Previous | Orphan Survival Stories Index | Next
THE HAPPY "N" WORD
Many of the stories that I write about my abusive childhood, while living in at The Children's Home Society Orphanage, located in Jacksonville, Florida happen back in the early nineteen-fifties. I have found that when I write a story, it is almost impossible to relate the impact of the story to the reader unless I use the exact terminology from that period. Throughout my life I have known many people who use certain terms and slang words in order to hurt others. I use these same slang words to try and do just the opposite.
It was my fourth or fifth birthday, might have even been my sixth; I am not sure. About sixty of us orphan children were sitting in the large dining room eating our supper of eggplant, squash and bread. I was very excited as one of the local farmers had come by the orphanage and dropped off a load of sugarcane in the back driveway. We had been told, if we ate our entire meal, we would be allowed to have a piece of the sweet treat. In the back of my mind was the real reason that I was excited. Once in a while, but not very often, the head matron, Mother Winters would surprise a child with a small birthday cake. No one ever knew who would be the lucky one.
When the meal was through, Mother Winters rang the small silver bell which told us children to get up and stand behind our chairs until we were dismissed. When the bell rang, I knew there would be no birthday cake for me. But that was okay with me. A treat of sugarcane was still a wonderful delight.
As we made our way through the double glass doors and out onto the screened-in breezeway porch; I heard the matron call my name. When I looked she was motioning for me to come to her location.
"Kiser, you go to the kitchen and help Charity do the pots and pans."
Charity was the black female cook.
With my head down, I walked to the kitchen, knowing there would be no sugarcane for me.
"I'm sorry she didn't have me make a birthday cake for you this year, Mr. Roger," Charity told me.
"That's okay, Miss Charity. I'm still gonna make a wish."
"And just what might you wish for, Mr. Roger?"
"I don't know, Miss Charity."
"Let me hear you make a wish, Mr. Roger."
"Can I wish anything I want?"
"Anything you want."
"Would you make my wish come true for me?"
"If I can," she replied.
Looking about the kitchen, my head stopped tuning when my eyes reached a large white box."
"Miss Charity, I wish, just one time, that I could open that big white box," I said, as I pointed at the large icebox.
No child had ever been allowed to get near, open or see inside the big white box.
Slowly, Charity walked to the kitchen door and peeked out. I knew that she was looking to see where Mother Winters was located. Placing her finger over her lips, she motioned for me to walk with her over to the icebox. She reached under the metal counter and slid out a large wooden box and motioned for me to climb aboard.
"This is not going to count as your wish. Okay, Mr. Roger?"
"Yes Ma'am, Miss Charity; and I won't ever tell on you either Miss Charity, I promise."
She smiled, grabbed me under my arms and raised me up onto the box. Slowly, I reached out, grabbed the metal handle and opened the door. I could hardly believe my eyes when I looked inside. The stories I had heard were true. The big white box was completely full of all types of food.
"Miss Charity, how come we got to go hungry sometimes with all this here food inside?"
She just shook her head and said not a word.
"Miss Charity, I feel sorry when Mother Winters calls you and Miss Nancy niggers."
"Well, I have heard her call you that a few times too, Mr. Roger."
"Yea, but I don't know for sure what it means."
"You are way too young to know what that means."
"I love you Miss Charity. Can I make my wish now?"
"You go right ahead, Mr. Roger."
I hope one day we can all be happy niggers together. Would that be okay as my wish?"
The tall, thin woman grabbed me off the box and hugged me so tightly that I could not breathe. I believe that was the first time in my life that I had ever seen a woman cry.