Thursday, February 16, 2006

Photos & Memories

While packing my life into boxes this morning, I ran across an old Polaroid of my father and me. We are posing with our arms around each other - my dad looking down at me as I'm smiling toward the camera.

Surprisingly, I could clearly remember being taken by a neighbor. My family was going to be leaving the area & the lady next door had snapped that photograph outside in our adjoined yards. I remember that the moving van had already been there since morning & that right after we had our picture taken, I'd asked my father for permission to to Burger King to meet up with my friends. It was the last time for a long that I would call him "Daddy."

Wow. Memories and feelings hit me so hard that I had to sit down in the middle of all my packing boxes. I just couldn't stop staring at the Polaroid. I was so young then, wearing that curly almost-fro that had been so popular. My dad - always so handsome - just looked proud to be my dad. As I studied that younger face of his in the photo, I forgot about the time later when he was so sick, his body wasting away to almost nothing from lymphoma.

In 1975, when I was fourteen, there was a period of about 4 months that I still have no idea how I survived.

My father's job had taken him out of the country & he was to be away for several months. In the meantime, I was went with my mother and siblings to live near Mama's family in a very small town in the lower part of the States.

Things "back home" were great at first. I was meeting "ainties," uncles, cousins and old family friends that had known my mother as a "little fast-assed gal." My brothers were having a good time. They discovered that small town girls are some of the prettiest in the world. They just had to be careful about not plucking any fruit from a limb on the family tree. (Did I say "family tree?" In that little town, we were part of an orchard. Not only do you have all the blood relatives, but you have to keep track of the "play" cousins and such. Or, as Mama warned the boys: "Be done messed around and got with Uncle Jo-Jo's daughter by Maybelle"...)

For the first time in my life, I had a little bit of freedom because Mama stopped being so strict about where I could go & who I could run with. It wasn't like I could go very far or do too much of anything without someone watching and ready to report back. Once, when Mama called a friend back in the old neighborhood, she bragged that in a small town kids could be kids. "Don't have to worry about them getting into too much trouble round here." She had no idea the things I would manage to get into.

Have you ever met the one person who you just knew was your soulmate? Did you know right away - or did it take a while? For me, as soon as I saw T, I knew. So did he.

T was my very first love. Even after 30 years of other people passing in and out of my life & breathing a little bit of who they are into my heart, no one but T has ever found their way into my soul and become part of me.

I looked back down at the Polaroid. About two weeks after we'd posed for the photo, my father had gone away on the overseas assignment. He divorced my mother and never came back to get us. He kept in touch with me and my brothers and sisters, but it was probably 3 years before I saw him again.

Almost 8 eight years after he'd divorced my mother, my father walked me down the aisle at my wedding. Somewhere in a packing box there is another photograph of the two of us - him in a too-big tux & me in my wedding gown. We were grinning about something as the picture was snapped. I can't remember exactly what I said to make him smile, but I remember that I called him "Daddy."


I'm listening to:

"Never Gonna Let You Go" (Blackstreet)
"Pata Pata" (Miriam Makeba)

Words for today:

"Love is not subject to the laws of time, space, or matter."
(Free 11/2005)

Mammy-made Rant (Pt II)

He who does not understand your silence will probably not understand your words.(Elbert Hubbard)
You guys know by now that I like quotes & that one is one of my favorites. It's also a perfect start for the continuation of my previous post.
After our little falling-out, G (GWA - Girlfriend W/Attitude) and I fell back in - just like we always do. We pitch our little fits because our personalities make us almost complete opposites. BUT G & I will probably always be friends.
That's what I was thinking about when she called me up on Valentine's Day. She was at work. I was at home (and attempting to pack since I'm supposed to be headed to another state in a few weeks). I was busy, frustrated, and surrounded by my life separated into piles of "To Be Sold," "To Be Stored," "To Be Shipped," and "To Be Trashed." I snatched up the ringing phone without checking Caller ID, just ready to take out some of my stress on a telemarketer. The minute I heard G's voice, I forgot everything else. My G was having a crisis.
Like I said, she was at work & she was surrounded by other females who were all cooing over their delivered flowers, candy, and other Valentine's Day loot. Meanwhile, no deliveries had come for her. Not even one of those sweetheart phone calls that can have you floating through the rest of your day. G said that she'd even tried calling her boyfriend to see if he'd gotten the gift she'd sent (a cologne set), but he was either not at work or the receptionist was lying for him. He wasn't answering his home or cell phone either.
Talk about a crisis.
It's bad enough to be single & have to deal with Valentine's Fever at work, but when you're part of a couple... Wow.
Anyway, G and I (always at our best in a crisis) handled the situation. I ordered a delivery of what had to be the last flowers in the state, and when they arrived at G's office, she called me up and talked in such a way that everyone within earshot thought she was thanking someone named "Baby" and "Honey." After work, she came by with wine and cheesecake & we had a great time applauding our combined genius. Her heart & pride was pretty beat up, but I was able to make her smile.
And that's how female friendships survive. Most women don't bond easily with other females, but when we do bond, it's almost unbreakable. This is what I was thinking about as G and I finished the second bottle of wine. And I started thinking that if women had the same criteria for the men we let into our lives as we do for our girlfriends, we'd probably save ourselves a lot of heartache.
I explained this theory to G in that mellow and deeply philosophical way of a person not used to drinking so much wine. G - just as drunk as I - understood me perfectly. We discussed it for a while and I came up with a list of "Relationship Declarations":
I am what I am. I cannot & will not fake being some fantasy woman out of your unrealistic dreams. That's not consistent, healthy, or sane.
You is what you is. Relax and be yourself. I might not like everything about the "real" you, but at least I'll know what I'm getting. I can work with that.
Life is what it is. Life is not going to be one long, perfect, moonlit date with a Grammy-winning soundtrack playing in the background of our relationship. We have to be able to get through the good days and bad.
I finished ticking off these points, then looked over to see if there was anything G wanted to add. I guess not. She was sprawled across my sofa, dead to the world & probably dreaming about killer cheesecakes going after her now ex-boyfriend.
I pulled a blanket out of the "To Be Shipped" pile and draped it over her. When I stumbled to bed, I remained conscious long enough to thank God for the girlfriends in my life. Girlfriends who understand my silence and my words - even when I get on one of my mammy-made rants.
My words for today:
"If man & woman could switch places for a day, woman would explore the mind & man would explore the body." (Free 2/2006)
Listening to:
"You" (Earth, Wind & Fire - from the album "Love Songs")