the entire apartment complex found it to be interesting enough to wake up out of their sleep and to gather in the apartment’s parking lot to see what was going on.
After what seemed like 20 hours, but probably was only about fifteen minutes, my mother’s younger sister, Aunt Peewee, pulled up and put all of us children in her car. She spoke with the Ninja Turtles and the police and then we drove off.
As we left, she cussed the police for “always fucking with people.” It was the first time that I made the connection that the Ninja Turtles were with the police. My Aunt Peewee ridiculed the police for the entire ten minutes that it took us to drive to her apartment complex. Instead of “fucking with people” they should be out trying to “find Erma Jean,” my mother. While I am sure Aunt Peewee was not intentionally trying instill within me the sense that the police was responsible for my mother’s disappearance, her words would plant a seed of hatred in my heart for law enforcement that would grow exponentially over the next decade.
When we arrived to her house, my cousin Jesse tried to explained to Jeremiah and I what had happened. The police didn’t like the fact that Uncle Jimmy had his adult candy house. The police was down with the white man, who wanted all black people to be poor. So every chance they got, the police would come and try to take Uncle Jimmy’s candy. They were the enemy!