wide open spaces
She carefully watches everything in her household and suffers nothing from laziness. Her children stand and bless her. Her husband praises her: “There are many virtuous and capable women in the world, but you surpass them all.”
Proverbs 31: 27-29
Before the rooster crowed one summer morning, Nada/Mommie, removed all the furniture from her living room and arranged it just so out on the front lawn. Sofas, side tables, lampshades and all were perfectly set across the padded carpeted front lawn as if she was the stylist staging a pictorial for Better Homes and Gardens magazine.
I must have been about your age, Snicks. But, time wrinkles just like Madeleine L’Engle wrote, and it goes to other dimensions when balance is missing for far too long. So, when did this happen? I can’t confirm the year for sure. But I can tell you that rarely did my mother ever pull the shades down or lock the doors. It wasn’t unusual for my mother to turn our whole world upside down, open all our secrets and dump them all out like she was tidying a junk drawer.
So we, all her children, learned to live our lives out in the wide and open. This is what you do when you have a psychotic mother who refuses to hide. Somehow—call it “God’s how”—we all still truly loved her because say what you will, your grandmother was a spectacular, marvelous, exceptional, luminous—albeit psychotic woman.
Nadia, my sweet, last Monday when I picked you up from school, you couldn't tell, but it'd been for me an astonishing—if not downright terrifying—day. I'd launched my blog, this blog. Even as I drove us home, my hands were sweaty and trembling against the steering wheel. And as I drove, you shared your day and it'd been awful—a test, a speech, two quizzes, all done against the back story of you just trying to exist as best you could in a very unforgiving system of adolescent injustice. It's a crime, child, what they put you through. I really meant it every single time when I agreed that yes, once again you'd won for “worst day ever.” I wouldn't Freaky Friday with you for all the blessings left in the whole wide world. I'm 48. It's taken me almost 50 years to be able to look myself straight in the mirror. I couldn't ever bear to go back, not even just to briefly visit my tighter, shinier, smoother, perkier 15-year-old self. If ever given the choice, I'll choose the wrinkles and the cellulite, and the "Oh my, what the heck is that and when'd it get there?” over all my days of youth and beauty, every single time. I might not ever have that feeling of being the prettiest, finest thing in the room another day of my life. But, praise God, at least I know exactly who I am in the room and why I chose to be there.
This—this blog, my baby—were you glad for me? You said so and I think you meant it. But when I asked if you'd visited the site just to see it (cause it sure is pretty) you quietly and strangely said, "ummmm... no. Not yet." Then, you opened the laptop with a lot less confetti tossed into the air than I'd thought you'd have for it, for me. I'd finally done the thing I'd been talking about doing for practically the whole of your existence. I'd done it for me and for you and because I feel it's what God created me to do—but mostly I did for you and all I got was… crickets.
It's been a few days, and in hindsight I can clearly see that I'd expected way too much. As I said earlier, let's just agree that for a few more years you will more than likely win “worst day ever” time and time again. Being young ain't for the fainthearted. That's why you have the stamina and metabolism to bear it. And now THIS—your kooky mama who actually knows the songs that are being played overhead in the grocery store and sings and dances to them because she claims that every single one "was my jam back in the day" has now created a blog about us being black. And she named it “Black Coffee with White Friends.” Just when you thought it was safe to go outside, my darling.
I swear, I have no idea when I got so outdated or so outspoken or so weird. I can see that to you my "me-ness" is like a triggered lethal weapon loaded with bullets of embarrassment. I can totally see that dang it, I’m my mother setting out all the living room furniture on the front lawn, but without a proper diagnosis!
Can I just say—well, okay I'm just gonna go ahead and say: I know it's weird and I know it's much and I know I’ve taken a big yellow highlighter to your most tender parts. I’ve circled in red ink the obvious thing that you’d rather keep unsaid and hidden. But I'm hedging bets that someday you will be glad that it’s here. Until then, my unsolicited advice to you is just to let me have this one. Let this thing just be mine. I’m telling you it will be better for you if you can just learn to sleep with all our shades up and all our windows open. If you're ever asked by your friends about this lil' old blog that will reach my lil' tiny circle of followers, I give you permission to shrug me off as your weird mom who you've tried to control as best you could. I will compromise when I roll up in the school’s carpool lane by promising to stay inside the car with the windows rolled up.
But this blog? I’m compelled to do this, my sweet. I guess I’m as compelled to do this as my mother was compelled to rise before the sun and shake out our whole house. Then, pleased with herself, sat on the sofa with her bare feet grazing the grass as she drank her morning cup of coffee and waved at all our neighbors peeking from behind closed shades watching it all.
I have no apologies or any more explanation than to plead complete madness, Snicks. I confess that one day I too rose before the dawn and shook our whole house out.