Happy Holidays?

The holidays are upon us.

Times such as these create a recipe for disaster. Start with a little loneliness, exacerbated by divorce, death of a loved one or single status. Mix in a bit of anxiety over unwanted visitors such as mothers who insist you need to settle down, fathers who question your career path and others who oppose your lifestyle. Add a dash of stress over a less than ideal financial position that requires a lot of creativity in purchasing gifts (in comes relief that you are single and without kids). Top it all off with insecurities over the weight you’ve kept on (and added to) all year long but resolved to get rid of January 1, 2010 and signs of aging that send you into a scene from The Sweetest Thing. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes (because that’s what most recipes call for) and voila!

But wait…

When you’re a college student who has nowhere to go when the residence halls close for the holidays because your drug-addicted father is missing in action and your mother has abused you since before you could walk (verbally and physically), the depression is exacerbated. Mix in an overload of courses, final exams and ten-page papers where your grades are suffering to say the least because said parents aren’t offering any monetary support so you’ve taken on a full time job to pay off tuition debts and send a little home to your Nana who is rearing your four younger siblings. Add a dash of dating the wrong men who are really boys or women who are really hoes (excuse the offense) and the STI’s they gave you as an early Christmas present followed up with a host of threatening emails, tweets and wall messages. Oh and don’t forget to top it all off with just a hint of photo harassment when your pics are multi-media-messaged across campus. Bake at hell for what feels like infinity.

Happy Holidays!

Thanksgiving Misconceptions

On this Thanksgiving Day Eve, let’s clarify a few misconceptions surrounding this wonderful holiday.

1-Everyone does not eat pumpkin pie. Black people do not eat pumpkin pie. You will be out of compliance if you show up to Thanksgiving dinner in a Black household with this sort of dessert. Of course I haven’t polled every member of the African American persuasion, but I know enough to know this to be true. I will admit however, that when this southern Black girl moved to Texas, I developed an affinity for pumpkin rolls. In every Black household, tomorrow’s meal will conclude with some sweet potato pie. That’s right, not pumpkin but sweet potato and yes, we will also have candied yams (loaded with sugar, syrup and butter). Side note: canned yams are not acceptable.

2-While we’re on the previous subject…we also do not eat green bean casserole. I’ve never attended a traditional Black family holiday that served such. Our primary sides are macaroni and cheese and collard greens. If we do have green beans, they’re prepared in a pot with some unidentifiable part of the pig, onions and seasoning.

3-Thanksgiving has always been a day of celebration. Its origination was out of celebration in the emergence of the Pilgrim and Native American cultures. Feel how you may about the Pilgrims, the “Indians”, Plymouth Rock and everything else but this has always been a day of thanks and giving.

4-Black Friday has absolutely no racist connotation. My youngest and I had a conversation a few days ago about why it’s called Black Friday. His thought, undoubtedly from the 5th grader on the bus, was that it was the day that all the black people went to Wal-Mart for TV’s because they couldn’t afford them any other time. As my friend put it in response to an idiot on a social network site “it’s the day retailers explode into the black after a season in the red.”

5-Most importantly, Thanksgiving is not just a time to eat and shop. It’s a time to fellowship with family and friends (who are usually like family). It’s a time to laugh, love and heal. It’s a time to forget about the drunk uncle, the imprisoned brother and the drop-out sister. It’s a time to ignore the loans we gave out and forego on the familial gossip. It’s a time to remember those gone on. I am especially reminded of this as my aunt, cousin and I sit beneath a picture of my grandmother and laugh in memory of her. It’s a time to forgive and forget (if only for that moment).

I am thankful for you for giving me the opportunity to share my words, my thought.

Happy Thanksgiving.

On Sharing…Or Not

Please accept my apology for not posting in over a week.

I’ve been a bit under the weather. That tends to happen when your children are as sharing as mine. I appreciate Jordan sharing with Cameron and then Cameron sharing with me.

The problem in being sick with your kids is that no matter how horrible you feel, you’ve got to get up, make soup, check temperatures, administer meds, fix hot tea, clean bodily fluids etc. etc. All of this after a night full of kicks and elbows and a knee to the boob from the little one who can’t sleep alone when he’s ‘under the weather’. What exactly does that phrase mean anyway? Let’s not even mention the drowning sensation you’re experiencing because you can’t breathe through your nose and his arm is covering your mouth.

You’ve had a headache since the day before and you’re exhausted to the point of reneging on your “no PS3 on school nights rule” just so they can leave you alone long enough to catch some sleep. After a stern threat of bodily injury should an argument arise, you fall into a z pack induced coma. However, just as sudden as you fell, you’re awakened by a loving French kiss…from the dog. Moment ruined. Where’s the Listerine?

By the end of the night all you want is to curl up in your bed with a hot cup of coffee and some ginger snaps and marvel at the side effects of Children’s Triaminic Nighttime formula. By the way, it works during the day too. So there you are, freshly lathered in Vicks tossing the tissues from the night before onto the floor, ready to take that first sip. Horrified, you realize that you mistakenly purchased Sugar-Free French Vanilla International Delight. Moment ruined. Where’s the tea?

Sigh.

It’s in times such as these that you discover you are loved. In the text messages from concerned friends. In the calls from coworkers (who don’t want you sharing in the office). In the young neighbor who pulls your trash to the curb. In the brother who drops off soup and juice (even if he is covering his mouth and nose with his shirt). In the father who cooks dinner and cleans your kitchen. In the mother who offers herbal remedies. In the visit from a special friend who doesn’t care that your hair is reminiscent of Don King and your breath smells like you’ve been kissing the dog.

Thank you.

Up All Night

I awoke to find them in the same position I had left them hours ago, crouched over action figures, transferring attention between their wrestling matches and ESPN, rapping along with Drake. I informed them that the sun was coming up and instructed them to get in bed. Before I could turn off the light, they were snoring.

Deja vu teased me for days. I felt I had been there before but I couldn’t remember when. I visualized myself crouched over Barbie and Ken, the pink house, the pink van, the clothes. Ken slapped Barbie and my playmate in a male voice said “Where’s my food woman?” This memory plagued me for days, when had this happened or had it at all?

It hit me today. I was about 8. The shouting outside the bedroom door wouldn’t allow us to sleep. Stephanie and I played until the sun came up and her mother entered with red cheeks and dark eyes to prepare us for Sunday school. I wasn’t afraid. I had seen this scene many times before. I was sworn to secrecy and never told my mother of what happened on those nights I slept over Stephanie’s house.

As she covered her face in a concrete layer of makeup, she explained her red cheeks away. “You should always wear sunscreen so you don’t get sunburned like this.” I sat on the bathroom counter watching her in her beige bra and half slip. She was beautiful even after her beating.

We slept all through worship service that day, Stephanie and I. My mother asked as we drove home, “Have you ever seen Stephanie’s parents fight?” I said no. I hadn’t. She never fought back and when the yelling began, we retreated to the bedroom and Barbie and Ken, the pink house, the pink van, the clothes.

I was never permitted to stay with Stephanie again.

3200 Roberts Street

I grew up in the south, specifically Alabama, more specifically…Tuskegee. ‘Skegee affords you an education you can only get in the birthplace Rosa Parks. I was blessed to have received this learning. It was at the age of six that I was asked by Lionel Richie to take his hand in marriage right outside the Alabama Exchange Bank. Of course he meant in 12+ years but nevertheless, I graciously received his proposal.  At seven, I spent my Saturday afternoons in the summer watching the Calhoun boys skin the deer that hung from a tree in their parent’s front yard. With blackberry stained fingers and muscadine skins at our feet, we watched with mouths agate.

You can’t beat the rich history in Tuskegee, and I don’t only mean human experimentation on sexually transmitted infections. The streets breathe culture…the homes, the trees, the University, the museums. Fred Gray told me story after story of the boycotts and his defense of Martin Luther King Jr. You can’t get that anywhere but barefoot on a rocking chair front porch, overlooking the lake, in the middle of August while drinking a Tahitian Treat and eating a chicken sandwich from The Coop.

I remember the first time I saw a White person. Actually, I had seen them before at church but I always thought those were like me, light-skinned. They were accepted in the community and we loved them so they weren’t really White, not like those that burned crosses, hung men and turned hoses on humans. It was during an election season and there was a van full of people outside the WalMart passing out campaign flyers and ‘vote for me’ buttons. A tall blonde man in a black suit bent down to shake my hand. He looked at my mother like everyone else, with that ‘you must be babysitting’ glare. He gave me a flyer.

From then on, I thought elections were for White people. Real ones. Most of my Black brothers and sisters seem to believe the same as evident by our recent election turnout. I dare not believe that only 4.7% hit the polls as has been unfounded and undisputed. At least I hope this is inaccurate. Many of our politicians seem to agree with the unsophisticated philosophy on politics of my youth. I didn’t see any politicians who reflected our student population on campus, but I must commend Bob Etheridge and his team on their mission to drive Black students to the polls.

Unfortunately, he did not win but he got me thinking, actually a friend got me thinking when he questioned why politicians don’t hit up the Black colleges. After all he said, “they are the future, they don’t need to campaign to me”.

Little Wise Owl

I remember our first date. We went to dinner at the Mayflower. He put ketchup on his hushpuppies. After our fine fried cuisine, we went to see a movie. The Lion King. There we sat, two teenagers amidst many moms and dads who had waited months to enjoy the first animated Disney film depicting African characters. I had heard the complaints about ‘why they gotta make black characters animals’. It was an absurd argument. Nevertheless, there we were Nala and Simba.

I should have read the storyline. I should have listened to the reviews. I was super excited that my father was allowing me to go on a date. I wore my brand new copper-colored polo shirt and matching skirt. It would be the only time I would wear the skirt due to sitting on gum (imagine trying to explain to my father how gum got on my butt). As soon as Mufasa got to the stampede I knew what would happen. I knew how the writer in me would have scripted the scene. I knew. The tension in his left arm told me he did too. His father had just passed. The hurt was still very real and present. He cried with Simba.

Today I read an article about a little girl named Shannon Tavarez. She portrayed Nala in the Broadway production of The Lion King. Monday afternoon, she passed away at the age of eleven. Just two years older than my first-born. My womb aches with her mother’s.

Shannon was unable to find a bone marrow match. Being biracial diminished the possibility of a perfect match being found. This is not an idea I have ever considered. I often think of the medical issues facing Blacks in disproportionate amounts and those facing Whites. It has never occurred to me that there are medical implications to being of mixed race in addition to the emotional.

I am committing to doing what I can to save the life of a biracial child by registering with DKMS as a tribute to Shannon. I am asking all of my readers, friends, relatives…and enemies (although I doubt any are reading my blog) to consider doing the same.

 Shannon is a Scottish name translating to “little wise owl”. That she was.