The Sisterhood

Yesterday, I became a lifetime member of an exclusive sisterhood. 

Don’t be jealous. 

Joining this sisterhood is not like joining a sorority where you’re bonded together by a common goal and a mission statement. 

It’s not as glamorous as becoming a member of an exclusive country club. 

Unfortunately it’s not even as beneficial as belonging to SAM’s or Costco club. 

I don’t know of anyone who anxiously waited to join the ranks. 

No one is sitting around contemplating what to wear to the nonexistent induction ceremony. 

There’s no welcome party or monthly meetings. 

This sisterhood is composed of girls and women who have lost their mom’s. 

The ones who no longer have that earthly  representation, in human form, of life that gave them life. 

I didn’t want to be a member. I never signed on the dotted line. 

But now I’m here. 

It’s official. 

I am now a lifetime member of this exclusive club. 

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Cup and Saucer

Many, many, did I say many? moons ago I remember hearing people talk about standardized testing and how they are biased. The specific example I remember hearing was regarding a question along the lines of, what do you place a cup on? The correct answer was a saucer.

A couple of months ago during a volunteer opportunity/work event I was talking to a teacher who works with students of financially challenged parents. She was teaching her class to set a table for a meal. As she provided instruction for sitting down at the table, she said, “like you do at home” to which a student replied, we don’t have a table at home. That was a reality check for the teacher. Never assume the students have tables, chairs, or anything else.

When I was growing up, my brothers and I ate in our individual rooms and usually in front of the television. I remember a table at some point but I also remember them having a fight, breaking the table then using the top to break dance on. They were resourceful fellows and the first in the neighborhood to repurpose furniture for entertainment. The guys in the neighborhood learned how to break dance on that table, I became their agent and manager by finding places for them to dance for money.

But anyway…

I don’t remember sitting at the table as a family. I don’t recall ever using a cup and saucer. I would sometimes make my mom a cup of instant coffee but I didn’t give it to her with a saucer. I didn’t drink hot tea back then. I would not have been able to pick out a proper tea cup in a line up.

I honestly didn’t learn how to set a table until I was in my early 20’s. I learned after a very embarrassing incident during a visit at the home of the parents of my boyfriend at the time. It was Christmas. His mother asked me to set the table. Uh, what? At the time I swear she was trying to expose my ignorance in many areas in order to discourage him from dating me. I pulled him aside and confided in him my delimna. I had never set a table in my life. After telling me lay down, he told his mother I had a headache and needed to rest. He set the table for me.

Cup and saucer… we make a lot of assumptions about the lives people live and the experiences they have. The affects of those assumptions are evident when only a certain group of people are invited to the table to make decisions about an entire population of people. The decision makers pull from their limited experience without regard for others. I will not say it’s intentional, although I’m not ruling that out. I will attribute some of the decisions to ignorance, being out of touch with various people groups and perhaps not caring to understand.

Some might think or even say a person who grew up in a household without a table is doomed or will not have the ability to over come. These are the people who are easy to discard and write off. I say to you, you are wrong. I believe if given opportunity, education and wisdom most of us will thrive.

Are the tests bias? Of course they are. The question I have is, how do we bridge the gap between the decision makers and the experiences of the test takers?

Walk with Me

There are a lot of duties and responsibilities that go along with raising children. As parents or guardians we try to impart our wisdom, morals, values, knowledge, culture, beliefs, political views, financial knowledge etc. It is an extensive list. 

One of the things I’m imparting to my kids is to walk with me. That sounds strange but let me tell you why.

I walk a lot. I walk for exercise. I walk to get vitamin D. I walk to relieve stress. I walk to commune with nature. I walk to get out of the office or house. I walk to contemplate. I walk to pray. Some walks are long. Others are intense. Then there are the times I walk with my children. 

We walk as a group to enjoy family time. Sometimes I walk with them individually. It’s during the solo times that I’m able to connect with them on a personal more intimate level as well as discuss my future expectations for them in regards to me. 

I’m not old but I’m not young. I’m at a good point in my life but the truth is I’m getting older. I’d rather face the facts rather than hide from them or deny them. I like having a plan or two in place. I don’t have anything written down but I do verbally share my expectations of how I want to be cared for, when I’m struggling to care for myself, with my children. 

The walks are a key component of that plan. Let me say this, they are typical kids and don’t always want to go on a walk with their mom. They moan and groan and ask, “why me?!” (Because you are the chosen one, now let’s go.) I have pre-walking negotiation meetings with them to determine which route? How far? How fast? Can I listen to music, ride my scooter run, bring some water? After we settle on the terms we head out. 

Back to the purpose and plan of the walk. When I’m older I want them to visit me and walk with me. “Walk with me when I’m old” is my request. Spend some time with me. Bring music I like to listen to now. I want to recreate fond memories of one of the things I love to do with the people I love being with. As we walk today I’m storing away memories that I hope to unlock in the future with something as simple as a walk. 

Bob

I didn’t realize the strangeness of Bob until I was talking about him to my cousin. The thing that’s strange is not that he exists as much as my daughter named him Bob. He is a presence that lives in our house. 

He makes himself known by closing the cabinets in the upstairs bathroom or walking around. I hear him when the kids are gone. I use to think somebody lived in our attic and would come out when the they were visiting their dad but then I realized it wasn’t just me who heard him. We have all experienced him and my daughter named him Bob. 

Last week I heard an audible knock on my door. My alarm had gone off moments before. As I lay in the bed contemplating what I was wearing to work and whether or not I was going to the gym, I heard it. I thought maybe it was one of the younger two so I waited for the “mom?” but it never came. I waited to hear footsteps walking up the stairs but that didn’t happen either. 

A day or two later I mentioned the knock to the kiddos. My daughter said, “I guess Bob is back from vacation. He’s been gone for a while.” One of the younger two said he heard footsteps the other night. 

Welcome back Bob. 

Spring Break 2017

A couple of months ago I decided to take a road trip with my crew. As I contemplated where we would go and how long we would stay I looked up at a picture of the kiddos with the ocean behind them and I smiled. That was our first road trip alone. We drove nine hours to North Padre in Texas and spent a few days there then we journeyed on to Alexandria, LA for a retirement party. 

My youngest was two and a half then and we had to stop often for bathroom and hug it out breaks. Sitting in a car seat for hours upon hours just wasn’t fun for him no matter how many rounds of Do Your Ears Hang Low we sung. Our radio went out on the second leg of our journey so we sang a lot to pass the time. I remember being nervous but I was determined not to allow my emotions to take over my desire for the Fantastik4 to see the ocean and for the five of us to have the first vacation without their dad. 

Quick back story, we were not divorced but I had already begun mentally preparing. 

The five of us have flown to the Virginia, Maryland, DC area on multiple occasions to visit my friend Yvonne and her family. From there we have journeyed to Pennsylvania and saw a civil war reenactment. We have gone to New York and experienced all of its glory. 

This year I decided to take a road trip over spring break and drive to San Diego, Creston, San Francisco, Las Vegas and see the Hoover Dam as well Grand Canyon while we were on the road. After a brief conversation with my manager I removed two stops and decided to stay longer in San Diego and Vegas. That was the best decision ever. 

When my oldest is not being a typical 17 year old guy he is quite wise. Years ago during dinner discussion he said to the other three, mom does things for us to make up for things she didn’t have in her childhood. He’s right. I never went on vacations as a child. I never left the state of Texas until I was in college and I only left the Dallas area a few times for day trips. I have been to California and I’ve been to Vegas but I’ve never seen the Grand Canyon or driven through the mountains. 

I’m a certified procrastinator. I just am. We left at 5am on a Saturday morning and I made the hotel reservations the evening before. Shrug. I like living on the edge sometimes. I did not have an agenda. I wanted to determine what we would do when we arrived at each destination. It worked out well for us. The beach in Encinitas, CA was cold but they jumped waves anyway. 

The trip, the journey was also about reconnecting with my babies. Jordan aka the teenager is in the 11th grade this year and like most teens his age he has an active social life. He’s not always home for dinner and when he is home he spends more time in his room than talking to us. 

What surprised me the most was other people’s fear. I was nervous about potentially getting stuck on the side of the road because I don’t know how to change a flat but other than that I wasn’t afraid. We met a woman in San Diego who was visiting her son. I was standing in the lobby as she checked out. She looked at me and told me she was proud of me as a woman and as a mother. She was impressed that I drove from Texas with four children. She said she would not have made the trip with her one. 

Their reactions to the mountains, ocean, Hoover Dam and Grand Canyon made the  journey of 3000 miles was worth every minute in the van and dollar spent. Hearing Josiah say, look at those mountains! It’s beautiful mom. Just beautiful. Over hearing Melody say to herself, “I never knew I needed this in my life”, as she looked at the Grand Canyon made the trip invaluable. 

Watching them skip rocks in the sand dunnes of Southern California, hearing them yell and cheer during the Tournament of Kings in Vegas and most of all watching them reconnect with each other by talking, laughing and loving on each other was my dream come true. 

The Nights

I hated the summer nights more than anything. It had nothing to do with the long, hot and humid nights. Growing up in the Deep South I was as accustomed to the heat as anybody could get. 

In the winters all of the shutters were pulled to and latched. The windows were closed. The heavy curtains were drawn at night to keep out the draft. Three layers of wood, glass and the best material this side of the Mississippi kept the house silent at night. But in the summers, sometimes in the late springs, curtains were pulled back and windows were open and the shutters no longer blocked the night sounds. This was the beginning of my sleepless nights each year. 

The land we lived on and the house we lived in was my granddaddy’s and his daddy’s before him. My mother was the only surviving child of six. When she married the land went to my daddy. Since my mother only birthed girls this beautiful land went to my husband when poppa died. It helped that I had married well and he proved to be a good business man. Poppa loved John like a son and better than his own daughters. 

I never paid much attention to the sounds until I was older. It was after John and I married that realized what was going on. I went to momma. I cried tears of despair in her lap. She stroked my hair and told me it was not my place to ask John any questions. This was business and the best way to keep a plantation thriving was through the labor of the negros working the land. The way we kept cost down was by creating our own laborers. That’s one of the reasons we had huge profits. She tilted my chin up until I was looking her in the eyes and she said, “Never mention this conversation or cry another tear. This is our way and has been for generations. Now get up and make yourself presentable to your husband when he walks through the door.”

I did as I was told. In all the years of marriage I never said another word. But the night cries kept me awake. The seasons held me hostage. No amount of singing, cotton in my ears or strong drink could drown out the night.

It was not love, she told me. It was business. It was how we as a family continued to thrive. It was necessary. 

I believed every word until I saw a mulatto baby boy toddling around the quarters. He was an exact replica of John. Only with brown skin and curly hair. I had yet to give him an heir. Much like my mother I was cursed with girls. Three beautiful girls who adored their father as much as he adored them. But still, only girls. 

Her

I’ve known her for a long time

No matter how much I try 

I don’t like her

When I see her walk in a room

I cringe; I frown

“Did you really wear that today?”

“Look at your hair.”

Everybody seems to like her

She smiles with her eyes

She lives a carefree life

I’m jealous

Her life reminds me of my pain

Her dreams are ones I never dared dream

Her friendships are deeper

The way she loves is meaningful

I’m worthless

I never had the opportunities

I was afraid to believe

I picked my path

When I see her I don’t see me

I wanted to be a wife

I would like to live her life

I’m hurting

I refuse to hug her

Not one word of praise

If I loved her she might think she’s better than me

I’m withdrawn

Everything I’m not is in her

Places I would like to go she’s been

I will not acknowledge her accomplishments 

I will point out her flaws

If I can make her doubt 

I’ll feel better

“Your children are high maintenance”

“How dare you breastfeed your child in my presence?”

I will neglect her

I will not protect her

I’m helpless

I didn’t have a protector

Nobody loved me

I refuse to love her

I’m lost

“You act like your father and he was nothing.”

When I see her

When I hear her

When I think of her

I’m left wanting

She calls me a name 

The one that cuts me deep

It’s a constant reminder

I glare at her as she begins to speak

“Mom…”