I felt like I was a lot older than five. With nobody else my own age around, it was the only way I could feel. I tried to act older. Every time I thought about it, which was most of the time, I wanted to be older like Madge and her brothers. Madge was five years older than me. Whenever she’d let me, I chased after her and her friend Rebecca, who lived across the road. Those two were always doin’ things together, and most of the time they’d let me tag along—it didn’t matter to them that I was a boy. Some days, when they did girl things like playin’ with their dolls, I’d go home and look for something more fun. And sometimes, when they didn’t want me around at all, they’d send me home.
Madge was my aunt, my mother’s youngest sister, but she always seemed more like my own sister. I could tell Madge loved me by the way she acted. She usually called me Jon, instead of my full name, Jonathan, and she was always tellin’ me what to do and what not to do, telling me in a good way. Teachin’ me, not fussin’ at me.
They all loved me, everybody at the farm did…except maybe Granddaddy. He always called me Jonathan, and I didn’t know about him. I was never really sure whether he loved me or not. He never told me he loved me. He never hugged me like Mama did, and he pushed me away if I tried to climb up on his lap or put my arm around his shoulders.
But, it wasn’t that way at all with Mama. I knew for sure she loved me. In addition to everything else, she even saved my life one day—saved me from a big old rattlesnake. I’d heard there were plenty of rattlers in south Georgia, and I knew we had some of ’em on the farm. but I didn’t know any of ’em were big as that one I ran into.