The 9 Lives of Oliver 6: THE VICTORY IN DEFEAT

The elegant and charming Ms. Davina “Sista Moms” Sixx found her way as a housekeeper in the Axel Kraft Family suburban mansion in Anglerock Hills, NJ. An ad in the paper led Davina to the prospect. The Axel Krafts owned a popular national brand of yogurt, cottage and cream cheese, including other dairy innovations. The wife of the CEO, Mrs. Axel Kraft, and Davina hit it off right away. She wanted Davina to help keep their house in Anglerock Hills. Moms was hired to cook, clean, cater special parties, and housesit when the Axel Krafts were away. 

Mr. and Mrs. Axel Kraft were empty nesters approaching their 70’s. So, they were even fine with Davina bringing her tweening son, Oliver. With her salary, they offered a one-bedroom apartment in the basement of the house, with a private entrance, and garage space – rent-free, no food to buy, or utilities to pay. Oliver would finally have his own room. Moms would make do, sleeping in the spacious living room. Their prayers had been answered.

It was a good way to live. Previously, Moms had only free-lanced between employers. She didn’t like the feeling of ‘belonging’ to anyone. This felt stable, though. The work wasn’t so hard. The people were nice enough. They welcomed her AND Oliver. Davina even befriended the squirrels and birds out back. She marveled at them, took Polaroid pics, and talked to the ones that entertained her. It WAS very Disney princess of her. The grounds were breathtaking. Neighbors on both sides owned tennis courts. After work, Moms liked to bask in the peeking sun, as she reclined under the tall trees breezing. The variety of birds excited her. She marveled at the nuances of their songs to Oliver. At night, she would marvel at the stars, crickets, and raccoons. It was a far cry from any city honks, bumps or whistles. It was home.

There was a bubbling brook nearby. It was tucked away; just yards from a quaint little private school founded in the woods by a distant relation of the Lindbergh’s. When school was out, O. snuck off there to spend hours alone – daydreaming, exploring, and singing. “The Brook” was just a waterfall that scurried down a stone path, splintered into two smaller pools, and disappeared deeper into the woods. 

The Brook was a peaceful place. The running water-polished an assortment of earth-colored stones and nourished green sprouts along its way. In the spring and summer, the sun danced gracefully down through the leaves. Oliver heard the insects speaking as they went about their work. In the winter, snowflakes fell like fantasies. He’d carefully investigate the ceiling of ice over the familiar brook’s surface of stones. Beneath the snow and dying leaves, the life of The Brook flowed on – unstoppable. Oliver felt he was inside the magic lamp. Secretly, hidden within a stained-glass menagerie of wood, water and wonder. He found his sacred sacristy.

At school around real people, Oliver tried more intently to make friends. He walked two miles into town to the Dwight Public School, named after another Lindbergh Family member. The previous school he’d attended had been very “All-American,” and pulled no punches on the macro and micro-aggressions of the darker students. 

O. didn’t play football or basketball. He felt weird about boys, especially, because they teased him about not playing football or baseball. There weren’t many girls of color to crush on; and white girls spelled trouble at this age. He felt inadequate and invisible. If he wasn’t a “star something,” to them he was a nobody. Impotent and unimportant. It would be good to be around his people again. At least Black people might appreciate him a touch more. He fantasized of having a group of Black friends that he could relate to. Like, the Cosby Kids.  

However, after two years, the Axel Krafts announced a long trip and they no longer needed a housekeeper. Oliver suspected too many ‘Repent!’ tracks, slipped under their pillows by Sista Moms: or too much preaching to Mrs. Axel Kraft about her smoking. Perhaps, the 15 year-old Oliver was just eating too much. 

Another move. Oliver knew Moms already felt him slipping away. He had to for his survival. Months before, Oliver came home and found her sitting there quietly in the shadows, mumbling. Maybe, “speaking in tongues.” She was distant, and stressed. She was on a break from work – laying face down on the floor of their living room “prostrate before the Lord.” 

Oliver came in from school – she wouldn’t speak. Just pray. When it was time to serve dinner upstairs to the Axel Krafts, she robotically facilitated the meal. Oliver had said things that unsettled her days before. They were truthful things from an angry, loving place. Things she kept hidden inside herself. He saw too deeply. She had encouraged his power to discern. He was the only one she listened to. Barely. Maybe, she had listened too clearly. She was low.

She still hadn’t completely recovered from Faith Restoration Temple accusing her of witchcraft. Which may have prompted Armando, her husband-to-be-turned-sucker to abandon her. Plus, he stole ‘The Gold Chariot’ – Moms’ Chevy. They had to change churches. There was no way for Oliver to protect her. She had no plan for next steps. It was a major blow to Davina’s core. As she waited on God to fix things, she still claimed the spiritual victory. She assured O. of God’s Plan, but he knew Moms was crumbling and confused about how they could stay together. She received no help from his father. Oliver’s Gandy had already sold her house – the one Davina had grown up in – and went off to live on her own.

Davina’s best friend – Lissett Monique Robinson – was Oliver’s ‘Auntie Lissett.’ She was also the sole caregiver of her father, who developed Parkinson’s. Auntie Lissett worked full-time as a domestic in the Cantor home over Summitt Hill. Summitt Hill Road divided the lower income Black neighborhoods, and downtown business centers from the more affluent mansions and “high rises” in HackenSaturn. After work, Auntie Lissett was on duty with Mr. Robinson.

In his early years, Mr. Robinson had been a respected army soldier. After finishing his tour, he became a respected maintenance man in a local bank. At the bank, he was always friendly to little Ollie, and generously tossed him quarters. Now, in their home, he was venomous. He chain-smoked unfiltered Camels, and would stare and sneer at Oliver, like Popeye. Oliver was forced to sit alone with Popeye in the smoked-filled living room where Mr. Robinson screamed at baseball games, mystery shows or old shoot’em-up movies. In the army, Mr. Robinson learned to sleep with one eye open. Even when Mr. Robinson fell asleep watching TV, Oliver couldn’t tell if he was being watched by the evil eye. Whenever Oliver would bring up the intense staring to Moms and Auntie Lissett, they would say it was just the Devil. What?! He never got why they left him alone with the Devil.

Right after Moms was fired from the Axel Krafts (six months before Oliver was ready to move in) she lived six months with Auntie Lissett. The Robinsons rented a two-bedroom apartment in the uptown projects. Lissett had been the first adult responder to support Moms for a while, after Gandy bowed out. All the other people Moms cared for, cooked for and counseled, ghosted. Not, holy. Mr. Robinson’s health progressively got worse by the time Moms moved out. By that time, Mr. Robinson was leaving the stovetop a blaze. His bowels were unpredictable. Phrases were repeated often. He was getting lost, and losing himself. Rewind, one year.

At 15, Oliver would now need to start figuring out how he was going to support himself. He had already been preparing. Moms had never been much involved in his academic career, or personal life. She began leaving for the weekend – to give him space, and to visit Lissett. She had taught him everything she could. How to pray, do laundry, cook for a small group, travel, socialize, and navigate threats to his life out in the world. Through all the pressure he vowed to stay alive. Once it was clear they had to move again, he decided to look out for himself. He would release Moms of the burden of him as a responsibility. Moms quietly found a place for herself.

Intellectual property of ML. King, House of Aleijuan, all rights reserved, 2019

“Busy Be” by Mrk Drkfthr

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