Don’t get sucked into the dysfunction next door.

My parents, Burt and SallyJo, consciously or not, created enough dysfunction in their brood of six to last for generations: jealousies, pettiness, cattiness, violence, stonewalling, gaslighting, molestation…they’re all part of the gumbo served up consistently for seven decades.

We are all participators, I get it. Yet it was terrifying for a child to try to figure out SallyJo was at constant war with her parents, there were more than enough resources to go around despite the drumbeat pleas of poverty, and that double standards were the norm. I know.

Along the way…

So that art and their spirits may triumph.

Of my four brothers, one brother had artistic talent he expressed naturally and constantly. I loved to be around him growing up for that reason.

He crafted elaborate train boards of lighted buildings and mini-landscaping for miniature trains operated by switches that he would let his younger siblings operate.

He drew cartoons for us, helped us with paper mache for our handmade puppets, showed us finger-painting, made delicious pizzas for us, before pizza was even a thing in the South, last century. …

Saddle up your horse and head West, young man.

I grew up hearing the story of two brothers who married two sisters in the 1800’s. One pair, Lee & Ann, were my midwestern grandmother’s parents. My grandmother and her many cousins were thus all “double cousins.” Probably not unusual back when social circles were insular.

They all tried to make a go of it by farming on the Missouri plains together. My grandmother told me it was a lot like Little House on the Prairie, but with not enough to eat.

“Dry as a desert, no rain,” she used to…

It was an incredible burden to keep her secrets about men in her life.

SallyJo would often tell me how many men in our little town found her attractive. She remained married to my father. I grew up thinking her behavior was normal. She singled me out of her six offspring to be her confidant. Her Confessor.

After I became a teenager, she shifted into confiding in me who in town she might have an affair with. …

I was never cut out to be a lady-in-waiting, but she found one for the right price

Just as SallyJo had found a young man to replace BrotherBlackSheep, she found a servant to replace me a decade or more ago. That’s a good thing.

Manuela is my same age and is paid $30 per hour cash to be SallyJo’s lady-in-waiting eight hours a day. The other hours of the day my father, also a nonagenarian like my mother, is expected to fill in the gaps as her exchequer, despatching letters and mean-spirited edicts to people she does not like.


My brother’s affair became a ridiculous family drama.

I’ve had several girlfriends blindsided by their boyfriend’s or husband’s infidelity and it’s been painful to witness. I felt like cornering each of their cheating partners with a hot iron until they begged forgiveness of my friends.

I’ve witnessed decades and decades of relationships by now.

But when I was in my early 20’s and new to the world of relationships, and fairly new to life, Brother007 told his wife’s mother he had been having an affair overseas with someone he had fallen deeply in love.

So his wife, LittleMissNastyNice, found out…

A blessed black woman raised me.

Everyone knows that the first five years of a person’s life are formative.

I have been able to picture the horrific chaos in my family of origin in the mid- 1960’s after I was born, from the accounts of my older brothers, snippets I remember and stories from my grandparents.

I was born one hot summer day right after our mother obtained a degree to take blood from people’s veins as a med tech….

then Dad ordered my mother’s mother to pack her bags and leave as she was upsetting mother…

then BrotherBlackSheep started misbehaving and our mother increased the…

Can You Shut the Heck Up

SallyJo never knew who her friends were, sadly. Do any of us?

We were all proud of her when she befriended Lirt, one of the influential matrons of our town south of the big city. Lirts husband was The Mayor for a very long time and always the life of the party, as was Lirt. A dynamic duo.

Lirt had been raised in the big city and was the town’s expert on all things therefrom. Fashions? People consulted Lirt. Schools? Lirt. Restaurants? Lirt. Rumors of what became of the cola fortune? Lirt.

Lirt’s husband…

What A Shock to Learn About Humanitarianism

When I was growing up in the 1970’s, and even in college and law school in the 80’s, I never heard one conversation at home or school about helping anyone locally in need. Ironic because my father was committed to agriculture improvement in arid climates and the last century goal of no hunger, which took him, and sometimes my mother, all around the world.

Yet there was never a word of compassion or empathy for anyone in our community. From my parents, only judgment of others due to their own insecurities. …

The Story of the 69 Tattoo

One sister-in-law down South grew up in a trailer. She embraces it. She showed up at Thanksgiving dinner with two children “from prior relationships.” She is proud of her job at a fast food joint. She doesn’t apologize for bad grammar. In Southern society, it’s a big deal. Her name is Chylene.

LittleMissNasty Nice, another sister-in-law, immediately tore her to pieces for the sport of it, behind her back, because in LittleMissNastyNice’s limited worldview, Chylene is not acceptable.

At her wedding to my baby brother, 25 year old Chylene stood brave and alone, shoulders…

Savannah StJohn

stories from the bible belt showing how culture and politics took a nose dive

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