Silent Ties is about a forbidden friendship that could only exist in the privacy of a country field and the two houses it touched. We see the relationship from the first person perspective of a white child. We see her life completely, but the world of her friend remains hidden from us. In part, it is the self-centered nature of Missy to see their friendship from one side only, but it is also Addie’s need to protect herself, her family, and her community. Addie was trained to say little, nod, and agree. She doesn’t tell her friend about her fears or difficulties but listens to Missy’s trials and tribulations that were likely minor in comparison. We are not allowed to know Addie, but see only the person she was permitted to be in the segregated South. Because of her silence, we are ignorant about the challenges of her life, but most importantly we miss the richness of the relationships within her family and her community.
As I was writing, I imagined Addie behind the scenes. I could picture the many events and relationships that she kept hidden from Missy. Several books talk about the deep sense of community that existed within the Black American population. In Silent Ties the support they offered is demonstrated specifically with the death of Tucker James. Such a large crowd came to share the family’s grief in that country church that many had to stand outside under the windows to hear. Melanie is taking the family food but is told to stop because their community of friends is amply providing for them.
We also see a willingness to help one another when Miss Emily takes on her friend’s difficult client for the summer. We witness the commitment to others when James and Miss Emily put their own family in danger to offer refuge to relatives from Montgomery. We don’t see who the people are, nor are we privy to the activities that tie these individuals together, but we are given a glimpse of the kindness and system of mutual support that existed.
In the southern communities, people came together for work, play, and tragedies including: church revivals, carnivals, picnics, weddings, and funerals. Though there were differences from one town to another, there were many events that were the same. I imagine Addie at many of these functions, perhaps wanting to share the stories with Missy, but unable to because she fears inadvertently divulging too much.
How wonderful if she could have shared the touching stories of her family and community. I invite you to learn more about the fullness of Addie’s life through the story of Clifton L. Taulbert’s childhood in Glen Allan, Mississippi. The book titled Once Upon a Time When We Were Colored parallels approximately the same time period of Silent Ties. It paints a beautiful picture of close relationships and support within the black community while making sure we remember the fear that dominated their lives and controlled their existence.
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Santayana