Mother’s Day Special #3

*Andrea

I was born in the later 70s in the back of a towing truck. My parents had snuck off late in the night in my Grandpa’s Chevy. They were both seventeen and believed they were madly in love. Even after I was conceived, they still believed they wanted to spend the rest of their lives together. They were banned from seeing each other, which was laughable considering she was already pregnant. And so, that dark rainy night they were going to run away together to San Antonio. San Antonio was their choice because my Dad’s older brother was living there. Anyway, as they made their way in his father’s stolen vehicle…I decided it was time. In panic,Dad skidded of the road and I ended up being born at the back of the tow truck that was towing their vehicle to the garage.

I heard when both sets of grandparents saw me for the first time in the hospital, all ill feelings previously that soured their relations gave way. My mother was no longer the little whore who threw herself at my father and my father was no longer the little bastard that defiled my mother. My parents relationship continued to college, but, by the time they both hit their early twenties, they had outgrown each other. He wanted to go on to medical school….. she wanted to travel to Sub-Saharan Africa to teach English Language. They had me in common but that’s all that remained of their teenage indiscretion.

I was raised by both sets of grandparents. I did not grow up with hangups that came along with having teenage parents. I grew up seeing my parents more like older siblings, I mean, they were barely children themselves when they had me. We all grew together. My grandmothers were a force to be reckoned with. I was completely home-schooled till I was thirteen by my maternal grandmother and spent my weekends with my paternal grandparents. My birthdays were always a bit of a carnival in our town. My grandmothers always showed up in my high school with cookies for my teachers and class mates. I was the only one who felt the flame of embarrassment. They didn’t care.

At my high school prom, my parents and grandparents ferried my date and I in convoy to the dance. I thought I was going to die. They didn’t care. When I started dating, I would sneak around to avoid the barrage of questions. Our relationships were not without its tense moments, but, I knew I was loved spectacularly. When I broke up with my first boyfriend and thought the world was at the end, my two grandmas whipped my tears and took me shopping. Many years later, I found out they both slashed my ex’s tires that night after I had fallen asleep. They were feisty, fun and didn’t hesitate to test my butt when I stepped out of line.

When I decided to take a year off college to go on tour with my band, they encouraged me even though they were uncomfortable with the thought of a group of teenagers living rough for a year. They believed in me and that checked me. I only lasted six months before I ran back home into their waiting arms…and back to school.

I like to believe their love and investments in my life has made me a better person. I am extremely generous with my time when it comes to my family. I will drop anything and everything to be at their side, no matter what.

From time to time though, I wonder what would have happened if my parents had made it to San Antonio.

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Mother’s Day Special #2

*Afeni

My mother’s first marriage was contracted when she was in her teens. I don’t know her exact age at the time. Back then, there were no voices for the girl-child. There were no social programs advocating for equality of the sexes. It was Africa in the forties. Where genital mutilation of the girl child was done in the cusp of her teens, or at birth…depending on your cultural leanings. My mother’s husband was a boy in a man’s body. He was raised to expect to be attended to by his wife. She was not to have a voice, a possession…an appendage. She had three children in quick successions; kept home and farmed his plot…a gift from his father as he attained ‘manhood’. I don’t know exactly when she decided she wanted to leave him. Her days were hard. The narrative, however, was not peculiar to her. She was surrounded by women who were doing the same thing.Her mother lived the same life, spurned forth nine children, farmed her fathers plot with her children while still fanning the flames of his ego. So, when she decided she wanted more from her existence, you can imagine the machinery that was unleashed to put her in her place.

She told me, she would have stayed married to her first husband if he allowed their children to have an education. The produce from the farm, she sold herself. She saw the economic empowerment she was giving a man who pissed it down the drain without investing in his seeds. Now, even though she could not read or write, she desired it for her children. She desired her son to do more than his father. She wanted her son’s perspectives not limited by the darkness of a lack of understanding and she desired for her daughters to have a future where they would not have to be sold into slavery on the platter of marriage. She knew better than to discuss her plans with her mother, or relatives for that matter. During the course of her farming his plots and selling the proceeds, she was able to amass a significant amount of money she used to liberate herself. She filed for a divorce in the traditional courts of their time. Did I mention she was the first woman to ever do such a thing in her village at that time? She did not care. I think it’s when a woman gets to a place where she stops concerning herself about what societal expectations are, what will people say, blah blah and blah will she truly be liberated. No one will liberate you. You must liberate yourself.

Her family ostracized her. Her mother was convinced her liberation was not self sustaining, after all, she had no money. Eye, which was what I called my mother was able to get a plot through a male cousin. Back then, she couldn’t even procure property on her own because she was a woman. She was hard working and her products were excellent. She enrolled my three older siblings in school and continued her trade. Now, older and wiser she knew whoever she decided to marry must be a man who would enrich her, not demean her progress. It took a a bit but he did come along. My father was an unusual man. He was confident. He didn’t pay attention to the side talks their relationship brought. He had kissed his own share of frogs masquerading as princesses. I was their first child together. Their relationship was not without it’s trials but they loved each other. They were 100% committed to not only themselves but their children. She spared no expense when it came to our education. When I climbed the podium on my graduation from college, she was besides herself in excitement.

When my oldest sister became a victim of domestic abuse, my mother was the first to encourage her to leave her marriage. She always advocates for strength in women.

It takes a strong man to marry a strong woman. It takes a wise man to recognize wisdom in his woman. She lived an exemplary life.

 

Mother’s Day Special

During this special weekend, I will be sharing a few stories. I have a few friends who have shared their stories with me. My friends and I have a lot in common, most importantly, we all had spectacular relationships with our respective mothers.

                                                                                 * Peter

I was born into a big family. The last of eight children. I have very little recollection of my father. He never came back from Vietnam. My maternal grandmother was our matriarch. For a woman who stood barely four feet five inches tall, she commanded such awe and respect. My mother with the assistance of her mother raised five daughters and three sons. She was a school teacher and her finances were spread thin catering for our household. We didn’t have much material wise but our home was awash with love. I excelled in athletics, especially in wrestling and was able to clinch a full scholarship to college. My mother was ecstatic. My two older brothers had both joined the army-our ‘mothers’ were not happy with their choices. My sisters had gone on to college and were all experiencing great things in their chosen careers. I had dabbled into the wrong company in high school and had made some wrong choices. Back in those days, in the late seventies-drugs had become a common feature in the social circuits. We were the generation sprung in the shadow of Woodstock. There was so much decadence…so much indulgence.

With my choosing to go to college, I had effectually turned my back on all the negative influences my mother worried had the potential to destroy my future. My choice was a small liberal arts college that had a vibrant African American community. I took long walks, wrote long letters to my grandma and mama. I spent my days fully engaged in my academics and athletics. My mother was my compass and I kept my eyes fully fixed on the prize. I left school within record time and was able to secure an appointment as a teacher in an elementary school. My feet were firmly planted in the direction of my beloved compass! I moved back home into my old room-across the corridor from Mama’s bedroom. I was enjoying the warmth of my mother and grandma’s constant love. Mama had retired but was a part time volunteer in the high school she had spent thirty five years of her forty years of public service. Many of her students had gone on to do great things, in fact, the current principal at my return was one of them.

Two years into my return home, my mother fell ill. In hindsight, I felt a nagging heaviness I could not shake. The constant hospital stays, the tests and the shadow that fell upon Mama’s face were a constant reminder a storm was gathering. My siblings and I kept a roaster. We all did our part: constantly encouraging, echoing bible scriptures our mother had taught us as children. My grandma seemed to shrink within herself…almost like she was fading away. I remember I woke up one night and found my Grandma sitting alone in the kitchen, staring into an empty tea cup. I pulled up a chair and sat beside her. My mother had undergone a procedure the day before, the prognosis wasn’t good. “I will not bury your mother”. She spoke in a raspy whisper, I almost didn’t hear. She died a week later, in her sleep. Grandma’s death crushed us but in light of Mama’s health we couldn’t fall apart.

My mother passed exactly a month after the surgery. I don’t think there are exact words to describe my life after my compass was broken. I took a couple of months off work. I remember the wake, the burial and weeks after that. I spent my days in my bedroom, blinds closed and completely turned my back on the world. My brothers went back to their posts, ,my sisters all lived out of state. We all grieved for our loss but in retrospect I think my loss was the most devastating. My brothers had their commissions, my sisters apart from their chosen carriers had spouses and children. I was the only one whose family, whose center had been completely obliterated. Remember the choices I had turned my back on when I said yes to college? Well, I fell head first down that dark hole. I was in so much pain, I snorted everything that took the pain away, even though they were temporary fixes. It seemed I stumbled into a dark room and some how, couldn’t find the door. Teaching during the day, shooting up or snorting cocaine at night.

I can’t remember exactly when it dawned on me, I was going to die. If I continued to make the wrong choices, these choices my Mama prayed against. These choices I promised my Grandma I would never make-I would eventually die. Alone. I couldn’t remember when last I slept properly in three years. I had lost almost forty pounds. And so, I pulled myself up by my bootstraps and enrolled in a rehabilitation program. Failing was not an option for me. I went cold turkey. My body was racked in so much pain, my head felt like it was going to explode. My nights were plagued with dreams. I would find myself running down a dark corridor, ahead of me I could make out the familiar posture of my Grandma. And even though, I was running I never caught up with her. I would find myself getting tired and would slowly come to a stop. At times, I would hear my Mama’s voice calling from far away and would wake up drenched in sweat.

When I came out of rehab, I moved to another town and went back to school. My siblings and I sold the house and I was able to have a soft landing from my share of the proceeds. I eventually went back to teaching after a stint in the public relations industry. I found my compass again, it was etched in my heart. Though I went through fire, I came out singed but not destroyed. My Mother and Grandma were my center, my voice of reason, my compass. It’s been over twenty years and from time to time I still catch myself feeling deep sorrow. I don’t think one ever fully recovers from some losses.