I’ve got mama issues. Real mama issues. If you want to play the dozens with me, go ‘head and talk about my mama. After I talk about you for being so trite and childish, I will probably talk about her too. Of course not with you but with God and my friends.
In fact, most women in my age group, especially sistahs, have mama issues. Some of those ‘issues’ are manageable, rendering some of my peers mildly functionally dysfunctional. Some of my peers are wildly dysfunctional but think they are just fine. And some are just plain jacked up.
(There had to have been something in the water when our mamas were born.)
At any rate, I’m some combination of the three. If weren’t for the three or four ounces of Jesus I have in me, I’d probably be totally jacked up. Totally.
Well, today is my mama’s birthday. She is 68 years old today. I was born almost one month to the day before my mother’s 18th birthday. I kind of messed up a few of her plans, but oh well I believe we’ve broken even over the years.
I refer to her as my mother/mama but there are few truths I need to reveal. (1) The one who mothered me in every sense of the word was my grandmother, Irene Doss; (2) I haven’t spoken to my mother in ten years (that’s a blog post in and of itself); and (3) God as my witness, if she were standing right in front of me, I wouldn’t know what to call her. I’ll call her ‘gurl’ for the sake of this post. And there is a fourth truth and that is the greatest gift I’ve ever given my mother is leaving her alone.
And it’s a gift I’ve learned to cherish over the years (yet another blog post).
But that’s not the point… I need to share what she gave me. This is a tribute to her – of sorts.
- She taught me to believe in God. One day walking down the street I asked her how did she know God existed, a heady question for a little girl of about six or so, and she told me that if two planets collided to form the Earth where did they come from; she told me that if a seed becomes a tree where did that seed come from and she told me that if I came from her and my daddy (a third blog post) then where did they come from and even if they could trace her and my daddy all the way back to Adam and Eve – where did they come? Worked for me. I believed and I believe.
- She gave me permission to seek solitude however I can get it. Her preferred way was with me in my room and the door closed while she sat at the dining room table sipping coffee or some brown liquor. And she thoroughly enjoyed a rainy day b/c it meant she could only be busy inside of the house though she liked looking out of the picture window at the drops falling. Short of the brown liquor, I enjoy solitude pretty much the same way.
- She introduced me to the joys of dancing alone. My mother could turn a doorway into a dancing partner, and if you’re from Cleveland then you know about “hand dancing,” and she would bop and hand dance with the doorway like nobody’s business. I do that too and more.
- She showed me the joys of watching a chick flick late at night. We shared our first chick flick by watching Imitation of Life and the second (yes, I remember) was Backstreet with Susan Hayward.
- She kindly informed me that I wasn’t dark-skinned after a girl at school called me a high yellow bitch, and I only addressed the high yellow part. Maybe I knew I was a bitch at an early age. I don’t know. But the high yellow thing really ticked me off and my mother let me see my honey/caramel colored skin finally for it’s beauty. Until that day I thought I was dark-skinned, before some of you get your panties in a bunch, I was proud to be so, and highly disappointed to be called yellow. In fact, I was insulted, but that’s neither here nor there.
- She taught me how to compete. When the ‘big’ girls down the street tried to bully me in a jacks tournament, she sat me down in the kitchen and on the porch (the playing field) and showed me the moves I needed to whip them good. I did and can still out play anyone in jacks. My eye/hand coordination is the bomb.
- She showed me how to defend a loved one by defending me and not defending me when I needed it. I’ll never forget the day she and my grandmother beat the living daylights out of a white man in downtown Cleveland. He’d spat on me and laughed. Thinking they were white women, he turned to them for approval and met two sets of flailing arms. A white policeman had to pull them off of the man.
- She gave me Darren, my half-brother/brother. No one loved his crazy butt more than me. He’s still alive, but I have no idea where he is and that could be explained in one of the three or four supplemental blog posts I’ve mentioned above.
The greatest gift she gave me, inadvertently, were my grandparents. The day I went to live with them I discovered a treasure – two people who indulged/over-indulged me, loved me, listened to me, taught me much about life and love and everything in-between. She gave birth to me for them. I’d like to think that I was their favorite child. And for that I’m grateful.
And in her own way, she emancipated me to know the love of my grandparents and a ton of other people who poured so much into this spirit — good stuff too.
On that note, Happy Birthday, Gurl! Maybe one day we’ll get it right.