This is an unedited insert from the upcoming book, Growing up Monroe.
“JJ, we need to clean the house now so we can play until 1… if we wait to clean, we may forget.” JJ responded, “But Auntie Kamile, I will remind us to come in when its time to clean.” “Will you remember to remind me? I don’t think you will…Let’s clean now and we won’t have to worry about rushing our playing time.” JJ and I spent most of our Summer cleaning the house for MaMa. Mama worked in the kitchen at the local plant, and she did not play about the house not being cleaned. See, we knew she got off work everyday at 1pm and she would arrive home around 1:15pm. JJ and I would split up the tasks to make sure that we both were equally cleaning the house. However, I must admit… It wasn’t the biggest house to clean and it was probably considered the most run down house on the block, especially from the road. We didn’t see it that way though and Mama didn’t care. She was proud to be a homeowner and she made sure we were too. We spent most of our days quoting her infamous saying, “We done paying the man, so I don’t give a damn about what your friends think.” My Daddy worked hard to keep us afloat. He was always proud of the fact that he had worked hard to pay off his house, feed his kids, and take care of his wife. He was the ultimate hustler and family man. There were times when we would hardly have any food to eat but he would always catch a hustle. From selling watermelon to selling the fresh fish he caught, he always made sure food was on the table. He also loved to crack jokes and make us laugh, so we enjoyed his company more than mama sometimes. Although he was known as an alcoholic, he was our hard working alcoholic.
My parents didn’t dictate much of what JJ and I would do. Mama trusted me to take care of JJ and keep the house clean. That’s all she really wanted from us. Whenever she would get off work, she would change clothes and spend most of her time sitting on the porch. She loved the thought of coming home to a clean house when she got off. Although we saw it as a form of slavery that she seemed to enjoy. Dada spent most of his time working, fishing, eating peas and drinking. He barely bothered us about cleaning anything. He would fuss at mama about making us her modern day slaves, but JJ and I never tested Mama when it came to cleaning the house because we were scared out of our mind. Most of the times, dada was scared too.
“I hope Grandma brings us some food home…Auntie Kamile, you should call her and ask her to bring something home.” “JJ, you know Mama is going to tell us to eat that tuna salad she made us.” JJ was my baby nephew. He was about 4 years younger than me, and he literally followed me everywhere. I used to babysit him every Summer for my sister. He loved coming to our house because he lived in the city. In the city, you couldn’t do the things you could do on Monroe Street. Monroe Street was the street everyone wanted to live on, and most kids wouldn’t be ashamed to admit that. Every Summer was full of adventures that all the kids in town looked forward too. Although JJ and I spent most of our Summer cleaning, we knew the best part of the day was meeting up with our cousins to do whatever the day brought to us. We had a large group cousins on our street, and we all were just about the same age. This is what made life on Monroe even better.
Next door lived my identical twin cousins, Rashad and James, we’ve been best friends since diapers. I am the only person who could really tell them apart. Across from them lived my cousin Sheree, she practically lived with us sometimes. She would come help us clean from time to time when we were running behind. Levi and OG were brothers, they were also my cousins and were new to the Monroe family. Levi and I were really close in friendship because we thought alike and really understood each other. OG was different, he was funny and loved to be the center of attention. We always gave OG the juice when he wanted it. Across from Levi and OG was my cousin Cedrick who lived with his grandparents. He was the artist of our crew…always finding a way to rap and create beats. We actually started a rap group called, the Monroe Gang. Our third member was Stella. She lived on Monroe too, and she had the dopest rhymes. I honestly only had the voice and stamina to hype everyone up, so I was always unsure why I was even apart of this group. At the end of Monroe Street lived my big cousin Steven, he was all of our big cousin. He had all the answers and knew all the things we didn’t know. Steven also lived with his grandma, Ms. Suzanne. She was our bus driver who carried a long switch in the front of the bus. She used it as her way of disciplining us when we would misbehave on the bus. Rashad and James were ultimate victims of her switch because one of them always seemed to back talk her and unfortunately both of them suffered the consequences. Sometimes,they would even sleep on the bus and she wouldn’t wake them up. I would just see one of them walking down the street with their backpack and jacket hanging off their shoulder. Those two did almost everything alike. We would joke about their walk of shame from Ms. Suzanne’s house.
Ms Suzanne didn’t play with us, and she was a big part of the Monroe Street community. She was our local restaurant, convenience store, and whatever you needed her to be. She would also cook for us at church on youth Sundays, she would whoop us in front of our parents, she would tell us off more than occasionally. Ms. Suzanne was our neighborhood hero. Mama sometimes would leave JJ and I $5 to order a cheeseburger and chips from Ms. Suzanne’s house. She already knew how we liked our cheeseburger and we knew exactly when to pick up our order. Sometimes, my cousins and I would order all of our food together, come back to my house, sit under the tree, and eat together. We enjoyed the outdoors and sitting in front of my tore down house eating our infamous Suzanne burger. Living on Monroe was like living on another planet, unstanned from the world. We made every day and moment one to remember.
Written by Daishu McGriff
Growing up Monroe is a fictional narrative that tells a story of a young African American girl who grew up around creativity, family, and ambition. This story demonstrates the importance of influence in community. Monroe Street was the influence that raised a neighborhood of kids. Growing up Monroe will be available for publishing in 2019.