Sunflower in the room of roses

I’m borrowing this phrase from my student’s grandfather. Perhaps he borrowed it from somewhere, too. Nevertheless, it hits home with me as a woman, as a daughter, and as a mother.

Dear Chi,

As you continue in this rough time and space known as “middle school,” as you juggle life in the “tween” years between child and teenager (and, ultimately, adult), please know that I am your biggest fan.

You said yesterday that ‘the worst part about middle school is the people.’

Sure, you’ve felt the sting of the taunts from mean girls. But trust, if they must scoff at you, baby girl, it’s because there’s something lacking in them. You are a sunflower – – bright, standing strong against the elements, and ever-reaching higher for your goals. Do not let these common roses – whose beauty entices but whose thorns cause hurt and harm – convince you that you are less than you are.

IMG0008You may sometimes have days when you stare into that looking glass and scrutinize what you see. Hair, complexion, temporary blemishes might not always be to your ideal. But never for a moment think you aren’t beautiful. Your soft mocha skin, your strong crimped hair, your high cheek bones, almond eyes, broad nose, and full lips are God’s gifts. And, lest I forget to mention, your height (quickly surpassing mine), your svelt athletic figure, your ever-evolving curves of womanhood. Damn, you are stunning.

Yes, I’m your mama. And, frankly, being the parent of the one “going through” is all new to me. But I’ve been where you are. I’ve doubted my worth because someone criticised me. And I learned after countless nights – no, more like years – of feeling less than worthy of praise – that my value is not determined by others. You cannot squelch the mean-spirited intentions of everyone, but you can persevere despite and INSPITE of them. It’s really easy to say in retrospect that you can’t please everyone, but I’m going to say it anyway. Some folk aren’t happy until you are miserable. They make it their goal to crush your momentum towards yours. Believe me when I say that success is something you determine for yourself. Your best is all I ask you to give and regardless of what others may say, you will be accomplished.

You’re mad at me as I write this. You’ve told me not to share with the world my pride. And though I get it, baby girl, you need to know that my success is you. I am in awe of how you’ve matured. I am inspired by your dreams. I am humbled by your achievements.

I know we’re at that point in this mother-daughter relationship where you shy away from my confidences and share your secrets with others. Your interests in boys – the few who, as you’ve said, are not absolute ‘douche bags’ – is guarded. But what you have confided in me makes me worry. You see, you’ve admitted to stepping aside for a friend to pursue her interests. You determined you were less worthy of something than was someone else. And I just cannot understand how you don’t see that you are a prize. You are special. You are rare. And you, my Chi, are coveted. I’ll say no more ‘in public’ about that, as I respect your growing need for privacy. Understand, however, that you cannot let yourself be overlooked to please a friend. No friend would ever want you to cast yourself aside – to dull your shine – so they can glow brighter.

I love you…

a place called home

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If I were Dorothy, I’d click my heels and recite “there’s no place…”
But I’m Rachelle:
homeless, wandering, in search of something…
more.
I miss knowing
who I am and what I aspired to become.
There’s no map for directions
(I probably couldn’t navigate it, anyway)
There are days when I feel like stopping,
just sitting on a plot of earth
and watching the grass grow in tufts around me.
But I’m reminded of responsibilities
created in my explorations.
I wish God spoke louder,
tersely.
Decifering codes is not my talent.
Yet, I listen.
Sometimes I even close my eyes and will answers to come.
Is silence actually the reply?
I want to hold hands with wisdom.
Grasp tight to its finger and follow where it leads.
Like a child, I crave security.
A place for me to call home.

Colors.

They say that who you’re attracted to is a matter of personal preference. .. at least I think that’s what they say. But then I don’t know this they, I only know us. And I’m worried that we don’t seem to love us enough to be attracted to our own.

Don’t misunderstand, here. I’m not talking about disliking “our people.” But my kids – one with a foot out the door, one just walking in, and several waiting inside at windows – don’t seem to believe that blacker berries have sweeter juice; that darker flesh has deeper roots. Tupac, where are you?

You see, my kids only know the versus to Everyday People, but somehow the concepts conveyed within the lyrics were lost. They’re not colorblind. And all people, I’m realizing, in their understanding,  are not created equal.

Last night, my son said happily, “I only like white girls.” And while I can dismiss his proclamation as innocent because his current elementary crush is a sweet Caucasian girl, I think it’s more. My  older son had, moments before, shrugged off observations of a girl’s obvious interest in him because hubs described her as the ‘pretty dark-skinned girl with the braids’ – he said nonchalantly,  “I didn’t notice. I don’t date dark girls.”  And a few weeks ago my daughter declared that she’d only marry a “light skinned guy.”

I have failed.

Among my favorite novels is The Blacker the Berry: A Novel of Negro Life by Wallace Thurman.  And in it, the family has adopted a mantra akin to ‘lighter and lighter with each generation,  the better we will be.’ I’m paraphrasing here, because I don’t have the book accessible. I read the book in high school initially,  and I remember my stomach knotting over the concept that black was not beautiful or desirable and it certainly wasn’t safe or privileged.  Being black was a hereditary curse forever staining the potential of a person.

And in the wake of media outrage over police shootings and mistreatment of people of color, following obvious slants of legal rulings and punishments heavily weighed against persons of color, I suspect that curse is real. Ignorance is not bliss and I’ve seen absurd over generalizations about blacks’ propensity for endangering the public that call for something quite like genocide.

My children are not immune to this sterotyping. They know they’re judged before they speak, before they act.

And so, they are drawn to people presumably less targeted.

I really don’t care the color of my childrens’ future partners. I only wish for them to find abundant love, companionship, and understanding in their chosen confidants. But I’m bothered, no, I’m appalled that each is voicing a desire to narrow their selections superficially. Dark, light, or somewhere in between – there’s good and bad in each shade. Character’s content isn’t worn on the skin.

linking up with “Losing it” by Mama Kat.

Her song

Hap bir to you,” she croons
Smiling with delight at her song.
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It’s no one’s birthday today, yet
She happily shares her sweet serenade.
It’s one of the few things
We’ve come to expect from this
Our near-mute fifth little miniature fusion.
Comprehension has never been her problem,
But her philosophy, seemingly, is silence.
Perhaps, in her head, it’s golden.
I wonder what she’s left unsung.
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Inspired by Six Word Fridays, “sing”.

drops of red

Just after school let out for the summer, I found myself sitting in my van. The light was red and the van idled. The sun was an eerie blaze ahead of me – one of those just before sunset glares.  There I was, suddenly unhappy.  I gripped the steering wheel and studied my wrists; And my mind conjured up this image of little droplets of deep red trickling down each.  I shuddered, shaking off the morbid vision and mashing the gas as the light turned green.

That evening, I felt a bit out of sorts. Where’d that thought come from? Was I so burdened by stress of money issues? By stagnation of my career? Or, more likely, by the desolving structure of my childhood family? Truth, I’d recently realized just how human a man I trusted was. And disappointments in his actions, his continuing lies, and his blatant rejection were fresh injuries to my spirit. But I shouldn’t have been thinking about slit wrists and endings.

I scrolled through my newsfeed. Facebook nonsense, as usual, was mundane and trivial.  And then I saw a link to a newspaper article. My graduate school classmate turned friend turned colleague had been found dead. The report said she’d committed suicide. I let out a cry and tried to stifle my quickly intensifying sobs.

She’d been a distant friend – or acquaintance,  even – as our families had increased and our jobs evolved. Nevertheless,  every time we saw on some another, we’d take a few seconds to smile, compliment,  promise to meet for longer.  I had a standing invitation for her fantastic Austrian coffee and easy, welcome conversation. Then rumors began. Then assumed truths, accusations. There were articles, evening news reports, and speculation. Somewhere in the madness I faltered.  I didn’t call to offer comfort, didn’t email a quick “you’re in my prayers.”  Privately I worried about the woman I’d known and publicly I spoke concern for her young children, the elder of which who had so happily played with mine.  I wondered, no, I still wonder what actually happened.

I’ve thought a lot about that awful moment in my van. About my children without me. They’re resilient,  they’d move on. They would enjoy productive,  happy lives. Someone else would take my place at their important events, would console them in sadness and disappointments,  would cheer them on in daily tries and triumphs. I’d be a memory. It wouldn’t be enough for me.

On Monday,  I celebrated my 35th birthday. I embraced getting older. I reflected on changes I’d like to make. I evaluated my goals, determined which to tweak and which to let go.

And I resolved to live, even as reports about Robin Williams taking his own life began to take over the day.

Calling out

“Mom? Can we take a trip again when everyone is gone; just me, you, and Laura? ” he asks timidly. To speak it louder than a whisper would certainly draw unwanted, non-physical but equally painful abrasion from the excluded. Underlying his request is several years of feeling displaced in his own family, in his home.

No one said it’d be easy. No one warned me that he’d suffer from this merger.

My baby boy, no longer a baby at just shy of six, lashes out. He’s increasingly more volatile – the great debater on all miniscule factoids. He makes demands. He interrupts, imposing his presence in every conversation. He makes me frustrated; so frustrated that sometimes I just have to separate from him.
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My boy. The one who introduced himself to me unexpectedly.  The baby Doc said I shouldn’t carry to term because of some fluke condition a test said he possessed. My tiny, skinny son born weeks ahead of what I was certain was his due date. My screamer who couldn’t eat without the pain of reflux. My water baby. My chubby cheeked, kiss – loving gentleman. My co-sleeping, extended nursing babe. My child with the wisdom of one far older, but without the foresight of action’s effect.

At each meal, he insists, “I’m sitting next to mom.”

He randomly inquires about the  possibility of Mommy and Me days.
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He imparts himself in conversation with frequent, repetitive interjection. It’s important,  his persistence insists, and critical to present discussion

He endures possessive interference from his little sister (who borrows his “guys!?!” label as a sibling call all).

And he waits endlessly for a chance to cuddle – to just sit next to me silently present.

“Please can I sleep on your floor? Dad’s not going to hug you no more. He’s got all the time. I only got snuggle time for like an hour. Why can’t he sleep in his man cave?” he begs, boomeranging into my room 18 minutes past our first goodnight hug and kiss. 

Reluctantly,  I send him away. He hugs me tight and I kiss his forehead. He smells of my perfume, having fiddled with the bottle on my dresser and shot the potent mist all over. I reiterate my promise to photograph his Lego creation in the morning.

My heart aches for him. I don’t know how to stretch my time. I pray he doesn’t condemn me as a mom failure with evidence of my shortcomings. He is a critical piece of my heart.

I hear the familiar mantra echo in my head, ‘Actions speak louder…’

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