From as early as 10 years old, I awoke to my grandmother tapping the ceiling directly underneath my bed with a wooden broomstick at 7 o’clock each morning during the school week. I rolled from underneath my covers, bathed, then made my way downstairs to the kitchen, where she would have a bowl of grits, a side of bacon, and a glass of orange juice ready for me on our kitchen countertop.
Ever-watching the clock, she would make sure I finished breakfast in time to be out of the house at half-past seven, so I would make it to school on time. Before I left, my grandmother would often ask me if I had completed any homework assignments teachers had given the day before. I was good student, so I almost always said, yes. But even if I didn’t do my homework, she would have no way of knowing.
My grandmother, Inez Starr, could neither read nor write.
In fact, she could barely write her own name, and I often had to handle any important business affairs on her behalf. Still, I never met a woman who cared more about education than she did. She, as some of my family members recall, put books in my hands as early as 3 years old. Never mind the fact that both of us couldn’t read the words on the pages.
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