One year later, when Marguerite is seven years old, Daddy Bailey comes to town. He is a huge, exceptionally handsome man with a great sense of humor. He tells Bailey and Marguerite he will take them to St. Louis to stay with their mother. Marguerite is apprehensive, but Bailey clearly worships his father and is excited to go. Marguerite thinks it’s possible their father is delivering them to hell.
Marguerite’s fear of being relocated is understandable. She has worked hard to try and feel at home in Stamps, and the idea of moving again frightens her. Like the millions of other black children mentioned earlier in the book, she travels between cities, trying to find a safe and accepting place.
When they finally arrive and see their mother, Vivien, the children are blown away. She is light skinned (“butter colored”) and wears lipstick. Marguerite thinks she is too beautiful to be a mother, and Marguerite bitterly notes that she is too ugly to be the daughter of a woman like that. Shortly after dropping them off, Big Bailey leaves St. Louis to go to California.
The children’s mother is beautiful—but her beauty makes Marguerite feel isolated. Her dark skin and her unfeminine appearance make her feel like she cannot belong to her mother. Her feeling of displacement and unworthiness comes from complicated cultural hierarchies regarding skin color and gender norms.