the sun and the moon love each other

“I see the moon and the moon sees me. God bless the moon and God bless me.” Anonymous 

The sun and the moon love each other. They spend their days and nights caring for the light with a chorus line of stars. One night, I saw them together.  

That was the night we named Mommie “Wild Thing!”, because she got into one kind of mischief, and then another.

And those grown people who were afraid she’d make good on her threats to cut them up, fled. “Wild Thing!” Leaving me, a child, to tame her, bring her back to her senses when she locked us up in the deep, dark, back room of the house—just us two. Wild Thing and her cub. Mothers are beautifully ferocious, the most ferocious of them all.

But how to tame them? Where to start? 

That night when Mommie told us they were coming, none of us bothered to ask her, “They? Who?” There was never any “they”, and all the family, friends and neighbors knew it. But Mommie didn’t. She was expecting her dangerous thoughts to rise from their graves, moving in zombie formation, shuffling to our front door to rip it off at any moment. Wild Thing!

It was the summer 1972. No air conditioners, only box fans trading swamp heat for brief tropical rains. There was no relief in sight. You could fry an egg on the blacktop. Cleveland’s Channel 5 news had done so. We were all amazed. Was the whole world exploding? The entire country had gone mad. The lunatics had been released from the asylum, or so that’s what Mommie implied. “You know what happened in that movie? Those hillbillies that salaciously desecrated those men to utter ruin? I don’t know why anyone would want to pay to see it. Believe me, that stuff is true. It’s not just President Nixon and white boys down south who do unthinkable things. Nowhere is sacred.” Wild Things know everything. 

But that’s the thing about Wild Things—they open their mouths in a silent mewl. Their words hit soft like daggers released from velveted paws. That’s when all the adults who never had any place to go suddenly had business to tend to. “Well, Nada, I was just stopping by…” and “I sho’ would love to stay for dinner, but…” Some just say, “I think I’ll just come back when you’re feeling better, Nada.” To which Mommie grinned and replied, “I feel just fine.” The smoke from her cigarette encircled her head like a mane. Wild Thing!

“Legend has it that the moon is a woman,” Mommie told me. “She’s black as you and me, baby.” 

“Is she mad, Mommie?” I asked. 

Her thoughts turn the question over. There’s a slight pause. “Well, she ain’t happy, baby. But she sure is pretty.”

Mommie closes us into the back room of the house. She looks around a minute, taking a quick survey of our hideout. It was her room, just like it was her house and just like I was her baby. It looked just like her, unusually pretty, like a serpent with scales made of feathers. She had painted all four walls a thick forest green and then tiled them with album covers, like pavers marching to the ceiling. The round bed was completely unexpected, a splurge, and, like herself, extravagant. The desk and chair set was blessed with her own personal touch, a coat of chartreuse paint given like a gift from the top of a Christmas wishlist. It was as if it was exactly what it longed for. She added a matching hutch. Which wasn’t overkill, but you could tell she was making a point: Everything is fiercely and wonderfully made. And who in that room didn’t fall in love with my mother? 

Tucked in that back room, the air permeated with her sweat and paranoia. She removed the chrome lid from the standing ashtray and relieved herself into its leather cylinder. Wild Thing! All this because, “they’re coming,” she reminded me.

No one but Sister Moon could save us. When all the lights go out and every one rolls and shuts their eyes on you, she won’t turn tail. When you mark your territory, she has the decency to briefly look away. Wild Things stick together.

The LORD is Your Protector. The LORD stands by your side, shading and protecting you. The sun cannot harm you during the day and the moon cannot harm you at night.

My mother should have know this, wild as she was. Like Harriet Tubman, she should have known that every 29 days, when the moon covers the the sun, impossible things are newly attainable. But you gotta make a run for it. Move while the sky lovers are too enamored of each other to notice you shifting the darkness. The sun and the moon remind us that, though rested, God never gets a wink of sleep. So go! Run!

When I was little I was terrified of the dark. My response was apparently comical to my older siblings, teens who knew that the dark was the least of our problems. To prove it, they pushed me and my sister into closets, deep tunnels lined with monsters. When we emerged, freed into the snickering, glowing lamplit room, I didn’t think it was funny. Hadn’t they noticed that it was still black as night outside? 

What if the moon is the literal light on our paths? What if its light was the literal tracks of the underground railroad? Or maybe it really is just another curious thing, smiling like the Mona Lisa, giving us nothing but something to look at, something to which Wild Things can direct their howls? 

Locked in that back room with my mother, “Wild Thing!”, and waiting for her phantoms to come, I prayed for morning to beat them to the door already. After all, wouldn’t it have been better if she’d been right and they had come? Wouldn’t it have been better if we were all wrong and she wasn’t crazy? Only the moon would know, and she wasn’t about to say anything.

They never come. 

So, how do you tame your mother? How do you soothe her terrible roars, her gnashing teeth and her terrible claws? 

Wild Thing! Oh, how I loved her so. 

What do you do when her wild rumpus starts and she makes mischief of one thing and then another?

That very night in the back room, a forest grew and grew until the ceiling hung with vines of my pleas and vows to be more a perfect child that didn’t provoke her. The walls lined with the watchful eyes of Marvin Gaye, Sister Sledge, Curtis Mayfield, Aretha and all the rest became the world all around, my cloud of witnesses, a chorus of amens. And an ocean of moonlight tumbled through the high windows to listen to my private conversation with God: “Lord, what should I do?”

I waited nights and days, in and out of weeks and years and years for an answer. But the moon and the sun danced on.

I was alone, so lonely. I wanted to be where someone loved me best of all. But, like the curated chartreuse desk and chair set, I belonged to her, a fearfully and wonderfully little cub. Cradled in her room beneath the new moon, I waited for “them”, the zombies, the terrible beasts, the police, the sun— anyone—to come. 

Marcie Walker