*a few weeks ago* TD1: whining Me: You want some cheese to go with that whine? TD1: *stops whining* what? Why you ask me that? Me: *explains the whole cheese and wine/whine thing*
*tonight* TD1: *singing* You want some cheese with that whine? You want some cheese with that whine? You want some cheese with that whine? *stops singing* Hey Mom, since I don’t like cheese I think you should say, “Do you want some pizza with that whine?” because pizza has cheese. Get it? *starts singing* You want some pizza cheese with that whine?
On Saturday, I went to a funeral for one of my mom’s older brothers who I don’t remember. As I sat through the service listening to cousins I barely remember sharing their stories and favorite memories, I tried to reconcile faces and names with my childhood memories. I listened to a cousin say how she was tired of coming home for sad occasions, and was sad that her kids don’t know her aunts and uncles. I’m “home” and my kids don’t know their aunts and uncles. Afterwards, I made my rounds giving hugs and watched as some of my cousins passed me by. One of my cousins demanded I stick around this time, so we obliged and went to the repast. A toddler I’d never seen clung to me and two girls I didn’t know kept talking to me and wanted to be around me. When it came time to eat, I sat with my mom, brother and sister. I spoke only when spoken to and had an awkward exchange with one of my older cousins who thought I didn’t remember her. The cousin that asked me to stay never even said another word to me.
On the car ride home, T-Daddy mentioned he felt out of place. Yup, that’s why I don’t come around. The next morning as we were getting ready for church, I told T-Daddy that we should make more of an effort to be around our families so that the girls can know their family (and not grow up and marry a cousin!). At the rate we’re going, they will only know our parents and siblings and their kids, but that’s it. And seeing that half my parents and siblings live 14 hours away, even that’s questionable.
At church, the pastor preached about how Conflict was handled in the early church. He talked about the misconception that church folk always get along, but in reality the church is full of sin-sick people who disagree and argue all the time. The difference is supposed to be that the church is a family, so even though we argue and get offended, we love each other, work it out, forgive and move on. We’re not supposed to run from conflict or sweep it under the rug just because we don’t want to deal with it.
A lightbulb went off.
Growing up, I was constantly teased for a myriad of reasons. I never really fit in with my family or at school. I’d get along great with my cousins one-on-one but I always seemed to be the odd girl out whenever we all came together. I also found myself on the wrong side of family drama and politics. It became too much to handle and I felt like my time was best spent around people that didn’t make me feel unwanted or uncomfortable. So I started distancing myself from my family about 13-17 years ago. It was a gradual process – some of it deliberate and some not-so-much. But every step of the way, I noticed every time someone didn’t reach out or failed to respond to my attempts to reach out. For me, it was just confirmation that I never really fit in and blood wasn’t thicker than water (no matter how much my mama said it).
After church, I reflected back on the sermon and my uncle’s homegoing services. I’ve never really considered myself as someone that runs from conflict. T-Daddy would even argue that I can be confrontational when someone offends me. Like most people, I don’t like conflict. And I don’t like being uncomfortable. So when someone continuously offends or hurts me, I don’t see the point in continuing to subject myself to that. I just cut that person from my life. That’s been the case with most of my family and ex-friends. But that’s not exactly dealing with conflict. It’s running from it. My cousins may have teased me, but I made no efforts to move on from that. Instead, I just moved away from it.
I realized that in my running, I’m just as much to blame for the awkwardness that transpired on Saturday as my family is. And in running from my conflict, I’ve made it so that, even on sad occasions, I don’t have a home to come back to. I’ve also left a trail of aunts, uncles and cousins that TD1 and TD2 don’t know.
I love my girls….A LOT! Some days, I wish I could spend every waking moment breathing in their essence and watching them do those silly little things that make them them. I don’t want to miss a second of their big moments, whether that’s their first steps or the first time they discover caterpillars.
I admit I sometimes even get jealous of the time T-Daddy spends with them. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate when he takes them off my hands because they have said “Mom” 5 million times in 15 seconds. Even this mom needs a break. But I feel like I’m missing out on something when he gets to experience something with them that I didn’t. I even feel a little guilty and left out when he does those things with them that I don’t like or suck at (like video games…).
So imagine my excitement when I found out that TD1 was going to the Museum of Science and Industry and wanted me to chaperone. In fact, I was at her school doing Girl Scouts stuff when she ran in the office to make sure I saw and signed the permission slip. Now imagine my anxiety when the very following day, I picked up the TDs and there was a permission slip in TD2’s mailbox for a field trip to the Museum of Science and Industry on the same day. I asked both of their teachers if I could chaperone for both of them. One didn’t care. The other didn’t say no, but I could tell she didn’t want to say yes. They both directed me to the office. I was told I’d have to choose. My heart sank to my toes.
I didn’t want to have to choose. I wanted to share this experience with them both. MSI is my favorite museum. There’s always new and cool stuff and I wanted to be there to see the look of bewilderment and amazement as they discovered something new. I was going to have to choose whose experience I would miss. I knew whose. It wouldn’t be easy to tell the girls. There would be sadness, probably tears, lots of rationalizing and explaining and maybe even some bribery. There would definitely be bribery and buttering up.
I wish someone had warned me that having two kids meant one day I was going to have to choose between the two. And while it wouldn’t be a representation of my love for them, it would most certainly feel like it. And if this field trip is just the beginning, I am not looking forward to the future plays, recitals, games, competitions, etc. Two means you choose. And if I have to choose, does that mean one of them loses? Or do I?
*Of course, I know that none of us really loses out, but it’s hard to reconcile that with my desire to want to be there for everything.
TD1 has been asking to see pictures and videos of her great-grandmas. One died two months before she was born. One died seven years before she was born.
TD1: Mommy, why don’t you have a grandma? T-Mommy: I used to have one. She’s in Heaven now. TD1: With God? Does Daddy have a grandma? T-Mommy: He did. She’s in Heaven, too. TD1: But not me and [TD2’s]? T-Mommy: No, all of your grandmas are still alive. TD1: Why do we have grandmas, but not you and Daddy? T-Mommy: Because God decided He was ready for our grandmas in Heaven. TD1: Do you miss them? T-Mommy: All the time, Sweetie. TD1: Why why don’t you just call them like we do Granny or video them like GMa? T-Mommy: Because you can’t video call Heaven? TD1: Well, do you have a video of them? What did they look like?
When T-Daddy and I first started dating, his grandmother was sick. I remember taking him to visit her in the hospital and at her home (which coincidentally, was down the street from the house my family stayed in when ours caught fire). I remember talking to her during my pregnancy about the TD1. I remember thinking how awesome it would be for her to see her great-grandchild. Sadly, I also remember how sad I felt that this was something I could (from a distance – I won’t pretend like I had this sudden deep relationship with T-Daddy’s grandma because I didn’t. We were still getting to know each other) share T-Daddy’s grandma, but not my own. She passed away in July and TD1 was born in September. They never got to meet, although MIL would tell me all the time that she believed their souls met briefly in Heaven. (Ironically, my mom would say the same about both TDs and my own granny.)
My granny died when I was 17. At the time, that seemed like a lot of years to spend with someone that meant so much to me. As I approach 30 this year, I realize that in four years, I will have spent just as many years without my granny as I have with her. When you factor in that I was a baby and have no finite recollection of the early years and that the last four years of her life she was in and out of a cancer treatment center, the scales get tipped in the direction of more without her than with her.
TD1 wants me to share with her things that I never did with my granny and she doesn’t understand why I never did them. It’s hard trying to explain terminal illness and the cycle of life to a five-year-old. It’s even harder to dig up memories and deal with grief that you mistakenly thought was dealt with. It also makes me wonder, “If she could see me now…”
I miss my granny dearly, maybe even more so as the years go by. I always looked at the 17 years I had with her as a blessing. Growing up, I knew so many people whose grandparents had already passed. I was always thankful to have mine around. But as I branch out and meet more people, there seems to be even more people who still have their grandparents around. Some celebrating 80- and 90-something birthdays. I’m happy for them. Grandparents are an awesome gift from God. But, I just can’t seem to feel a little twinge of jealousy. Mine never got to see 60. And that makes me sad.
I wish she could have lived longer to see TD1 and TD2. I think she would have thoroughly enjoyed their personalities. I wish she could see me. I want to know how she thinks about how I turned out. And I don’t really care for speculation from other family members. I ***need*** to hear it from her, ya know. I wish I had more memories and traditions and passed on rituals to “keep her memory alive.”
I wish I had paid more attention, gotten more wisdom and insight from her. But at 13, I wasn’t really concerned with knowing recipes and interior decorating. I thought I had time. And even as I spent the next four years watching her fight for her life, it never really dawned on me that she wouldn’t be around. I mean I knew she could die. I knew that someday she would. Death was something I always thought I was a pro at. People die, you cry. You bury them. Then you move on, reminiscing and joking about the good times. My senior year of high school, my family had something like 10+ deaths, slightly less than the year I graduated 8th grade. But up until September 2004, I’d never lost someone I lived with, someone that played a big part in raising me. So I never factored that into my death equation.
It never dawned on me that this would be a little harder to move on from. Or that I would see her smile whenever I look at my little sister. Or that I would one day have a child that is so curious about two women she’s never met.
And perhaps, that’s the hardest part. Trying to relive a moment in time that has long since passed for someone that never got to experience it.
Have you ever witnessed something that set your spirit on fire and motivated you to get out and do something great? And you wanted to share it with everyone you know?
That’s what “Hidden Figures” did for me. This movie was two hours and seven minutes of pure black girl magical excellence. In case you’re not familiar with it, the official description says it “is the incredible untold story of Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe)—brilliant African-American women working at NASA, who served as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in history: the launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit, a stunning achievement that restored the nation’s confidence, turned around the Space Race, and galvanized the world. The visionary trio crossed all gender and race lines to inspire generations to dream big.”
But it’s so much more than incredible. It’s the story that so many young girls need to know. And I can’t help but wonder why I was never told this story as a little girl. (I mean I know why. You can’t be told what those around you don’t know, but I still wish they did know. So that I could have known.) But now that I do know, I want my daughters to know. And all the little girls and the women that I know. I want them to know too. And not just them, but the boys and the men in our lives as well. I want them to know the greatness that surrounds them, and how important it is that they don’t ever try to dim that greatness.
From the moment I saw the “Hidden Figures” trailer, I knew that I wanted to see it. The more I saw commercials for it, I decided that this was a good story for the girls to know, but I was on the fence about taking them to the movies to see it. A movie about overcoming racial and gender oppression is sure to have some, ahem, “inappropriate” moments, right? In a bit of a spontaneous decision, I decided to preview the movie, and I wasn’t disappointed. I was in awe. I don’t think the TDs are ready to see the movie (maybe when they’re a few years older), but they are definitely ready to hear the story.
The entire time I watched the movie, I kept thinking this could be my girls. Do they know this could be them? I have to tell them. I have to tell them this story. Because they’ll never know what they could be if they don’t know their history. And their history is full of amazing people – like these three black women, who broke down barriers to make history. They did what no one else in the room could do at a time when they were considered the bottom of the bottom of the barrel. The epitome of black girl magical excellence.
Now, my goal moving forward is to share their awesome stories with the TDs and find more hidden gems from our history to share. Because as TD1 told me the other day, “I want to be everything when I grow up.” So, it’s my job to show her what everything looks like.
Reach for the stars and land on the moon, Baby Girl.
As I write this, I am currently enjoying watching the TDs veg out with toys, books, puzzles and Netflix. Despite currently fighting allergy/sinus issues, I am thoroughly enjoying being home with them on their winter break. It’s been mostly relaxing, entertaining and full throttle (because apparently kids go on break, but they don’t break….go figure!)
But I have to be honest, I was a bit of a scrooge leading up to the holidays. I dreaded Christmas and wanted to just skip it. I may have even complained about it to a few dozen people. There was very little Christmas music (which I’m sure pleased T-Daddy). I didn’t change my ringtone this year (though I really need to change it, period). We were kinda late decorating the tree and getting Princess (formerly known as Strawberry better known as Elf on the Shelf) here from the North Pole.
Then it was time for the girls’ holiday program. Almost everyone in the family came, which made the girls really happy. And that made me happy. It worked out that both their uncle and their grandparents were in town that day and we were able to arrange for them to be there. Then their uncle spent many days of his trip here with them. TD1 was so excited to be the one to show him how to make root beer floats and give him his first one (not really, but somehow she came to that conclusion).
As a family, we ate all kinds of “bad” food and laughed and joked. We watched movies and played games. We put together puzzles and played with their new toys. We attended church for the first time on both Christmas Eve and Christmas. And we got to see both sides of the family on Christmas day without tons of driving, family politics, tension and stress. Everything, everyone has just been easy peasy this holiday season.
It’s been as if the universe knew exactly what I needed to lift my spirits. It’s been so nice to relax and enjoy my girls in their elements. To not have to yell at them to hurry up because we’re behind schedule. To just take a break. Soon, we’ll be back to the grind of things, but for now, I’m enjoying being home with them on their break. After all, it’s the first time since TD1 was a baby.