January 4, 2013 § 1 Comment
I typically celebrate New Years in September, on my birthday. Something about the last days of summer and memories of heading back to school with new clothes and shoes make me eager to align and commit to improvement. September is a time for sowing– a time to focus, buckle down and do the hard work.
By December, I am still in love with the cold weather, sweater dresses and donning heavier perfumes. September to December is a pleasant time for me as I celebrate my birthday and the holidays. I have a million Christmas pageants to attend, cookies to bake with the children in my life and up all-nighters with my mother preparing the most rich and decadent soul food. My sisters and I enjoy hanging out and watching movies. Basketball season starts, and I am glued to the television. Life is calmer and joyful.
Some winters, some seasons are better than others.
This season did not come without its pitfalls and trials. The most frightening question, one I’ve asked my remarkably patient writing partner several times this week, is what will I do if I don’t finish this manuscript? Yes, I have been awarded an amazing fellowship. Yes, I have some pretty cool publication credits under my belt now, but what will I do if I don’t finish? How can I come back home? It took a lot of effort for my family to see me as “the writer” in the family. I have a recurring nightmare of coming home empty handed. I have no explanations, no books, no magazine articles. I have nothing but a set of luggage and a well-traveled body. I am standing on the porch teary-eyed. My mother opens the door and looks at me and just looks.
Every word I write is for fear of seeing that look. The look that says, I love you anyway. It’s okay. I don’t want it to be okay; I don’t want to be loved in spite of my personal failures. Take me as I am, sure, but I want to be the daughter who comes home and places a book in her mother’s hand. There is a popular refrain in many churches where the call and response looks something like this:
Preacher: And on THAT day, when the Lord looks at the sum of my life, on THAT fateful day, oh, saints, you don’t hear me! I want the Lord to look down on me and say just one thing. Church, tell me what we want to hear from the Lord. Saints, what do you want the Lord to say of your life?
Church: Well done, well done, well done, my servant, well done.
My mother is certainly not the Lord, but she is the reigning figure in my life. When I think of my mother setting aside her dreams of being a librarian to parent her children, when I think of the love of books she instilled in me, when I think of the walks to the library (never forbidding me the adult section), when I think of coming home with scholastic readers, when I think of her fishing through her pockets for change to give me for the used book sale in the cafeteria, or rolling my hair with brown paper curlers for my oral reports, or the curious look she gave each poster board presentation before okaying it, when I think of my mother and our sometimes hot, sometimes cold but always committed relationship, my faith is reignited. I am walking in the world with the blessing of my mother. Who can touch me?
I have cried every day for the past week, packing to return to California. There is no missing like the missing I feel when I don’t have my family, my girlfriends, my little people who come to me for homework help and snacks. Last year, I had to ask my family to shift the dynamics of our relationship. I was the one asking for support, for help and understanding. Last year, I was not refused. When I came home in September, my sister jumped into my arms before I could take the luggage from the backseat of the cab. We hugged and kissed. My nephew followed right behind her. We walked next door to our mother’s house and the celebration was anything but climatic: my arrival woke my mother up from an afternoon nap. When she was tired of feeling annoyed she said, “well, I guess I should take more meat out of the freezer.”
That is my mother’s love, and that’s the love that raised me. We have not always been close or friendly because my mother was very deliberate in letting me know that I was her child. I was not her friend. Even in her darkest places, she was a mother to me. No backtalk. No sass. In her darkest places, my mother mothered.
And taught me that I cannot outrun the dark places. Everyone’s dark place is different. My sad song isn’t the same as hers, but damn if it isn’t played. The dark places are coming. They are quick. They are as sure as first love. My mother taught me, through her own painful trials, that there is a way out of despair, families can heal, people can be forgiven, love can be had.
I have hurt people I never intended to for shameless, inexcusable, petty reasons. I’ve also rekindled some of those relationships. The dynamics had to change some, the expectations had to be reevaluated, but we managed. My mother taught me that.
I don’t like a lot of folks having access to me because I don’t believe everyone is well-intended.
What a blessing it is to have someone to call on who understands you. I have several, and that is a testament to the people who love me and deal with my highs, lows, drama and fickle temperament. I have people who don’t throw my secrets in my face when it suits them. I have people who believe, as they believe blood runs through the veins and to the heart, that I will do everything I say I will.
I cannot let them down. I cannot face that look.
For the first 32 days of 2013, I am writing every day. You can check my word counts on the accountability calender.
I want to have a draft of my first novel finished for Spring and a completed manuscript of poetry for my September birthday.
I resolved most things in my life before the new year rolled in.
There is a single resolution left– one I share with my incomparable writing partner– when my draft is done, I am going to walk into the ocean.