Up & Coming Weekly

November 08, 2022

Up and Coming Weekly is a weekly publication in Fayetteville, NC and Fort Bragg, NC area offering local news, views, arts, entertainment and community event and business information.

Issue link: http://www.epageflip.net/i/1483691

Contents of this Issue


Page 14 of 28

14 UCW NOVEMBER 9 - 15, 2022 WWW.UPANDCOMINGWEEKLY.COM McDonald siblings ref lect on family bonds, military service and sacrifice by KATHLEEN RAMSEY "I'm the baby. I'm number 13," says Sandra McDonald Jewel. "And I'm the … " Shirley McDonald Douglas begins. She turns toward her sister Sandra. "Don't look at me," Sandra says laughing. Shirley turns back confidently. "I'm number 10," Shirley says. ey both look to the next in line. Sitting be- side Shirley is Curley. He sits in a plain T-shirt and weathered blue jeans with a crease down the front from an iron. He breaks the conver- sation with occasional funny comments that will get a laugh from all of his other siblings. ey all refer to him as the comic. His deep Southern drawl adds to each punchline with- out so much as a change in his facial expres- sion. "I think I'm number nine," Curley says. He stops and pulls a toothpick from his mouth. "Wait a second, I can't be number nine." Everyone in the room busts out laughing. Sitting arm to arm are seven of the Mc- Donald siblings. ere were 13 originally, and most of the siblings keep the order by knowing which of the other siblings they fall between. "You are number eight, Curley," Shirley says laughing. As they count down the line, the debate about numbering continues — six, seven, five, no, maybe it's eight. Each time one announc- es their number in line, another corrects with the order of the siblings' names. "You in-between June. You are number six," one counters back to Margaret. And they all laugh. Curley makes a joke about them trying to figure out the pecking order and being el- derly. en they'll all stop for a second and start counting siblings out loud between the laughing. "I need more fingers," says Margaret Mc- Donald McShore. "It's enough to confuse you." e McDonald family members span the ages from 70 to 85. ey have seen the tides of change throughout the decades in North Carolina having lived here from 1930s-1940s on and off. Growing up just a stone's throw from Fayetteville, these kids, now mostly grandparents themselves, belonged to a fam- ily of sharecroppers in Wade. Currently, all the siblings still living — nine in total — live in Wade except Shirley who resides at a senior center in Fayetteville. e group tries to get together once a month for birthdays or celebrations, admittedly happening less frequently since "the virus," as they term it. Among these celebrations is always an event for Veterans Day. e sib- lings go to breakfast and then to the Airborne Museum to place flags in honor of Oliver and Martin Jr., who both were drafted during the Vietnam War, and Harold, who died in Viet- nam saving another soldier's life. In Curley's hand is a picture of a young man with a thin mustache in Army fatigues; composed next to the picture is an onslaught of awards. With just a question about Harold, the laughing suddenly stops. A stillness grows in the room, a stillness defined by heartbreak. "Everybody loved him," Joyce says. "When we lived in Brooklyn, the kids on the block on Saturday mornings would throw pebbles at his window so he could come down. He would spend the days out there playing with them. Old people loved him and young people loved him." e rest of the siblings nod their heads in slow agreement. e room is silent for the first time since they arrived. "He was just awesome," Shirley says. "He was cool. He was debonaire. He could dress like nobody else. He could sing." Shirley sits forward and places a hand on her knee. She retells the story of how he died in the war, pulling someone else off what she called a "booby trap." "I wanted to go back but I knew I couldn't do nothing about it," Martin Jr. says recalling Harold's death. "I thought about it a lot." e sadness in his voice as he speaks is palpable. e death of their beloved brother has defined the McDonald family in many ways. It also brings them together every year to celebrate the life of Harold and tell the stories of how much life he lived in those 21 years. When they speak about him, a smile naturally draws across their faces. In the 1960s, Curley and others left for New York City. Many of the McDonald siblings traveled to parts of New York or New Jersey. Tired of the sharecropping life, they looked north to find "good jobs." Joyce, Harold, Curley, Shirley and a few others went north for some years to find different lives than they had in North Carolina. "ey didn't have any rich black farmers," Joyce says. "You get 20 dollars a week. at's all you made," Curley joins in. "You know, we didn't know we were poor," Shirley says. eir parents, Martin Sr. and Pearl McDon- ald, came from big families, too. Martin Sr. did sharecropping while Pearl cooked, worked in the school system and occasionally watched other children. Martin Sr. was fun, loved to dance but had no arm for discipline. "Mother did," Joyce says. "She was loving but she was stern." "Yeah, to the others that needed it," another sibling chimes in. ey all chuckle again. "All except me," Margaret says, laughing. Curley rolls an eye and gives a soft laugh. Margaret ignores him. "I try not to talk to him," Margaret jokes about Curley. "I don't care," he says under his breath. COVER e McDonald siblings will gather on for Veterans Day to place flags for the brothers who served and to honor the brother they lost in Vietnam. Left to right: Oliver, Joyce, Margaret, Sandra, Martin Jr., Shirley and Curley McDonald. (Photo by Kathleen Ramsey)

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Up & Coming Weekly - November 08, 2022