Pretty Sarah's Golden hair
The sun feelin’ hotter today. Makin’ it hard for me to work. To move. To breathe. I'se so big now. Massah pull me outta the field yesterday and put me to work in the garden. He say it be easier for me here. But it ain’t. I still have to work on my knees to tend to the roses, tomatoes, and collards. ‘Sides, here in the garden, I have to do all the work! Ain’t nobody here to help me. I got help in the field though. 'Specially when I got real big. Henrietta, Pat, and John would let me rest my legs every few rows. And sometimes they let me sneak a nap when Charlie, the overseer, would take his break.
Naw, this ain’t the field. I oughtta be glad about that, but I ain't. It be so hot! The kinda hot where you can see heat movin' around you like lil' ripples in a fish pond. But there be a big oak nearby where I sit for a spell when ain’t nobody lookin’ and then there’s the window. The window to Miss Suzy’s room. In between prunin', pluckin', and tryin' to rest, I bend down real low by Miss Suzy's window and peek in. The first time, I stole a look, her room was empty but now, I see her sittin’ on her bed in a dress so pretty, it look like it come outta the garden.
She don’t see me ‘cause her back be to me. She playin’ with one of her dolls that be dressed better than me. Better than her. Better than any slave or little white girl I ever seen. “Hmm, hmm, you my baby doll…Hmm, hmm, an’ you grow so tall…,” she sing to the doll. “Hmm, hmm, you got golden hair…Hmm, hmm and a dress to wear.”
“Miss Suzy, yo’ momma wanna see you in the parlor,” I hear Anna Mae call out to her.
“Hmm, hmm, you my baby doll…Hmm, hmm, an’ you grow so tall.”
Anna Mae walk in the room and look at Miss Suzy like she her child. “Miss Suzy,” she say, but that lil' gal ain’t payin’ Anna Mae no mind. She too busy brushin' her baby doll’s hair.
“Hmm, hmm, you got golden hair…Hmm, hmm and a dress to wear.”
“Miss Suzy,” Anna Mae say, “don’t you hear me callin' you? I said yo momma wanna see you.”
The sun beatin’ down harder on me now.
“Miss Suzy!” Anna Mae was mad. She probably had better things to do than be bothered with this chile.
“I hears ya. I’m fixin’ Pretty Sarah’s hair. She goin’ to a dance tonight.”
“I don’t care ‘bout no dance Miss Suzy,” Anna Mae say through her teeth. “Yo’ momma say she need you in the parlor and I gotta get back to them greens yo’ daddy want for supper. You put that baby doll down and come wit me.”
I hear Anna Mae take a deep breath. “Miss Suzy, you want me to tell Massah that you –“
“I’m comin,” Miss Suzy say real sassy like. She put Pretty Sarah on the bed real gentle, like she might break, then she kinda twirled around and stared at Anna Mae. “Anna Mae, you got ugly hair. Hmm, hmm and rags to wear.” Then she laugh real hard and run by Anna Mae. I could still hear Miss Suzy singin' and laughin’ her way to the parlor. “Hmm, hmm, you got ugly hair. Hmm, hmm and rags to wear.”
Anna Mae stood in the door starin' at nothin’ for a long time, then she walk to Miss Suzy’s bed. She looked down at the doll and picked it up. She smelled it and then lifted the fancy dress. It had bloomers and stockings! Anna Mae began touchin' Pretty Sarah’s long, yellow curly hair. Her hair look like mo’ than a hundred big piggy tails shinin’ in the hot sun. Then, she started touchin’ her own hair that she wore in two braids. Hers sorta looked like rows of wheat or cotton. Hers looked like the hair of all the slave women on the plantation. Even mine.
“Anna Mae! Where are you?” Missus Laura yelled from somewhere in the house. “Anna Mae!”
Anna Mae sorta jumped back into herself and tossed Pretty Sarah back on Miss Suzy’s big, fancy white bed. “I’m comin', Missus Laura.” Anna Mae looked down at the doll again and stuck out her tongue like I seen Miss Suzy do to her big brother, Chester.
She left the room and I pull myself up a bit more. The sweat soakin’ me now. My legs start hurtin’ like they do when my time come. I know then, that it be startin'. No. No. All of a sudden, I couldn't catch my breath. I felt like I was chokin'. No. No. I started feelin’ scared, like I did when I had my first baby, but ain’t nobody here to help me. I try to call for Anna Mae but she gone now and I jus'....I jus' can’t seem to catch my breath.
I feel the warm water movin' down my legs, waterin' the roses. I starts to hummin’ Miss Suzy’s baby doll song: “Hmm, hmm..hmm, hmm.” The pain come anyway. Feel like somebody squeezin’ me tight ‘round my stomach. It ain’t a good squeezin’ like a hug from my mammy or a holdin’ from Jimmy when we used to meet over yonder and steal suga in the moonlight. It be a bad squeezin’.
“Hmm, hmm, you my baby doll,” I sing, tryin' not to be scared. “Hmm, hmm, an’ you real tall. Hmm, hmm, you got golden hair.” I’m tryin’ not to be scared for my baby. Will it be born dead like the first? No, not this one. No. No. This baby be always movin’. This baby gonna live! “Hmm, hmm, you got golden hair.” I look at Miss Suzy’s baby doll layin’ so pretty and free on her bed and I get to thinkin’ – golden hair. Golden hair! Yes, that be the answer.
I pull my big, hurtin’ self through Miss Suzy’s window and fall on the cool, wood floor. It felt good layin' there. Better than the shade under the Oak tree, but the squeezin' was gettin' worse. I got on my knees and crawled to Miss Suzy's bed. Her bed cover was as white as the clouds in the sky and soft like a rose petal.
And there was Pretty Sarah, layin' in the middle of the bed, floatin' on the cloud. Her eyes wide open. 'Fore I know it, I had pulled myself right up on Miss Suzy's bed. A pain like a whip shot through my back and I get to prayin’ to God, Jesus, and the old Gods mammy say she remember her Baba prayin’ to ‘fore she stole away from ‘cross the waters. I pray to whichever one would listen. I pray in my head about the “golden hair.” Not out loud where Massah could hear me. I’d get whipped for sure.
Oh, the pain be worse now. I take pretty Sarah and hold her in my arms like I did my dead baby boy. “Lord, Jesus, God of my mammy’s people, bless my baby with hair like Pretty Sarah. The golden hair. Hair that look like the sun and feel like freedom. If my baby be a girl, bless her with long, golden hair to wear in big curls, so she can work here in the Big House. If my baby be a boy, make his hair golden so Massah won’t work him too hard. Make my baby’s hair nice and good like Pretty Sarah, not bad like mine.”
'Fore I knew it, I was screamin’ and pushin’ my baby out – layin’ on Miss Suzy’s bed that was turnin' red with my blood. I could hear myself prayin’ over Miss Suzy and Anna Mae's screamin'. I was prayin’ out loud now: “Lord, don’t make my baby’s hair thick and rough like! I don’t want it to have that kinda life! Make my baby’s hair soft and straight. Give my baby a straight and good life, like Pretty Sarah’s. Please! Please........"