She is a first generation city girl. The advantage is she is the beginning. The disadvantage is she is the beginning. No one ahead to show her how to make a sharp turn left or that stop ahead doesn’t necessarily mean to quit. This is the personal genius she created from Mounds City, Arkansas to Kansas City, Mo. The mistakes she hides behind stones in the garden. The best of my mom I am taking with me. Indeed, all of her.
There are parts about her that are silently me and other parts I defy loudly. I am her history and sense of being. We both long to feel we “belong”. She is avid in knowing the parents of her parents parents and when and how and why. I love history. I have always been intrigued with before, the first and alpha. She is an artist. She is a writer and singer. Characters and voices move about in her head. She can differentiate them into various connotations and dictions. She is the inner shell, poked and laughed at. Mocked at for “thinking” she could be a singer. However, she is my outer shell. Protected me from these family discussions that killed dreams and independent thinking.
She signed me up with free modeling lessons at the community center. She helped me with my lines for the black history shows in elementary. She went outside her budget and bought me stickers to visualize my second grade poetry book. She allowed me to pretend and be “Coco” when I needed to escape my reality.
I defy her silence. For never speaking out just keeping me away. Keeping me separate from courage or confrontation. Keeping me safe but not protected.
I am her fear of not trying again. I am her fear of “once burned” so don’t do it again. I live her fears because I was taught to follow someone’s example, literally. I live her fears because I was taught how to live religiously not religiously live. And I was taught how to cope and cover pain and carry brick buildings on my back. At 20 years old I vowed to “not be like her.” Now 20 years after 20 years old, I would be an insane person to not embrace all of what she is… for her to be whole. For her to know I love all of who she is.
With three nieces looking to me and two nephews listening to me, I pray I give them the tools to accept my duality and love me 20 years from now. Love me through my contradiction. Love me past my fears. I pray they continue to break shoddy family traditions, take the best of me and grow themselves closer to God.
I’m with you swaying
standing next to you during that moment of silence
seeking to find me in Martin Luther King, amongst Garvey, between the Panthers so I
collect afros and scraped down
heels from marching
surrounding myself with titties and thighs
cause I know I did something more in the movement than take notes and mix lemonade
Where’s my day? My stamp? My park? My street?
no building/no parade/no libraries
but I know the shoulders I stand on
and today is our day.
After hours of wave jumping and being captured and tossed by the tides, the kids are still wrapped in bed sheets and comforters clinging to sleep. I pray the days memories keep them warm and connected. I pray these times sustain a smile in their hearts when they really need one.
I have decided to keep the children here for the summer. Yes, yes… I will relinquish my silent days and just have my sister come visit them sometime during the summer. I am buying another home and I just won’t be able to juggle all the tasks that comes with that and getting them ready for school. If you haven’t done the “buying a house” process… it can be a BEAST.
So, I really needed to get away. Originally, my middle niece planned a trip to Chattanooga but then I got an inkling to be on the beach. We’ve done Savannah twice before, we’ve been to Folly beach in Charleston, SC, and American beach in Amelia Island, Fl. I’ve heard people talk about Panama City Beach, Fl but had never gone. They were excited to go to Chattanooga but the mention of a beach sent them in overdrive! The drive is about five hours out of Atlanta which I told them we would do as an overnighter from Sat morning through Sun early evening. The timeframe didn’t seem to bother them one bit! All they heard was, “out of Atlanta” and “go to the beach”.
Panama City Beach… had beautiful ocean water! You could clearly see the three rip tides of various blue water. Not too crowded and not many children. And parking was easy and free, I like free! I like to eat what the locals eat when I go to a new city but I gotta’ tell ya’, the pickings were slim where we were. We stayed on the hotel strip near highway 231 and shopped and swam on Front Beach Rd. Not too many “local” places to choose from to eat and the one place we went wanted a RIDICULOUS $29.95 for my nephew and myself only! (I had them stop after that quote so I don’t what the cost for the girls would’ve been.)
We went to Ripley’s Believe It or Not and the kids enjoyed some go kart racing and an adventure with a haunted house. The haunted house will be a separate hilarious story for another blog! They SHUT IT DOWN! Literally… THREE TIMES! (hahahahahaha!)
Anyway, being with the water was just what this single aunt/mom needed! Some time away from my routine city and quality time with the sun. Visions of my communication and relationship building with them became more clear. A summer bucket list for me became even more clear. Beach ballin’ on a budget, ask me about it 😉
she was in my shadow. the shadow of an overachiever. she rebelled because of that/because of me.
you came in 1993, in the morning. the winter snow had not yet come but scarves accompanied our turtle neck shirts. you may have brought about the first time we communicated, your mom and me. or shall I say, she listened to my advice. better than that, she asked for my advice. she asked what should she name you. I was in my senior year of undergrad and I sent her a list of names that I thought would be different and memorable. she chose Tajh Jelani, (Prince Almighty). why? because it’s easier for God to find you with a name like that. ashe.
I remember seeing you in the nursery. you were the only baby not crying and looking around at every noise you heard. I couldn’t wait to hold you. I couldn’t wait to show you off to everyone.
I wanted to make sure you knew where love lived. I wanted to show you how to grow air. I wanted to make the world appear like sugar for you to place in your pocket. new places to eat, activities outside of our neighborhood… I wanted you unafraid.
creating an everyday home with you was nothing like our 40 days of summer we were routine to. you were now 15, with experiences of your own. some I will never know. ask God how much I prayed. ask God how purposeful they were.
fear stole my sleep when I realized my words were no longer reaching your altitude of 6′ and then some. but you would stand there because you knew something would stick. you now had discernment. your eyes were begging I could reach your soul as I did when you were younger. you were a young man, living with his aunt, and younger brother and three younger sisters. in a different city. ask God how purposeful my prayers were. ask God how I asked to find a way to reach you.
20 years old. ask God how purposeful my prayers are now that you have moved out. now that your darker skin has given you doubt. now that your natural leadership serves you alone. Almighty Prince, keep your eyes open amongst all the noise. remember, your life extends outside your neighborhood. I always have a pillow for you. your name makes it easier for God to find you so pray.
call me if you forget how to grow air.
If I could take a moment and tell you how I still hated me after the
nights of building / and black power audio tapes
maybe you’ll understand
why I anchored your blues / and never questioned your intelligence.
Allow me to explain how being fitted your friend
meant cooking link sausages to connect us with nothing more than / flesh&bones
Ascension not attainable to neither one of us who recognized and loved
a good argument
some hot gossip.
My cotton pillow ironically enslaved my thoughts on what could have / should have
been said sorry
I stepped from the ship to walk the land. Girlfriends
Her tooth was loose for days now and literally hanging on by a slither of a root. This would be her 1st tooth out and she had heard from her sister and two older brothers about… The Tooth Fairy.
You get money for your two top and bottom teeth. She was excited to get this money but so afraid for someone to pull it out! She ate gingerly for days. Chewed her food oh so carefully around this tooth so it would not fall out. But I had a plan! If I made her chicken fingers and gave her an ample amount of buttermilk ranch to dip them in she would focus on eating only. It worked! The top tooth fell out during one of her chicken dips!
Right before her bath, I could feel the energy had changed around this whole tooth fairy and getting money scenario. Her questions were quite serious, “is she mean?”, “is she going to come in the room while I’m sleep?”, “do you know her?” I realized this tooth fairy story was disturbing.
Think about it, a white woman with wings coming into your room while you are sleep to collect teeth??? I believed the concern in my nieces’ eyes and told her if she didn’t want her to come to let me know. Her older sister immediately jumped in and told her she was, “crazy for not wanting to get money.” Before she went to sleep, I privately reassured her she did not have to put her tooth under her pillow if she didn’t want her to come. She told me, “she can come… but I want the money under my pillow.”
I set my alarm for 2am to check under her pillow and the tooth was not there. I was pleased that she was thinking so critically to even address concern with someone sneaking into her room at night. Then I remembered her last sentence to me, “under my pillow.” I looked across the room at her older sister who was acting oh so brave and teasing her the evening before. Something told me to check under her pillow… YEP! She put the tooth under her sister’s pillow but wanted to collect the money for herself!
Smart girl! Proud she thought outside the box to reap a reward at five years old!
I don’t even have the words to tell you how life changing my move from Los Angeles to Atlanta to take on five children has been. There are few words outside of: therapist, alcohol, sleep, arguments and crying that I can think of. Every molecule in my body is different from five years ago. My art will eventually reap the benefit (at least that is what everyone keeps telling me!) But what about my social life?
See, even though I now have children I technically don’t qualify to hang out with my married friends. And because I now have children I can’t quantify hanging out with my single friends. Well, how do I meet people outside of my artsy world? After epic fails with friends of friends and long distance friends, I tried speed dating.
Personally, it was one of the most exhausting experiences in my life. First of all, my friend who agreed to come with me bailed out so I flew solo! And how was I to know it was some popular basketball weekend and the ones that showed up would be nerds! Mercy… chile…
I am one for good conversation with anyone. Warm and connecting conversation will begin to change the appearance of almost anyone. (almost I said) I met one of each nationality! Indian, Asian, Caucasian, Latin, African American… they all at one point in the evening sat next to me and began conversation. Well most of them, one guy had NO game or conversation and showed me pictures from his cellphone and had me guess the places. What?! The LONGEST FIVE MINUTES OF MY LIFE YA’ HEARD ME?!
I did have two great conversations and the time went by too fast with the Indian man and a Caucasian man. I am who I am, I like what I like and that order would be “black with NO cream.” I chose no one.
But hey, I tried it. speed dating.
Usually around this time of year I have already sped my nieces and nephew up to Kansas City to spend the summer with their mother, my sister. But there is something different about this year… don’t know what but my gut has not allowed me to arrange air fare or time off from work to send them away. Call it what you want.
Now before you get into all that, “you probably miss them too much” CRAP, allow me to politely shut you down! Of course I miss them but I immensely enjoy my silent time.
I LOVE not worrying about cooking 18-21 meals a week for 4 people. Only worry about my hair to comb, only my clothes to wash. Hmmm, something about the summer of 2013…
So until I am moved to send them away I have appointed my middle niece to arrange a weekend getaway for us. She chose Chattanooga! She read about an amusement park we can go to, she read about Ruby Falls caves and some good eating places. I am letting her fully arrange this getaway so she can pass on to everyone else just how much I have to do when I plan something for the family. I can tell them until I am blue in the face but when they hear from one of their own it’s a different story.
Adventures of Chattanooga coming soon!
We have to take back the trees.
Arouse the hyenas to distract the thunder so we can scratch our backs on the blades of grass.
Rub baby powder on the chest of slumber so they can dream pure. Denounce titles and all this other foolery you have adopted to be our family structure.
That silence is not mine! I am the threatening crashes of waves you belittled to sand. Because… because I believed them too. I bought the lemonade recipes and choreographed a dance to sour times. Framed my “S” shirt for company to count the stripes I’ve endured and marvel at brown brave. Outside of ourselves we have once again been led to puppetry. And I hate you too.
This is not us. There is no book. Only 81 of those songs are ours. Come unprepared with bread so we can dip away the excess. It is me. Re-member…
Listen to him no more. Let her voice be of distant space. We have to take back the trees, we have to take back the trees.
Plan B has been perfected. There will be no visible errors or gray areas for mishaps to occur. This plan was created for me by my parents and even though it has never matched the pace of my breath, I have taken on its’ presence and made it my own.
Plan A dies daily. Between blinks of dreams. Washed down with sweet red wine. Sweated out on the elliptical machine at the gym. Plan A presents an uncertain genius. Plan A is park grass filled with summer jazz lovers. Plan A are hugs from strangers simply because…
Plan B will be the death of me.