I don’t want to grow up…
So, Toys R Us is going out of business, I’m not sure if I should hit my local store and buy up everything in sight. This was the center of my childhood universe, the scene of prospective Birthdays, Christmases and even my first paycheck. Yes, I said my first paycheck… as an adult, I am a Toys R Us Kid after all (don’t judge me lol).
When I was a little girl, I used to go out to the backyard and lay down in the grass looking up at the sky. I’d watch the clouds roll by and let the shapes tell me a story. Scenes with Dragons and Unicorns and Pegasus would play out before me (why doesn’t anyone ever talk about Pegasus? (Unicorns are great, but Pegasus… can FLY)
… admit it, that is pretty f*cking cool!
I didn’t have tea parties, I made mud pies… I’d go into the bathroom and fill bowls with water, troop back outside to my favorite patch of grass and go to town making mud pies like it was going out of style. I just knew I was the best mud pie maker on the block… in the neighborhood even. I used to take the blades of grass by the handful and grind them up with a rock. The scent reminded me of my grandmother chopping onions and singing hymns and reciting Bible verses in creole at the stove while she cooked. I used to be so excited in the first days of spring, those days when Mom would finally let me out of the house, when I could finally go outside to play until the sun came down… coming in only for snacks, drinks, to go to the bathroom then back out again.
Every summer I would plan out a treasure hunt, marching around the yard on a mission to find dandelions… every single dandelion growing in proximity to the house. I would lay down or sit Indian style in my special patch of grass; one by one holding them up in front of me, turning my face toward the sun I’d take a deep breath… and blow. My little heart beating fast, excited because… with every breath I’d watch as the soft fuzz that reminded me of loose flecks of cotton candy would float away on the wind. Sometimes I would jump up and chase after them laughing, throwing my little arms out and spin and spin and spin laughing watching the world as it sped by the whole time, stopping suddenly, happy, breathless and light headed I’d fall back down to the grass in fits of giggles.
About 6 houses down was the great white house on the hill. I would sneak over to that house, climb the hill, pausing occasionally to catch my breath. I always went alone, I would place myself in the center of the hill, lay down and look up at the sky, cloud watching again. I would slowly count to 10, listen to my quick heartbeat, take a deep breath and roll over… and keep rolling till my little body hit the bottom with a jolt. When I wasn’t skinning my knees, getting scratches on tree branches or banged up from rolling down the neighborhood hill… I read books; Encyclopedia Brown, Nancy Drew and Amelia Bedelia.
I know I’ve probably referenced some of this stuff before in other blogs, but how often does one sit down and really think about what it FELT like to be a little girl? The way the Earth stood still when you would hear that tell tale jingle approaching, the boom that was like thunder as the universal war cry was shouted… “ICE CREAM!!” And how the world would sped up again as every child in a 2 block radius would scatter in search of dollars or spare change.
… also known as ‘Heaven on Wheels‘
Despite some unknowns and major catastrophes my childhood was a happy one, a good one… it had its interesting moments, but I was allowed and encouraged to be a child. I took myself on adventures, thought I was Indiana Jones and my backyard was the Temple of Doom. I had my own inventions and a time or two I would tie the bed sheets together and throw them out the window and jump out, climbing down to parts unknown. Relax… we lived on the first floor of our multi family home, the window was only a few feet off the ground so I was never in any danger. When you’re five or six years old your imagination is so big that to you really do feel like SheRa or Han Solo in Star Wars, or Leroy Green from the Last Dragon (Bruce Leroy), and who can forget about the Incredible Hulk, or the A-Team.
I soooo wanted to be a singer when I grew up, I would run around the house with a hairbrush belting out ‘the Greatest Love of All’. I was fascinated by Whitney Houston… ‘I Want to Dance with Somebody’ and Tina Turner’s ‘What’s Love Got to Do with It’ and ‘We Don’t Need Another Hero’. Most little girls dreamed of being a princess, having a castle, kissing Prince Charming and getting married. For all the other little girls I was exposed to (my sister, cousins, little girls in school) for those little girls getting married was BIG. Wedding cakes and white dresses and a big party and then there was me. I was the one burning a hole in my easy bake oven and playing doctor. I had no use for weddings or worse… Prince Charming!
I played jump rope and kept chalk in my pockets for hopscotch, had 10 Imaginary Friends… characters from Sesame Street (the cowboy Forgetful and his Cow, the Count, Bert and Ernie Kermit and Ms. Piggy) … almost the whole Muppet cast, also Bo and Luke Duke, Uncle Jesse, Boss Hogg and Daisy from the Dukes of Hazzard. I loved watching GI Joe, (imagined I was a soldier with a big knife as I thought guns were highly overrated), lived for Thunder Cats, Rainbow Brite, Wonder Woman and the Bionic Woman. I would rush to the tv when I came home from school to watch Woody Woodpecker and Chilly Willy, Bugs Bunny and the Looney Tunes clan… Lord how I wanted to bop Elmer Fudd and Daffy Duck upside their foreheads. I most definitely was not a Disney kid, not then… Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Snow White, while cute, very pretty and very shiny, I preferred the Transformers and Voltron, climbing trees and playing in the mud.
It’s so easy to dwell on the negative, but I was a happy little girl. My dad taught me how to ride my bike and I viewed that as a source of freedom, I would take off with the wind in my face and would run around with my training wheels… think of the expression “ride it till the wheels fall off”. I rode that bike until those training wheels fell off lol. I rode until I had no business riding anymore. Eventually I was just way too big for it and no matter how much I loved that cherry candy apple red source of freedom I finally had to give it up, then they handed me my sisters blue 3 speed bike. It was huge and I had to climb it to sit down, smh my God there were no helmets back then, no helmets or protective gear whatsoever. There were no streamers on my bike, riding was serious business… I would get on that bike and think that I was additional member of the Justice League on wild adventures, it’s a wonder I never broke anything… not a finger, a leg, a wrist, an arm or any bone. Looking back, I realize that was a blessing.
It’s not lost on me that most of my childhood heroes were boys and men, back then leading women were rare things… but I had those heroes too, my mom and my older sister. I looked up to my big sister… she infuriated me but I loved her, she was 6 years older so she had no use for ‘little kids’. That didn’t stop me from looking up to her though, following her around constantly telling everyone “my sister said”. I used to watch my mom get dressed to go out… fascinated by the hair, the makeup and the perfume. I couldn’t wait for her to leave, I would try to be nonchalant… (or as nonchalant as a four, five or six-year-old can be) and watch her leave the house. I would go to the window, watch as she got in the car and drive away. You never know… sometimes the adults would come back so I would wait until the coast was clear. I’d wait an appropriate amount of time (hindsight tells me it was probably only half a minute but time flies differently for children). I’d wait whatever I thought was an appropriate amount of time to pass and then I would jump up and down like a crazy person and run back to her bedroom.
I would go to her closet and pick out one of her dresses to wear. I’d look over what felt like a million pairs of red pumps with heels that were ridiculous, sometimes pull out a hat, maybe a pair of gloves. I would go to her dresser and run my fingers across its surface, sit down and gather all her makeup. Sitting at her dresser, putting lipstick on, spraying her perfume; on my wrist and behind my ears. I had no idea what to do with eye shadow… the few times I tried to use it I made a holy mess and tried to rub my face clean with a lot of paper towels, trying to clean off the surface of the dresser with Windex. Of course, I would end up tying to do some explaining because ultimately, she would figure out that I had been in her stuff, so I learned that if I took just her lipstick and dabbed it across my eyelids I could make my own eye shadow. Lipstick didn’t fly everywhere like the eye shadow did, I would rub it in with my fingers to blend it, apply a little bit of lipstick to my cheeks for blush and then the lips… the lips were always last, because that was where the voice comes from.
(totally NOT me, image found online)
I would take the lipstick and very carefully slide it across my lips… that was my favorite part, coloring my lips with lipstick. I would imagine what it would feel like to be an adult, all grown-up; to know everything, imagine being able to do whatever you wanted with no need to ask mom or dad for anything. I wondered what it would feel like to be grown up and have my sister look up to me, I couldn’t wait to be independent and beautiful, and I would laugh… I would laugh so much. There isn’t anything quite like the sound of a child laughing and even though it’s me in the memory, thinking back on it now… hearing that laugh still takes my breath away. Those are the happy moments, maybe too happy. I compartmentalize a lot and different phases of my life are stored in different boxes. I keep the different people in my life in different boxes… I keep different feelings in boxes. I think that everybody needs a set of boxes just for happy memories and the great moments, we should respect them more.
Looking back, I see it laid the foundation for how I now put myself together. I have so much makeup now it’s crazy and the common denominator is the lipstick; in every shade, every hue, every type imaginable… and that’s always a Finishing Touch. I get dressed up, do my hair, put makeup on and then sit at my vanity table, my adult self… seeing the little girl I used to be looking back at me, eventually slowly sliding the lipstick across my lips… a grown up.
I’ve had this dream a few times:
I’m flying. Arms open wide, eyes closed, face turned into the breeze. I breath deep of misty air. Open my eyes & look down at my city: the buildings, people, lights like Vegas… Nighttime in NY. When the rain starts I relize I am holding onto something with my right hand. I look down at my clenched fingers & suddenly my heart starts racing.
A slight tug on my left makes me realize I’m not alone. My fingers are wrapped around someone else’s. Slowly, suddenly afraid, I turn to look at my companion… and look straight into the face of my grandfather. He smiles at me in his beautiful toothless way, n with his free hand points to my fisted one then nods. I look down at my hand & stare at it. Just as I start to open my fingers he lets me go… & I start falling.
I’m in free fall for a while, tumbling head over heels with nothing to grab onto. Gravity ceases to exist & I am soaked, hair sticking to my face & cold. Then I see it… a perfect ring of crystal clear water… hugging the edges of a field. Altogether it looks like one big eye staring up at me. The hard surface of that ground rushing up at me, my vision blurred by the sting of wind, tears & rain. I look at my fisted hand, fingers clenched so tightly they are bloody. It’s been said if you fall in a dream & land, you die in real life.
I know I am dreaming & I don’t care. I am more afraid of the fall itself… than the actual landing. The ground comes at me & I close my eyes braced for impact. Then… nothing. Strong arms wrap around my waist from behind. N suddenly I am not falling anymore. I hold my breath as our feet touch the ground. We are both soaked and trembling. My heartbeat so loud it reminds me of children banging away at drums. She turns me around & whispers “I’ll always catch you”. As I opened my eyes to look at her face, her lips touch my forehead & in a flash of pure white hot light… I wake up.
I know her, but I never see her face.
It’s time to put all of the old, all of the unfinished and all of the unnecessary chaos that builds up over the course of a year to bed.
Look back on the things you’ve done this past year and in the New Year… DO BETTER.
Look at the person you were in the last year and in the New Year… BE BETTER.
My 2014 wish for you:
Love hard, Laugh often, Party like tomorrow will never come…
and Treat EVERYONE with the kindness, respect and consideration YOU want from others.
Life is short… Count your blessings for they are many and you are counted among mine.
I love you like a promise kept.
Besos… let’s make THIS YEAR MEAN SOMETHING!!!!
It’s the Holidays…
Ride Santa! RIDE!!!
Law of the Jungle
NOW this is the Law of the Jungle — as old and as true as the sky;
And the Wolf that shall keep it may prosper, but the Wolf that shall break it must die.
As the creeper that girdles the tree-trunk the Law runneth forward and back —
For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack.
Wash daily from nose-tip to tail-tip; drink deeply, but never too deep;
And remember the night is for hunting, and forget not the day is for sleep.
The Jackal may follow the Tiger, but, Cub, when thy whiskers are grown,
Remember the Wolf is a Hunter — go forth and get food of thine own.
Keep peace withe Lords of the Jungle — the Tiger, the Panther, and Bear.
And trouble not Hathi the Silent, and mock not the Boar in his lair.
When Pack meets with Pack in the Jungle, and neither will go from the trail,
Lie down till the leaders have spoken — it may be fair words shall prevail.
When ye fight with a Wolf of the Pack, ye must fight him alone and afar,
Lest others take part in the quarrel, and the Pack be diminished by war.
The Lair of the Wolf is his refuge, and where he has made him his home,
Not even the Head Wolf may enter, not even the Council may come.
The Lair of the Wolf is his refuge, but where he has digged it too plain,
The Council shall send him a message, and so he shall change it again.
If ye kill before midnight, be silent, and wake not the woods with your bay,
Lest ye frighten the deer from the crop, and your brothers go empty away.
Ye may kill for yourselves, and your mates, and your cubs as they need, and ye can;
But kill not for pleasure of killing, and seven times never kill Man!
If ye plunder his Kill from a weaker, devour not all in thy pride;
Pack-Right is the right of the meanest; so leave him the head and the hide.
The Kill of the Pack is the meat of the Pack. Ye must eat where it lies;
And no one may carry away of that meat to his lair, or he dies.
The Kill of the Wolf is the meat of the Wolf. He may do what he will;
But, till he has given permission, the Pack may not eat of that Kill.
Cub-Right is the right of the Yearling. From all of his Pack he may claim
Full-gorge when the killer has eaten; and none may refuse him the same.
Lair-Right is the right of the Mother. From all of her year she may claim
One haunch of each kill for her litter, and none may deny her the same.
Cave-Right is the right of the Father — to hunt by himself for his own:
He is freed of all calls to the Pack; he is judged by the Council alone.
Because of his age and his cunning, because of his gripe and his paw,
In all that the Law leaveth open, the word of your Head Wolf is Law.
Now these are the Laws of the Jungle, and many and mighty are they;
But the head and the hoof of the Law and the haunch and the hump is — Obey!
Letter to LJ…
We’ve never met but you are important to me for the simple fact that you are important to “O” someone I love very much. She is so proud of you, wants so much for you… and loves you so much, therefore I… as a friend to her… have some love for you also. THAT in addition to over a million other reasons should be a good motivator for you to keep that Crazy, Old, Smart Azzed, Crusty, Puerto Rican FOOL around.
A little background on me: I was born and partially raised in one of the toughest cities in the world; I’m an Overweight, Lesbian, Black… Woman that didn’t go to college, someone who needs her job in order to ‘get by’… any one of those things BY ITSELF is a recipe and open invitation to be Discounted, Dismissed and Disrespected on a daily basis. Since I graduated High School I have been working in white, straight, size biased, gender biased, homophobic, racist, male dominated Corporate America. Please know I am Discounted, Dismissed and Disrespected REGULARLY. I am self-taught in almost everything and I have to prove myself over and over again EVERY day.
Growing up there were years my family did really, really well… house with a pool… 4 car garage, three family home… Catholic Private Schools, family businesses, a cheating husband/dad, an indifferent mother, a crazy sister and an extended family that overall makes a pack of vultures seem tame. Kind of a Haitian version of the Cosby Show meets the Black American version of Desperate House Wives. There were also years my family did really, really badly… living in the projects, sleeping on the floor, eating Ramon Noodle Soup (all day, every day because they were 10 packs for a $1.00), having no furniture and going to GoodWill for ‘new jeans’, with an absentee deadbeat dad, an oblivious mother, a bully for a sister and an extended family that makes enemies seem like old friends. Kind of like a Haitian version of Good Times meets the Black American version of All in the Family/Jefferson’s BEFORE they ‘moved on up’ (maybe before your time sorry lol).
My point… I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth… but I’ve eaten my ice cream with it. I wasn’t born in the ghetto but I survived it and it taught me how to handle the people, circumstances and situations that I have had to deal with every day. My Senior Year we had little to nothing. The only reason I managed to go to Prom was because my mom and older sister with the help of some of my friend’s mom’s… pulled together some money so the group of us could have that memory. However… there was no one to pay my senior dues, no funds for the senior trip and no class ring. I didn’t get to go to my High School Graduation… no cap and gown for me… I never walked down that isle. My diploma was mailed to me 2 months later and I got a copy of my year book when I joined my High School Alumni Association 5 years after the fact.
I’m giving you this background so you can better understand where I’m coming from… I’m not someone with money falling out of my azz… but when you are filling out your college applications or need to pay for your SAT’s… If you need help paying for your senior trip, I’ve got you. Just make sure you catch me on payday. If you decide you ever want to visit, (or escape Cleveland lol) I will help you in any way I am able. If you need a letter of reference or sponsorship for a program I will hustle up whatever I can. Your life has not been… and will continue… to not be easy, but your efforts are recognized. You are surrounded by people who pray for amazing things for you and people who believe in you.
I’ve been on my own since I was 19. On my own as in… working to pay my own way… full time job, my own apartment… bills in MY name. College was not an option for me; I had to work in order to live. There has never been anyone, and there is still no one… I can ‘call’ for help. That is not a life I wish on you, it’s not a life I wish for anyone. So I try to help… hoping that maybe in some way it will make a difference, and pave the way for someone else’s life to be BETTER than mine was at certain times. I give… hoping to make things a little easier for someone else and maybe take some of the pressure off. I read somewhere once: “The world is full of givers and takers. Takers will eat better… but Givers will sleep better.”
That having been said you are an intelligent young black man with dreams… a sense of decency, aspirations… a good head on your shoulders, and common sense… the Holy Grail, so there is a point to this letter. Being a black man is an obvious open invitation to be Discounted, Dismissed and Disrespected EVERY day. You will always need to be Stronger, Faster, Smarter… BETTER than everyone else. For the things “O” says you want… in life you will always… always need to make smart choices; the circles you run in, the schools you go to, the jobs you take and the habits you form. You will have to start at the bottom and work your way up. You will compete with others who have an advantage; more knowledgeable, more experienced… better connected etc. it is up to YOU to make those tough choices in order to build the life YOU want. Always remember where you come from. Let your roots be the foundation you build upon… in order to become the MAN you were BORN to be. We are molded by the circumstances of our lives… not defined by them.
You have people you can count on to support you and be in your corner, “O” and I among them. You are every BLACK Mother’s dream; a son… with a brain, a good spirit and a future… shaping himself into being a GOOD MAN and NOT STATISTIC. I didn’t have a consistent father figure… my uncles weren’t really in my life and I don’t have any brothers. So please know this care package and my offers are not charity. They are an investment in YOU and an investment in your future… because I don’t have a son yet… but I will… and when I do… I would want YOU to be someone he could look up to… and help me… teach him… how to be a man.
Please… ‘call me’ if you need me.
Always with Love – NovaCSA