My Early Life
My early life was not the life of the Cleavers, or the Brady Bunch kids.
My birth mother, committed suicide…hanging herself by my crib. I found
out when I was walking to school…a group of older kids enlightened
me…I was five.
When I asked the questions, as to why, (I didn’t ask till I was about
12) I was told she had the Baby Blues, and I was 6 months old when it
happened. However, I saw one of those religious cards they give you at
funerals, and I was more like two when she did it. So I think we can
rule out post-partum depression.
My father never said much, just “You have a mother now, so leave it
alone." My Dad remarried when I was almost six.
My Dad said that when he dated, and he got around to mentioning he had
two motherless children at home, the lady would excuse herself to use
the restroom, and sneak out of the restaurant. He dated a woman named
Marilyn for a while, and I liked her, she gave me underwear with the
different days of the week on them.
I was not thrilled when I met Carallee. I lived with my Aunt Elsie, and
only saw my father on weekends. Those early years with Aunt Elsie were
not easy, and I loved her and Uncle Wilbur with all my heart. My brother
was in a home for boys for a while, but ran away when they beat him for
not eating his oatmeal. He stayed four blocks away at Aunt Maydees. It
might as well have been four miles…I was a little kid, and I wasn’t
even allowed to cross the street, let alone travel to 106th street.
I had to leave Aunt Elsie’s for a time. I used to sit on Uncle
Wilbur’s lap, what he had of a lap anyway, as he was overweight, and I
would have my little cowboys from the Fort Apache set march up his
stomach and chest like they were scaling a mountain. I liked the smell
of his pipe, and loved the ritual of watching him clean and fill the
pipe. He always dozed, or so I thought while I sat on his lap. I vaguely
remember, Aunt Elsie walking in, and yelling "Wilbur" and it was because
my dear old Uncle had unzipped his fly, and had himself exposed,
feinting sleep, and hoping little Janice would touch him. So I was
shipped off, and stayed at some ladies house, but I came down with
pneumonia, and ended up in the hospital. I still remember that the first
night in the hospital was the longest night of my life…I didn't sleep.
I lay awake for hours and was pretty miserable. I also hated the bedpan.
It was in the hospital that I learned to become an activist. I was in a
large ward of children. One of the nurses was a cruel, cruel woman, and
she had red hair. She would pull our hair, and hit us with the
hairbrush. She threatened all of us…she said we'd never see our
families again if we told. She slapped us too. Lots of the kids cried,
and after one such torturous shift, I became the Union leader. I took
our grievances to my father! My father visited everyday on his lunch
hour…and when I told him, he went crazy.
My kind father, the guy who made me laugh every day, while wearing a
Donald Duck puppet on his hand…ran out of there like his hair was on
fire. He grabbed the first nurse he saw, and asked if it was this
one…and it wasn't. Anyway, needless to say, the nurse was fired…it
turned out that she was recently released from a mental hospital or
something like that. I guess they didn't do background checks in the
50s. So I went back to Aunt Elsie’s, but they kept Uncle Wilbur far
away from me. The incident was never mentioned to me, and I recalled all
of it the day I walked into a tobacco store and smelled the pipe
Okay, so back to meeting my mother…except she wasn't my new mother
yet…it was a date…a meet the kids date. Now, Carallee was from the
Cayman Islands. For years kids thought I said the Grand Canyon, and they
had no idea where this place was. The children in the Caymans were
raised to respect adults, everything was yes ma’am, and yes sir etc.
And the Cayman people did not spare the rod and spoil the child, though
the only thing they revered more than their children was God.
Imagine poor Carallee's shock at my first words to her. "Who is she?"
"Why does SHE have to go with us?" "I don't want her to come with to the
museum with us!" Just so you don't think I was a total brat, remember I
only saw my father and brother on weekends. Just when I thought I was
getting somewhere, and maybe, she was not going with, she takes me by
the arm and announces she is going to give me a BATH!!!!! I WAS
HORRIFIED. Sure I had dirty sweat streaks on my arms, but you get those
when you are digging a hole to China. I waited for my father to
intervene, and he just pretended to be busy with something else. She
actually had to drag me, my shoes scraping the toes on the sidewalk, as
I was having none of this, and I never did admit the bath was
I did get even though. I planted myself between the two front seats.
This was in the days of no seat belts, and I stood on that little hump
on the floor in the back seat, and wedged myself between them both,
talking a mile a minute so they couldn't get a word in edgewise. My
beloved brother Ronnie, whom I adored, had the audacity to tell me he
actually liked this woman! I was not to be won over, and I carried a
grudge the rest of the week.
Now, for the lesson learned here, and this is important! GOD OPENS MANY
DOORS FOR US…WE CAN CHOOSE TO WALK THROUGH THEM, OR TO SLAM THEM SHUT.
THANK YOU JESUS THAT CARALLEE JACKSON FROM SAVANNAH, GRAND CAYMAN,
WALKED THROUGH THAT DOOR. It changed my life forever. But of course I
didn't realize how much, until much later in life. But let’s fast
forward to more miracles.
Excerpted from "Going Through the Door and Finding Miracles" by Janice Rae Sanders. Copyright © 2015 by Janice Rae Sanders. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.