Original Stick Pony is how Angela described us as we gathered to provide support to Pat. We all emerged on her childhood home after learning of her mother’s death.
Pat was almost 5 weeks shy of her eighth birthday when I became a life in being. We must have bonded right away for I can’t remember a day that she wasn’t in my life.
When the older kids where out riding their bikes, she would put me in the basket attached to the handle bars of her bicycle and we would ride with her friends.
We all grew up on the southeast of town and attended the same schools at different times. In the particular block where I lived, we also attended the same vacation bible school. When we weren’t riding our stick ponies, we played rolling bat in the street, and hide and seek in the back yards. We also roller skated in the streets, hoola hooped, twisted to Chubby Checker, boogalooed, mashed potatoed and jerked to James Brown and the Motown sound. No MTV or BET for our in crowd. We grew up in the age of Ed Sullivan, Hullabaloo, Shindig and American Bandstand. Soul Train would eventually come years later.
Pat was special to me and I always wanted to follow her everywhere she went; pouting when I was not permitted to do so, which was often.
As she became a teen, she abandoned her stick pony and other child’s play to gather with her girlfriends. Boys, fashion and becoming a majorette was now her new focus. I would watch her as she gathered with Miriam, Fay, and Jeanie on the corner. Sitting on the big rock, they would converse to what seemed to me to be hours. As the street light illuminated, a familiar call would ring out from her mother. Pronouncing each and every syllable sweetly and deliberately, her mother would call out “Patricia, it’s time to come in!”
I would watch as she walked up to her house and ascended up the stone steps of the two story white house with green shutters and awning. Sometimes she would sit on the porch, and sometimes she would go inside. Sometimes my mother would permit me to sit with her if she was on the porch. When the call for me to come home would ring out, she and her dog Rex would walk me to my door. After conversing briefly with my mother she and her chow would return home. Making sure she got back safely, my mother and I would watch until she closed the door to her house. Rex who was the neighborhood alpha dog was not going to let any harm come to her either.
Ms. Dye was in charge of the cheerleaders, majorettes, and dance group at the all black James B. Dudley High School. Pat attended Dudley where her mother also taught. As a majorette, Pat was a Ms. Dye girl. In my community that meant she was an all-American girl. Although she had become a popular teen, she still made time for the little snotty nosed, skinny kid across the street. I can remember her showing me how to twirl the baton between my little fingers. Although she was fantastic and patient with her lessons, it turned out that I was much better at dribbling a basketball.
It wasn’t long before she was off to college. I was sad about her imminent departure until I found out she would come home for holidays. She would matriculate to her father’s Alma Mater, North Carolina Central. Eventually she would give in to the Aggie spirit that permeated our black community and transfer to N.C. A&T State University. That made me happy. It also made her happy because that’s where she would meet the love of her life. Of all her boyfriends, Butch was the only one I liked. She and Butch would eventually marry and spend their lives in the military until Butch retired as a Colonel. Together they raised two beautiful daughters.
I wasn’t quite old enough for my driver’s license when Nik, their first born arrived. Eventually I would get my drivers license and my first car, a Volkswagen. Saturday mornings, I worked a weekend job at Mom’s Variety Store near A&T. Butch had started his military career and was away. So I would drive Pat, and Bobby ( the husband of another original stick pony) to work. I would drop Pat off at Thalhiemers Ellis Stone Department Store. Bobby’s destination was The Slack Shop. Both stores would not hire blacks in sales jobs a decade before. This however changed as a result of Patricia’s participation in the sit movement which started in downtown Greensboro, N.C. on February 1, 1960. In her quest for equality for all people of color, Pat was arrested for her civil disobedience. She was my shero.
Eventually they would move to Fort Bragg. On a few occasions I would drive her there after she would spend the weekends with her mother. I was still in high school and she was now a wife and a mother.
I knew Pat would be a good mother. I also knew how lucky those girls would be. Although she was a no nonsense person she always exhibited a special patience to my immaturity. I couldn’t imagine her not having the same patience with her own children. Pat, Butch and the girls never knew it, but their photos rested in a frame on my credenza in my law office.
Eventually through college, graduate school and law school, maturity set in.
Our fathers, including Angela’s father died the same year. Pat’s mother who was also Angela’s sorority sister would depart this earth a few years later. It wasn’t long after her mother’s death that her first grand child would arrive. This would be the same grand child who would some years later email me to tell me I rocked. This occurred after she viewed her participation in the Febone1960.net Black History Month Calendar. I smiled for days after reading that email. I even found my middle aged self saying with a fist pump “I rock!”
Over the years it was established that Pat was like my big sister for I was closer to her than my own biological older sister. As a result, her counsel I often sought, as well as her validation which was never withheld.
Playing the role of the big sister so well, she never disappointed me. I learned a number of valuable lessons from her. The most important lesson I learned is that people often become angry with you not because you’ve wrong them in some way, but because you happen to be convenient.
Of course we had our differences as well as our moments, but the bond we had established so long ago could not be broken. Not even by distance. We would stay in touch by phone throughout the years. We talked almost daily during the Obama campaign. She also kept up with my Blogs. We would see each other either during homecoming or on one of my trips to the Washington metropolitan area. I would drive out to northern Virginia to see both Pat and her family.
I had planned to see her on one of those trips last fall but it wasn’t in the cards. My Patricia transitioned unexpectedly but peacefully last fall.
Although she is no longer here on earth the bond is still strong within my heart. Not only was she a big sister but she was an original stick pony and will be one forever and a day.
I’m remembering you on your birthday and dedicate the video above to our childhood memories. Happy Birthday Original Stick Pony and may you REST IN PEACE!
PS: Thank you Paula and Butch for helping me to find closure.
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