prepare for something unpleasant or difficult
Still, I anchored myself and my sisters best as I could to
brace us for whatever came next.
a quick short straight punch
Those clouds weren’t through with us yet and dealt another Cassius Clay-left-and-a-right
jab to the body of our Boeing 727.
a complaint uttered in a plaintive whining way
I kept my
whimper to myself.
a blunder that makes you look ridiculous
The last thing Pa and Big Ma wanted to hear was how we made a grand Negro
spectacle of ourselves thirty thousand feet up in the air around all these white people.
your name written in your own handwriting
We saw ourselves riding wild waves on surf boards, picking oranges and apples off fruit trees, filling our autograph books with
signatures from movie stars we’d see in soda shops.
station where vehicles load or unload passengers or goods
Once inside the
terminal, she let it all hang out.
an opinion formed critically
judgment, and believe me, Big Ma had plenty of
judgment for Cecile.
a public act of violence by an unruly mob
A shrill voice had
announced the departing flight to Oakland.
move away from a place into another direction
A shrill voice had announced the
departing flight to Oakland.
an evangelistic meeting to reawaken interest in religion
Although I could at least keep still, Vonetta and Fern stamped their feet like holy rollers at a
an individual that one is not acquainted with
She’d expected this
stranger to say, as if she were a neighbor, “They’re as good as my own."
some event that causes someone to be humiliated
I’ll make sure they don’t misbehave or be an
embarrassment to the Negro race.
take a brief look at
glanced at my Timex.
worthy of or requiring trust; held accountable
Among the three of us, I was the only one
responsible enough to keep and wear a wrist-watch.
lacking in physical beauty or proportion
Not plain as in
homely plain, but even plain.
securely in position; not shaky
It kept bouncing and surging forward until the bouncing smoothed out and we were rolling against the ground, nice and
a movement downward
The intercom crackled, and the pilot made an announcement about the
descent and altitude and that we would be landing in ten minutes.
a person who comes to a country in order to settle there
immigrants building the railroads connecting east to west.
a disdainful grimace
The truth was, one
pout from either Vonetta or Fern and I would have given up the window seat.
censure severely or angrily
We would have been the grand Negro spectacle that Big Ma had
scolded us against becoming when we were back in Brooklyn.
sensational in appearance or thrilling in effect
How many times would I be this high up and have a sight as
spectacular as the Golden Gate Bridge right underneath me?
bring shame or dishonor upon
Even though there were only eight Negroes on board, counting my sisters and me, I had managed to
disgrace the entire Negro race, judging by the head shaking and tsk-tsking going on around us.
rise or move forward
It kept bouncing and
surging forward until the bouncing smoothed out and we were rolling against the ground, nice and steady.
delegate a task to
Vonetta, Fern, and I stood next to the young redheaded stewardess
assigned to watch us until Cecile came forward.
make a place messy by strewing garbage around
They call it
littering when you carelessly drop things.
Not because she was
anxious to meet Cecile.
a short theatrical performance part of a longer program
Vonetta asked again so she could have her
routine rehearsed in her head—her curtsy, smile, and greeting—leaving Fern and me to stand around like dumb dodos.
struck with fear, dread, or consternation
The redheaded stewardess was
appalled by my uppity behavior.
look with amazement
She thought it was all right to have the large white woman
gawk at us, talk to us, and buy our attention.
repeat aloud from memory
I could see any thoughts Vonetta had about
reciting poetry, tap-dancing, and curtsying vanished.
literature in metrical form
I could see any thoughts Vonetta had about reciting
poetry, tap-dancing, and curtsying vanished.
anything maintaining separation by obstructing access
Once we were there, face-to-face, the stewardess stopped in her tracks and made herself a
barrier between the strange woman and us.
any representative of a federal bureau
Cecile looked more like a secret
agent than a mother.
run away quickly
She dropped the slip of paper on the floor, handed us over, and
fled away on her wobbly high heels.