By Storyteller Diane Ferlatte

 

Story Summary:

 In 1972 Diane marries outside her race (as they say) and her mother-in-law refuses to attend the wedding, among other things. What happens to the family’s relationship afterward is anyone’s guess. 

For a print friendly version of the transcript, click here: You Never Know What the End’s Gonna Be

For an audio version of this story, click here: You Never Know What the End’s Gonna Be (MP3)

Discussion Questions:

  1. Since most cities and neighborhoods are not integrated in a balanced manner, or are, in fact, still segregated, what are the ramifications for an interracial couple and their children when they live in a non-integrated neighborhood, where the churches, schools, etc. are either predominantly one group or the other?
  2. In a Black/White marriage, for example, one or maybe both spouses may not feel totally comfortable in the social/cultural setting of the other spouse. For instance, the white spouse may feel ill at ease being the only white person at a Black party or in a Black church, or vise versa. Do you think this situation might apply more to one spouse than the other, and, if so, how might that affect their marriage and other choices they make?
  3. Many biracial or mixed race young people identify themselves as such, yet almost all Black/White biracial young people identify themselves as Black, period. Why do you think this is true? What historical forces encouraged this identification? What happens to the child who doesn’t look “Black”?

Resource:

Themes:

  •  African American/Black History
  • Crossing Cultures
  • European American/Whites
  • Family and Childhood
  • Stereotypes and Discrimination
  • Taking A Stand and Peacemaking

Transcript:

My name is Diane Ferlatte. I’m a storyteller. I am going to tell you a small excerpt from a story from my life, okay? My ancestors, many years ago, lived in Africa…yeah! But my mother-in-law? Her ancestors came from England, and when she found out I was going to marry her son, “cough, cough!” she got sick and couldn’t come to the wedding. Well, her son told his mom, “You miss this wedding? It’s your loss.” So, she didn’t come. And the relationship between a mother and her son began to change. She didn’t call her son anymore, didn’t visit her son anymore. But her son would call his mother once or twice a week to see how she was doing. That went on for about a year or so. Then he went to visit his mother, without me, to see how she was doing. That went on for a year or so.

Then, my husband and I decided to adopt a little baby girl, and he went to visit his mother again. This time he brought . . . me and the baby! When we got to her house, she was nice. She opened the door, that was a start! We went in and sat down on the couch, she sat way across the room. And there was no conversation, just questions. See, my mother-in-law, she didn’t know anything about black people. All she knew about black people is what she saw on the TV. Back then it was “Power to the people and all political prisoners!” That’s not me, that’s not my family. But that’s all she knew. But after a few more visits, pretty soon she is holding the baby, I’m playing the piano, she is trying to sing, I’m helping her in the kitchen, having a wonderful time. After a really good visit one time, I couldn’t believe, this my mother-in-law tried to give me a half a hug, but that’s better than no hug!

After about a year or so later, we adopted a little boy, three-and-a-half years old, and when she met him, oh, she loved Joey! She was buying little gifts, we were playing games, I was playing the piano, and we went for long rides in the car. The visits got better and better and better, because we were talking and sharing our stories, you know what happened to that wall between us? It slowly began to come down. My mother-in-law was warming up! And one time after a good visit, I couldn’t believe this either. I was leaving her house and she tried to give me a whole hug, I was, like, “Whoa!” Could she like me? I know she couldn’t love me . . . could she? I said, I’m gonna test her.

I invited my mother-in-law for Thanksgiving dinner, and what do you think she did? She came! She came! And to spice things up, I invited my Mama and Daddy, who had never met her in life. Well, my daddy walked in to the house and saw her, when he found her name was Lorraine, he walked over, picked up her hand and sang the whole song by Nat King Cole, “My Sweet Lorraine, Lorraine.” She loved my daddy, but she missed all those years knowing him. Everybody liked my daddy, who took time to get to know him! And no offense to anybody who is English, but my mother-in-law, she couldn’t cook, just throw stuff in the pot, just boil it, no flavor, no seasoning. She loved my daddy’s corn bread dressing. She loved those greens, she loved that big chicken with that long gravy. She was eating like it was the last supper!

And I see my mother and my mother-in-law talking about their early childhoods, how tough they had it in life, then they said, “Wait a minute, we had a tough life, but we survived, we made it. We’re still here!” My mother-in-law was coming around, realizing that she had family, she had grandchildren, she had good eating on holidays because every holiday, where do you think she was? At my house, at my mother and father’s house, or we brought the food to her house.

But I tell the story to say this, we have to be very careful how we treat each other, because you never know what the end’s gonna be because when my mother-in-law was on her death bed in the hospital, guess who was all around her bed? Black folk! The nurse: black. Me, my mother, my father, my brother, my two kids, and her husband and son. Do you know who put lotion on her dry, dry legs and feet? My mother. Do you know who fluffed her pillow and rubbed her back, because her back was hurting her so? My mother. Yeah, we have to be very, very careful how we treat each other, because you never know who might have to give you a cool drink of water or rub your brow. That’s the story, a true story from my life. And we all got ‘em. Yeah.