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Taking Up

I against my brother
My brother and I against our father
My brother, my father and I against our uncle
And all of us against the infidel . . .

Old Arab Proverb (I'm told)

When I was a child, as part of a large black family, I was trained, as were my siblings, to "take up" for any of my siblings if any one of us got into a fight. Mind you, since I was the youngest, I didn't have to make good on this familial pact. It was understood that if any one of us got into a fight or was threatened with one, and there was another one of us around, they had better "take up" for the one who was in a fight or threatened. If we got home and our parents found out that we didn't take up for one another, we were going to get it. We would be judged, and there would be hell to pay. Didn't matter if your sister or brother started the fight -- that would be dealt with later -- all that mattered was that if there was going to be trouble, you'd best be fighting alongside your sibling instead of sitting on the sidelines or fighting against them.

Because "taking up" was a common phenomenon among black families in the ghetto during the '60's and '70's, if you lived in the ghetto, you pretty much knew what your odds were going into a fight. There were people who wouldn't mess with me because they knew my older brother would take up for me. "Don't mess with her. Her brother's crazy." Just the knowledge that you weren't going to be the only one they'd have to do battle with was enough to keep the peace. Don't start none, won't be none. Talk about a deterrent. I guess it was the ghetto equivalent of NATO.

You don't expect when you're in your forties that your siblings would still have to take up for you, but it's nice to know that they would. I won't dignify the person or the act that caused me to seek advice, solace and support from my siblings, but my siblings made it very clear that they would take up for me. Between sips of iced tea and bites of an off-the-chain pound cake (my sisters may not be Southerners, but like Southern women, there's always dessert in their house) I was given an infusion of SWIE-wit and the confirmation that the pact still stood. A subsequent family meeting in my absence involving my oldest brother made clear that the pact still stood.

I am blessed beyond measure to have the family I was born into. I don't know what I did to deserve it, but I know I am blessed.

The pact still stands. We may be sliding into middle age, but the pact still stands.

Thanks to our parents.


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