My maternal great aunt, Marilyn Cheatham Darby, always would end her stories by saying “That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!”
Marilyn Rochelle Cheatham was born to her loving parents, Wilton and Princess Cheatham, on August 4, 1933. She was the baby girl of her five siblings- Ellistine, Wilton, Marceline, Frank, and James. Marilyn was always a curious and out spoken child. She did not like anybody bullying her or her family. For example, Marilyn’s Cousin Irene came to live with them in St. Louis for a while and attended the same elementary school as the Cheatham kids. Aunt Irene remembers that her father, Jodie Cheatham, had given her a ring and had told her not to take it to school. If she lost it, she was going to get a whipping when she got home! Well, she did wear it to school, and don’t you know one of the girls saw it and took it, bully that she was. Well, Aunt Irene ran to get her big cousin Marilyn because she knew that if she went home without it, she would be in a lot of trouble and if anyone could get the ring back Marilyn could. Marilyn found the girl after school and told her she better give the ring back and beat her down. Irene got the ring back and was not in trouble anymore. Aunt Irene said that Marilyn could beat the shit out of a rock!!!
Another story that Auntie told was that at Dunbar Elementary School in the early 50s, her teacher would stand at the door and clap her hands. All students would have to be in their seats before she stopped clapping. Well, Auntie Marilyn did not make it to her seat in time and the teacher slapped her across the face. Well, Auntie says she was shocked and taken aback. When she got home from school her mother asked her what was that red hand print on her face was and Auntie told her what had happened. Now I understand that my great grandmother, Princess, was a sweet, kind, humble lady, but she told her daughter “NOT TO LET ANYBODY EVER SLAP HER”!! Well the next day, bless Jesus (Auntie’s words), she couldn’t wait to get to school. When the bell rang and the teacher was stationed at the door clapping her hands, Auntie got in the back of the line, letting everyone in front of her. She walked slowly, determined and did a little jig. Just as she got to the door the teacher stopped clapping again. IT WAS ON NOW BABY!! Everybody in the class was frozen in anticipation of what was going to happen next. Well my Auntie did not disappoint. The teacher raised her hand to slap her again, and to her utter surprise, Auntie grabbed her hand and with her other hand slapped her across her face as hard as she could, grabbed her in the chest, and tore her blouse off of her, exposing her to the class. The story goes that they had to get the principle to get Auntie up off of the teacher. Needless to say that was the last day that teacher ever clapped again. These are just a few examples of many about how Marilyn defended herself and stood up for those being treated wrong. She was definitely a no non-sense, no foolishness, and no crazy kind of person. She could “read” a person too. You were not going to fool her nor get anything by her! If you were any of the before mentioned, you were sure to be on her list and subject to be “cussed out”. I know that these early signs of Auntie defending the weak and not taking anything off of anyone, led her to become a Federal Investigator later in life. When talking to my mom and her cousins, they all told me that their one ambition in life was to grow up and cuss like auntie.
In addition to Marilyn being tough, Auntie loved family and loved telling stories. She was a fabulous storyteller and could mesmerize you with her words. My mother remembers Auntie telling her the story of her mother, Princess, sending her to her first day at Sumner High School, in St. Louis, attired in a dress with a big sash in the back and high top shoes. LOL!!!! That was my Aunt, she could tell the best stories with a lot of embellishments. True or not, her stories were very comical and memorable. Even though she could get you told, she was all CLASS. Dressing and carrying herself in a lady like manner.
It was her stories that got me started on this genealogical journey to find my family and help others find their families. Just listening to Auntie tell her stories of the family, the people she remembered, and their lives was enough for me to want to know more. As I began to research family members on Ancestry and Familysearch, I would call her to share what I had found. She would be so excited and tell me to keep searching. About five years before Auntie passed, I made her up a Family History binder and sent it to her. She absolutely cherished it, reading each page carefully and calling me to tell me more funny stories to add to the information. In 2013, she died, but her legacy of storytelling and her love for family will live on through those she touched with her life.