I would not ever tell anyone that I’ve not lived a privileged life. I did not grow up wealth or what this world calls privilege; no, my privilege has been much more than money could buy. Until becoming a full time wife and mother, I’ve gone where I’ve wanted, tried what I’ve wanted, lived where I’ve wanted, done what I’ve wanted, and shared what I’ve wanted. I have been supported by my family with resources and wisdom and grace and mercy. I have been given leeway to search for the existential things that consume me with little interference beyond a few questions and complaints. My mother and my grandmother and aunt raised me like that. Free. I had structure, but they honored my oddness in ways that I try to replicate with my own children–morals but opportunity to explore what those meant for me. Rules but opportunity to understand how those applied to me. Boundaries but opportunities to see if those worked for me.
In the midst of being consumed of airy-fairy ideals, I came into a life that jarred me from my pursuit. I wanted what I got; I just did not know what I was getting or the cost of getting it. How marriage tethers; how parenting depletes. How the world sees me in harsh strokes of blackness; how the would-be lightness of my womanhood gets turned down so men can shine. I look back at my upbringing and marvel at the freedom afforded me by working class black women living in the middle of nowhere Mississippi, sheltered from the soul crush of racism and sexism by their wings and all the wings of the people they screened then allowed into my little airy-fairy bubble. They protected me. And somehow keep on protecting me as much as they can…as my secretive, enclosed self might allow.
A miracle. Yet one that keeps on giving.
As I have grown up and gotten older, I replay the words of the women in my life. I see the warnings that I took for meanness, hear the wisdom that I took for fussiness. I replay those words and moments like soundtracks to my life, the songs always full of the refrain of “don’t lose yourself; take care of yourself; you are your best thing; your girls need you.”
Your girls need you.
Black girls need black women who know this. Who know how to shelter and provide freedom at the same time. Who open doors, but before opening doors give advice in words of warning and pray for your soul long after you’ve run through to the other side. Who sings songs meant for you, scrub floors and think good thoughts toward you. Offer up alms of cakes and pies and pot roasts and give thanks for you. Who bother God on your behalf, keening for mercy on you no matter what you do. Who will still smack the shit out of you because they wanna do it before you get out in the world and the world does it out of sadism. Who sacrifice themselves for you to live abundantly.
I’m a few moons off of turning the corner of 40 years old, a marker in the black community of grown. Invisible mantels are being passed to me every day. My great grandmothers are dead. Many of the mentors and benefactors of my youth have passed on. My grandmother and great aunt are old. My mother and aunt have begun to turn inward. The reigns are slowly, slowly being passed to me. The bloodstained banner has become mine. To pray forward prayers. To protect what does not know it needs protecting yet. To sing songs over the girls in rejoicing. To lift my voice in love peppered with fussing and favor.