Madear is short in stature. She speaks in gentle tones with a high pitched voice. Her skin is dark. I liken it to the color of the blackberries growing on prickly vines in the Louisiana summer sun. To get those berries when they are plump, juicy and sweet, we check on them daily and hope that no one else beats us to the tree or field to pick them first. Plump, juicy and sweet –just like my Madear– are those blackberries, and their darkness makes them pretty and inviting to my heart.
Those blackberries make me anxious to be near the source of their sweetness. The darker they become, the more my mouth waters with anticipation to pick them, wash them, and put them in my mouth, if I can wait long enough to reach running water.
When we, my big sister Jerene, and our neighborhood friends come back from the field — with an old plastic bucket that had been cleaned of the ice cream it contained and is now being used to hold these beautiful, dark, sweet blackberries– we give what we did not eat on the way back to Ledbetter Street to MaDear.
The next day, our house is filled with this wonderful smell coming from Mama’s kitchen.
MaDear took those Blackberries, picked by us little Black children, and used her strong, tender Black hands to turn those BLACKberries into BLACKberry cobbler. “How does she do that?” I wonder, as warm blackberry cobbler juice slides down my chin, as I stare at her dark, dark skin.
In that moment, I felt safe, warm, protected and loved. I am one a happy child. My first experience of blackberry cobbler fresh from the oven is the same as growing up in this BLACK neighborhood –where everybody looks like me.
Much of my neighborhood is warm, plump, juicy and sweet, but to get to the creation of something new –like moving from picking blackberries to eating blackberry cobbler– sometimes we’d have to go to prickly places to retrieve what we needed — just to be able to see how truly beautiful our Black existence could and would be.