Have any of you spent time thinking about the opportunities you’ve been given versus what your parents or grandparents were afforded?
I’m super blessed to still have a grandma alive. Her name is Alberta (Grammy) and she is in her 90s. I’ve written about her before. Sometimes I sit with her and she tells me stories of how she had to yell at her kids (my three aunts and mom) to make sure they used the bathroom before they left the house because once they did, there wasn’t no runnin’ into a restaurant or department store to use the restrooms. That kind of access was for whites only. In fact, my mom remembers being on a Greyhound bus once, sack lunch in her lap. When the bus stopped, the Black folks sat outside and ate their home-allowed sack lunches while the white folks went to the lunch counter and ordered what they wanted. And there was only one bathroom at the stop and it wasn’t for her.
I say this often: I’m a writer because of my mom. She gave me my first journal and she is the one that told me to write stories. However, more than once, my aunts have mentioned with a weighted undertone, “Your mother is the real writer in the family.” I’ve felt odd when I’ve heard this. My inner little-me cries, “But what about me?” And then a more mature me whispers, “This isn’t about you.”
My mom is a brilliant writer, she really is. Her work should be out in the world, just like mine is. But it isn’t.
I think about why.
I’m sure there are personal reasons for her; she has told me she doesn’t like rejection and she just doesn’t have the emotional wherewithal to “push submit.” Sometimes I just wonder if that fear and pushback is related to something bigger — to something like being told, “No!” in so many different ways that the no became embedded in her psyche. Or maybe the inability to “push submit” is related to repeated messaging that said, “You don’t belong here.”
I know I feel the effect of these things sometimes and I grew up in a completely different era where the “No!” has been more subtle; hidden until provoked.
Alas, rather than make assumptions, I could ask my mom these things. And I probably will do so again, soon. But for now, it’s satisfying and apropos to write about it while also being thankful she encouraged the inner child in me in a way that maybe she wanted for herself…gently saying, “Be like me, but not.”
If you haven’t met my mom, here’s a chance to do so and to also listen to her recite one of her gorgeous poems. I interviewed her about writing. Enjoy.
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