A huge difference in parenting kids from the late 70’s and early 80’s is that we didn’t question our parents decisions back then.
I blame all cartoons.
All of em.
When my parents told us something was happening, we acted accordingly, which means saying, “yes, mama or yes, daddy.”
None of that “But I don’t want to, or why?”
Or the unforgivable N word in our house in regards to our parents wishes and rules
We were supposed to trust the big decisions, aka the ones that involved them paying for things.
Example: A trip to McDonalds meant we were getting, and I say this in Daddy’s voice.” Three cheeseburger Happy Meals, with three orange drinks with the Happy Meals.” That’s how he always said it, and nobody piped in the back asking for Sprite or Dr. Pepper instead.
So when one day in early July when Mama had us singing and packing up 538 East 138th Place in Glenpool, nobody asked where or why we were going. We just knew we were moving. While Daddy worked, the four of us (Mama, Vaun, Goog and I) sang while we placed canned green beans, Post Toasties, and all the spices into boxes.
We sang “Chain Gang,” by Otis Redding. I remember that clearly, seven-year-old Goog was the smallest and stood on the countertop, who handed items to me, and I handed them to Vaun and Mama who carefully placed our kitchen items into boxes.
Side note: Goog was suuuuuper cute when he was little. You guys referred to him as a “ham”.
“It has a dishwasher, and it works,” Mama said. Domestic nine-year-old Shannon marveled at the idea of putting the dinner dishes into a machine that took away half of my chores. At this moment, I began to wonder if we’d won another large prize, like when Daddy won a Mario Brothers tournament in the mall that resulted in a year supply of Slice, a new Nintendo console, TV and a giant arcade that fit the beforementioned and all the video games.
Yes, yes, I thought to myself, the McGills won something again. Probably Publisher’s Clearing House.
“There are also stairs. Princess, you have your own bathroom now. You get a room upstairs across from us, and the boys will share downstairs. There’s even a den!” Mama sounded proud and I couldn’t help but swell myself; I’d assumed after years of being referred to a princess that it held true; my own bathroom up a flight of stairs made it so.
Shannon Nicole McGill, thanks to your parents winning the Publisher’s Clearing House that we often were told to pray for, you are a legit princess. You made it, and it only took nine years. It’s all smooth sailing from here. Until I read the ‘real’ versions of Grimm’s Fairy Tales the next year, I’d have this silly idea. But young, pigtailed, bow-legged Shannon’s imagination took a cruise down daydreams of open windows to look down on the peasants from, maybe I could grow my hair as long as Rapunzel’s so I could climb down my own window! At nearly 40 year old, I dream about climbing out of my childhood window weekly, which also means that the house on Kingston is my designated home base in my dreamland. That house’s heartbeat along with the Spring’s, Quinlan’s and the English home follow me everywhere to this day, despite us no longer owning it. Imagine having three houses souls that continue to follow you through your lifetime.
This is why I think I’m royalty. My heart’s been welcome to beat freely in many, many households and for that I’m thankful.
So unlike Vampirina and the new little platypus kids from Daniel Tiger, I held few apprehensions to moving from Glenpool to Bixby. I could call my best friend and next door neighbor Megan long distance (Yes, long distance was considered 15 minutes away) and she would get to see my princess room!
I trusted that my parents would always take us to a better place than we were before; they always did. We went from the splintered wood floors of a rental we called “Patty’s House” to Glenpool, now to Bixby, Oklahoma. My mom and dad were homeowners, nearly 45 minutes where they grew up in North Tulsa.
“I can’t believe those sorry motherfuckers sold us the wrong house.” Mama pulled into Atkinson Acres and rolled down the hill, pausing to point out the Pickinany dolls, tar babies, and dozens of odd yard signs in an overgrown yard a few houses up from us.
“Don’t ever go over there,” she said to us. “See those black painted signs? We don’t look like that, but that’s what they see. Stay away from there.”
Three voices echoed back at her, “yes, mama.”
A woman opened the front door and as many dogs as there were signs in the yard tumbled out the door and Mama snorted to herself. “I can smell that house from here.” She continued up the road, past a beautiful blue house with a detached garage that I’d spend my entire life dreaming of and visiting. Up the hill to a sign that said Kingston.
“See this house,” Mama pointed to a light pink house with a giant front yard and a beautiful back deck. “We thought we were buying this house. But they sold us this one.” She pulled into the driveway across the street and we gazed at the also pink house that seemed to live in complete harmony with the trees that surrounded it.
I was right. We were rich. We won Publisher’s Clearinghouse. Where the hell was Ed
Mac-Mann? (we called him Mac Mann) Where is the giant check, I was told there would be a giant check. Well, we werent’ supposed to ask about the money anyways, so here is what it bought; this pink palace sitting on an acre of land.
The people in the blue house next door came outside on the porch and approached us.
“There goes the neighborhood,” Mama said to herself.
None of us knew what she meant, but we giggled as we threw ourselves out of the car, racing to the front door.
Mama and Daddy opened the door and I bounded past the kitchen, den, dining room and living room straight up the fourteen stairs I’d trip, tiptoe, and slide down in sleeping bags for the next decade. First to my bathroom. MY bathroom. Then across the hall to my bedroom. We opened the door and there it was; the ceilings were shaped like a tiny dollhouse roof and my closet was big enough for me to hide in. Is that a door to the attic? My diary could hide there safely.
Yes, I thought to myself. Mama and Daddy have made it.
I am a princess, all hail Shannon Nicole McGill, the new princess of Kingston, of Atkinson Acres, and most definitely my reign should reach out to Sheridan road, I’d make sure of it.
I ran downstairs and out the door to see about seven boys and girls congregating in our front yard. A set of boy/girl twins who were Goog’s age lived across the street with their sister who was a year older and an older brother Vaun’s age. Next door, two boys mine and Vaun’s age showed up, three boys and a girl rom the other end of the neighborhood, a girl closer to my age than Vaun’s decided my handsome teenage brother was more interesting than I, and the house directly behind us with the yellow golden Retriever named King all came to greet us, as well as the people who purchased the house my parents thought we were buying.
I lived in a neighborhood full of children, arguably one of the best neighborhoods to grow up in because of it. We hosted parties together in high school, snuck out of our houses and caused nighttime mischief, smoked our first cigarettes together and got drunk in the woods together that we referred to as “The Trails.”
I grew up with these kids, still talk to them, we attended each other’s weddings, have our kids play together when we can and still love each other regardeless of our different directions in life.
We were the McGills, and even though we were the only black people in our neighborhood we ran around after dark, caused a ruckus, and did all the things regular kids did. We had a policeman living up the road who happened to be a celebrated war veteran. We were safe and felt safe in our neighborhood.
Why? Because our neighbors weren’t aftraid of us. I don’t talk trash about police because I grew up with one in our neighborhood who never felt the need to attack me or my brothers, in fact, Frank Spring looked out for us just like we were his own grandchildren. I know not all white people are bad because I have a slew of em still beside me since we moved to Bixby in August of 1990. I know people in general are capable of good just as well as bad.
Maybe that’s why I wanna share these little stories growing up in Bixby. I didn’t have it as bad as others, but things happened. Regardless of all the bad, my family and I lived in a neighborhood that protected my brothers and I the same way they protected their own.
That was 1990 in the gardenspot of Oklahoma.
Please tell me that in 2020 I can have this for my boys, tell me that they can grow up alongside the same crew just as we did, with a community who didn’t see our color as a hindrance to our character or lifestyle. Because even though we had two known LEGIT racists whose kids literally outed them on the daily, my brothers and I weren’t shot down.
We can do this, y’all, and I have no problem sharing memories from my life that highlight the beauty in my home, as well as it’s ugly. We aren’t always going to be beautiful, it’s what we take from the ugly that preserves and revives.