In general terms, this does not refer to the day of your birth. It refers to that day when you were little; your first birthday party, your first day of school, your first friend, etc.
The first day of my life that I can clearly remember is the day my Mother died. I was five years old. There were three girls born to my Mother. I am the oldest of the three of us, and then there’s my sister Roselle who was three, and the baby girl, Alyah, who was just four months old. We were too young to have many memories of Mom; but, I recall the last day of her life as if it were just yesterday.
We had just moved into a three bedroom apartment on Halloween and went trick or treating that night with a new neighbor. It was a cold October night in Dayton, Ohio that my Mother lived her last full day. Me and my three year old sister went out for a night of fun and were dressed like little women. We wore makeup and dresses and carried pillow cases for our candy.
It was common in those times to carry a pillowcase because costumes and accessories were too expensive, and it was a convenient sack to get lots of goodies. As the night grew later, and after returning home; Mom fed us, and put us to bed. The three of us had no idea upon lying down to the sweet sound of a mother’s voice, that the next day would change our lives forever.
That fateful day was November 1st, 1982. My three year old sister and I wanted candy for breakfast. Mom was getting ready for the day, putting on her makeup and brushing her wig. We asked for the candy that we’d collected the night before.
Mom said, “No, Ya’ll ain’t eatin’ candy for breakfast! We are going out for breakfast.”
We knew, with all trust in her, that it must be a special day. The first of the month is always special to those who receive government benefits; it is like a holiday for the ghetto. Happiness and excitement fills the hood on the first. And even as I look back, we lived in a ghetto of sorts and it was indeed the first of the month for an unemployed mother of three young children.
Mom was a pretty lady and was taking her time getting more beautiful. She carefully applied her makeup and fluffed her wig. She was getting dressed to impress. Mom had special plans for her girls that day. I was sure by the look of intent and excitement in her eyes. As Mom was completing her grooming, a guy friend of hers arrived. He brought in a TV for the new apartment. She seemed very happy and gave him a kiss on the cheek, and said “Thank you, Sweetie!”
Mom took a while longer getting us ready. She put on our best clothes and combed our hair; making us feel pretty. Soon after, we were on the road ready to venture out for the day. While riding in the car we heard Mom talking about someone, whom she must have been upset with, because she was talking loudly. Her temper was flared.
“I want all my shit back!” She yelled. Mom’s guy friend tried to calm her.
He said calmly, “Don’t worry sweetheart, I’ll take you over there to get your things.”
The ride didn’t take long; it was our first stop. It seemed odd to be returning to the apartments that we had moved from only the day before. As children we had no understanding of why we were there, we were just excited to be going out for a day with Mom.
“I’ll be right back.” Mom promised.
She got out of the car and walked around the building into the U shaped parking lot. It took so long it seemed while she was inside that it was like a lifetime for a child’s anxieties. After about fifteen minutes, a neighbor came running out to the front of the apartments yelling toward the car.
She was screaming, “Mr., is this your wife! There are two women fighting and one of them has a knife!” Mom’s guy friend was shaken. He looked perplexed.
He said, “Oh my God, I can’t leave you guys in the car like this!”
Then he started the car and drove into the U shaped parking lot wherein the apartment my Mom was in. He jumped out of the car and ran into the apartment. Within a few short minutes, there were paramedics and police rushing into the parking lot. I had no idea what all the commotion was about.
When the emergency staff went in, I could hear from outside the Emergency Medical Technician saying Mom’s name over and over waiting for a response.
“Sherry, can you hear me?! Sherry, can you hear me?!” The woman EMT said loudly.
After the police went in; the woman, who was fighting Mom, came out in handcuffs. In a matter of seconds the paramedics rushed through the doors of the apartment with Mom on a stretcher.
I saw many blood stains on the sheets and Mom’s body was limp, with one arm hanging over the side. I grew afraid; Mom’s wig was gone.
Even at the tender age of five years old, I knew Mom was in trouble. I had never seen her without her wig in public. I immediately looked at the three year old, then the baby, and once I began to cry, they did too.
News cameras were peering into the car and broadcasting the news about the terrible event. I cried as I looked back into the cameras because of the chaos happening around us. I felt anguish at the sight of her body on the stretcher. I was afraid that I would never see her again because her eyes were closed and she was being taken away by ambulance.
Mom was transported to the hospital, where she died a short time later. She was twenty four years old. She had been stabbed over forty times throughout her body. The woman involved was taken into custody. Later I would find out that the fight was over a dress and other items that Mom loaned the woman, who was her best friend. The woman was released in eight months on probation.
It seemed that I must have fainted during the chaos, because when I awoke, we were at My Aunt Rose’s house where everyone was whispering and mentioning the name S.P., which were Mom’s initials.
People say that your name is like a stamp of who you are. I never knew that the name Payne would produce so much of its ironic pronunciation. Pain was the foundation of my existence from that day on into victory. Trial and tribulation was my shadow. I wanted to live another life. Mine as I knew it was over. My life began as a question.