Few bear witness to power within Black girls. Even very few celebrate it too. Yet black girls who are celebrated today, will be celebrated tomorrow and always. Today, I celebrate my daughter. She shared papers she received from school today. One after the other, they showed how terrific she was, whether with geography or spelling or basic reading. She was delighted to share her scores. I told her I was proud but better yet, I asked her how she felt. Her response: While she was taking these tests she was nervous. But now, she felt good about the scores because they show how she overcame her fears. As I listened to her, I was suddenly in awe of her intense awareness of fear and how to overcome them. She is only 9. Yet, this inward realization of her strength as applied to the outward celebrations of her tenacity is a treasure that surely must be supported at all cost, protected too. For black girls who know they are terrific today, will surely be legendary tomorrow. Keep being terrific my child.
My son has begun to leave traces of his drawings and coloring everywhere. He loves drawing these days because Mo Whilems taught him how to draw a pigeon trying to drive a bus. He also loves coloring because alpha blocks are zesty and full of colors. They taught him how to color within alphabet known as blocks. It’s as if he has begun an endless hunger for art. But it’s his art assignment at school that has me mesmerized this morning. Coloring or drawing didn’t come naturally or easy to him. Here is a boy for whom coloring between the lines or within spaces was a chore. There were assignments full of coloring that he never really completed, never really understood, and saw as a waste of time, if as things to assign. The colors he placed rather haphazardly disturbed nothing, moved nothing too. From then on, coloring became a chore, another thing to do, another thing, often described as boring, this thing that we bore into him.
Until this summer, our summer of light, our summer full of discoveries. It was this summer, one with no therapy, that my son discerned for himself, the intimate sustained surrender to art for art’s sake. In the absence of demands, through frames that are separate, yet particular, a pigeon, alphablocks, and now the Virgin Mary, this thing that was once boring, complements his minds’s many dazzling ways, deepening an enduring desire to do more, be more, involved yes, but consumed more with what he creates with his own hands. A pigeon, alpha blocks, even the Virgin Mary all pry open the pages of his intriguing mind. His art, has become now, more important, than his silence, more important than days where his mind frays or melts down. This is a keep worth reliving over and over again, one where his art is becoming life, one frame at a time.
I asked him, why he even painted Virgin Mary brown. Most depictions are of a fair lady, fairer than the white of snow. His is only 7 years and I am fascinated with how he depicts humanity. His response as clear as a sunny day: because she is supposed to be brown. I don’t take this response lightly. His mind is a puzzling masterpiece to all of us that know him intimately. To see this journey, to watch as he follows his path, through art, through colors, through people, is to see possibilities with minds on a spectrum. All of us that are typical have so much to learn from children on the spectrum, whether from their thoughts on pigeons, or alpha blocks or Virgin Mary. Don’t wait for society to tell us how they should act or speak or even react to ways that are untypical to a typical mind. Each of us are destined to use the skills we have to meet minds that dream of days were dreaming is life’s streaming, this beaming in need of more esteeming. I am learning each day that those of us with the privilege to see how the brain works differently are the lucky ones. How each coloring, each drawing becomes a thing worth keeping is my prayer for you, for me, a desire for what to come when we all keep coloring. Keep it, because it’s what you, we, are all supposed to do.
My daughter wrote a poem about our world. A simple poem about so many wonderful things to see, whether day or night. Like birds who chirp or flowers that sway. Next to tall trees, or beneath blue skies. Day time has wonders for all to see, she notes. But night time too, with a big moon and stars that twinkle or owls that stare wisely, are just as brilliant as the day. Wolves howling to the moon or the color of the night, like day, even night she notes, has many wonders of its own. It’s simple and from her childlike mind. This simplicity, written on wide-ruled paper with blue ink, personifies the mood I’m in these days. No need for noise. No need to an audience too. Simple will do. Like day and night. Simple has wonders, if only we stop to see it. It’s my keep for today and always. Keep simple, my daughter’s gift to me and it’s many wonders to see.
We survived week 1. One full week of school. One full week of lunch packs. One full week of homework. One full week of early morning wakes; 6:30am. One full week of early bedtimes; 8:30pm. One full week of mask wearing. One full week of non stop questions. One full week of stopping to ask questions. One full week of endless days. One full week of mindless haze. I still wouldn’t trade it for anything, not even homeschooling. To be back full time is blissful. Our children need schools. You need to wear your masks and vaccinate so they have endless days of school.
We have been experience very hot summer days. 100 degrees hot. We stayed indoors. Stayed closed together too. My boys love outdoors. Jumping on their blue trampoline is one of their favorite things to do. All of that came to a halt the past few days. Staying cool inside the house was all they could do. Until this afternoon. My daughter has the bright idea of using our sprinklers to stay cool. Against my better judgement, I agreed. The water was cool. Their peals of laughter, even soothing with our new found tool . I was pleasantly surprised. Even sprinklers on a hot day works. It’s kept the kids cool, kept them dancing too. Kept me cool, dancing too, as I watched the joy in their eyes and feet. Keep dancing with sprinkling water.
They were on the floor. All three brothers, head to head. Sister was in the room with her piano teacher Ms. Neva mastering the twinkling star, wondering what it was. I looked at the boys wondering why the floor. They rolled around and around, laughing and smiling away. Shining brightly too like rare diamonds on the ground. They twisted and turned, and twisted some more, oblivious to the dirt all around them, oblivious to the sounds of my pleas too. The ground was all they wanted. Getting up from it was all I wanted.
So I tried to pull them up from the ground, one by one. They all went back to the ground after each successful attempt. I kept pulling them away, trying not to lose my temper or my mind. I was afraid of the ground, afraid they would hurt themselves, afraid that they too would hurt the ground. The carpet was light brown. They are children, boys too. I hate dirt on carpets, on lightly colored ones, or any colorless one. They love dirt, big or bright, dark or small. Any that will make you curse under your breath. It’s the reason why we have no carpets in our home. We just removed the beige ones that came with the home we bought. The carpet lasted 20 years or so prior to our ownership. With us, my boys and their love for red volcanic experiments or any colorful merriment, it lasted 2 days.
Carpets aside, we are still in a pandemic. If you believe the virus is airborne, then chances are that no child should lay on the ground. Yet, my boys adored the ground. Laid on it too, like it was the finest of cottons. After my pleas to get up fell on deaf ears, I paused and looked at them, looked at the ground too with intent. I took in the moment, took in the laughter, took in the love fully on display. No wonder they were oblivious to my pleas. In life, we will pass through dirt, we may be on the ground too with dirt. Diamonds are all the time. But still, we can shine brightly even in the middle of all the dirt around us.
My boys taught me that, rolling and laughing on the ground. They call it black boy joy. I call it love. To see it on full display among boys oblivious to the dirt around them, oblivious to the ground, oblivious to the world, is breathtakingly magical. We need more love. Here, they are oblivious to the world. Here, they have defeated the world. Here, they have rolled away the ground. Here, they choose to listen to their laughter, listen to joyful sound. Here, they returned back to dirt, return back to earth. Here, they uncovered the beginning of knowledge. Here they use it to teach the power of love, the power of being loved. Here, they love, love and love, loves them too. Here, they love being together, laughing together too, even on the ground with dirt all around. Here, they love those around them, each other and that is all that matters. I will cherish this keep.
We started the new school year today. We started full of hope for what lies ahead. We expect the pandemic to continue raging on. We expect debates on mask wearing to keep waging on too. While, I am so glad homeschooling has finally come to an end, I remain apprehensive as the pandemic isn’t coming to an end. I also wonder whether this is the right thing to do for kids who expect us to keep then safe till the end. My kids were happy to be back to school. Most parents I watched were too, part happy, part longing for them to remain close by, but thankful they are also gone. My daughter talked about butterflies in her stomach for the new school year. There were butterflies and balloons on school grounds welcoming them back to school. The pandemic took a lot from them last year. Here is to hoping for brighter days ahead, gentler days too. One that will allow our children to remain children, despite this never ending pandemic.
My daughter got a very intricate dragon kite for her birthday last month. It was complex to me. It has 2 large green and black wings. Four long red ribbons lined the 2 edges of the wings. There were black wires that one had to put end to end so the wings stood in place. All of this were attached to a long white rope that kids can use to fly the kite in the sky. I assembled the kite for them awhile back. At least I managed to put the black wires end to end so the wings can stay in place. That was all I could do. I tried to unruffled the rope so they could fly the kite but to no avail. All my attempts meant that nothing flew in the end. Not the dragon nor it’s lavish red ribbons. That is until this morning.
I watched from the window as my daughter and her brothers took a stab at making the kite fly. They worked on the wings, fixed the dragons tail, even strung the rope as best as the could. Then she ran. My daughter ran and the kite, I couldn’t fly, flew right behind her. Her brothers were delighted. I was too amused. Here was a kite that I gave up trying to fly because it was to complex, but my kids didn’t give up. They tried and tried until they got the outcome they wanted. Which is my keep for today is to remember being child-like as you soar or fly your kites.
Whereas I gave up, because it was too complex and intricate, my kids didn’t. They stood up to the challenge and learnt something in return; that they are at very center, the very heart of all the possibilities that resides in them, all the boldness too. They instinctively gravitate towards problems, those great and small, those within that capacity to solve and those they barely know where to begin. They also collaborate or reach out to others for help. I watched as my sons stood patiently behind the dragon as my daughter made sense of the rope for flying. Her brothers fixed the green tail, the lavish red ribbons and were right behind her cheering her on as she took flight with the kite. Something about this moment made me realize that we are all part of something bigger when we open up to problems together. Also, we all need some of the energy and optimism of children. They boldly go where adults may fail to go and they never give up especially when things they love are involved.
This combination of possibilities and being bold, are fundamental life lessons that remain long after you pass through childhood. It’s also one of the greatest blessings I have as a black mother in light. Granted, there are days when giving up is necessary, a self-care remedy even, for a world so corrosive to our being. On those days, I am like myself when I tried to make sense of the kite. I’ll do my part, make sense of what I can, and let go of what I can’t. But on the days full of possibilities, days full of audacity, I am like my children and their dragon kite. I never give up. We give up at our cost. For I remember when flying kite was a child was magic. It’s probably the reason I buy kites every summer for them. A child’s ability to make sense of the kite, to watch as it rises up on wings, and soars through the wind, has always been powerful to me. I always felt alive, watching something we make fly. This question of being bold and knowing your possibilities is very important to me, and when you watch children, my children put it into practice, I am thankful. They helped me return to my childhood watching them fly their kite over and over again. I intend to remain like them as I fly my kite. The possibilities are endless indeed.
We went by water yesterday. My kids and I. Not a big water park as before. But a small indoor pool perfect for cooling down the rays of heat of a truly scorching summer.
I didn’t want to go. I still remember the meltdown from our prior excursion to a water park. I didn’t even bring out my green swimming suit. No need to swim when your mind and eyes need to stay alert. And I was prepared to stay alert this time around.
I spoke to my son with a gentle ease. I do it all the time too, eyes to eyes. He seemed to listen with ease, talking and repeating word for word like a gentle breeze. I told him we would go by water again and this time we will have a great time. I reminded him of the need to not cry. I took him to the side to quell all the noise I knew his brain was destined to make. Spoke power to him to overcome them, to enjoy being one with water, to look forward to the experience coming to an end too. I did all this because I didn’t want to end as we did the last time. I didn’t want eyes on us. I certainly didn’t want a meltdown like before. I still feel tense whenever I recall the experience. I also know he doesn’t mean it hence why I would still take him by water even though I know it may end badly.
We got dressed. He wore his favorite blue swimming shirt and pants. The words fortnite in a camo print were written on his shirt. Praying to not rewrite history still kept me alert. I watched as he gently made sense of all the water around him. I did so watching his other siblings too, better than any hawk would too. His sister went up and down a large yellow water slide. His little brother found joy up and down a red water slide. My son stood next to the water dripping down in a progressive style next to the water slide. The twirling water from little spouts seemed to make him joyful and surprisingly gentle.
He seemed happy to just watch water gush out of the spouts gently. Watching him watch water kept me in a state so gentle. Honestly words failed me. Here I was expecting the worse given our prior attempts at a water park that left me so drained. But he once more proved why children on the spectrum are truly divine by design. By the end of the day, approximately 20 minutes to my timed departure, when I said it’s time to leave, he asked if he could have one more turn on the silde. His response kept me stunned that all I could do was nod my head.
I watched as he went up and down the slide one more time, watched his face light up with joy one more time, saw as he came out of the pool with his brother and sister one more time, all with a gentle ease that kept me stunned for a long time. Here is truly my son, whose spectrum is perfect and by God’s design. I cannot fully make sense of the changes we go through with him all the time. But I am grateful to see the boy his is growing up to be one step at a time. Keep these gentle ease for kids like him. Great days are full of joy, full of ease, truly gentle, and all by design.
My awakening summer was 2020. Like the entire country, I was literally in labor. Something wonderful was born on this day, by 9am last year. We became parents to our fourth child. We call him Ranyenna. In Igbo, it means giving him back to God.
His hair was full, short, brown and crinkled. His eyes were big, brown and beautiful. They moved slowly to see this world we live in. His voice was tender, very mellow, very hush, except when he cried and only food, stopped all the fuzz. I imagine he was weary. I was too. The world was unfriendly and unkind, squeezing through my canal, equally unfriendly and unkind and he choose to make his arrival in the middle of a pandemic and a long overdue racial reckoning so unfriendly and unkind.
The times were changing but my baby was as beautiful as the setting sun. The loveliest thing about life, about love, was in my arms. I was prepared to protect him like an eagle. Nourish his being for he was regal. Watch him soar unfettered like a seagull. For he was mine to gaze and hold so dear. His entire being filled me with enormous pride. I too was prepared to say, here is my child, with whom my joy for life, cannot be denied.
Love was more than a four letter word, more than a feeling, more than I can even put to words. Love was him and together we were loved. To see a child pass through the different stages of becoming a being. To listen from the beginning and watch till the end for over 9months until they they make their arrival to this world defies words. I have been through this 3 times already, but everytime has a magic of its own and Ranyenna’s birth was no different.
I felt no pain, expect during the critical times of labor. I didn’t even know I was in labor. And people continue to underestimate my labor. We walked into the hospital the night before, with our masks on like never before. We were 2 days early. I felt contractions. They weren’t painful or I seem to know how to tolerate pain. My husband asked whether we should go check it out. I did so because he suggested. I felt completely fine. I left my purple hospital bag in my car. These were the terrible beginning months of the pandemic. I feared even my bag wasn’t safe on hospital grounds. I was taken to a room where the nurses started to check whether I was in labor or a false alarm. I was in labor, 4 cm dilated, and I didn’t even know.
They took us to a plain-colored room around 1am or so. I was curious about birth in a pandemic. I expected it to be surreal and unlike my other 3 births. It wasn’t, except for all the mask people wore around us. My husband and I wore no mask in our room. They put all their tubes, started epidural, and waited for labor to progress. I went to sleep. By morning, they broke my water. And my labor started in full force by 8:30 am on that fateful Wednesday morning and by 9am he made his arrival known.
My Ranyenna cried, piercing tears that were so melodic to my ears. Then he came straight to my body. Flesh for flesh, love for love, I held him completely mesmerized that he was mine. Completely in awe that I passed through the journey for the 4th time with no problems. I am the last person to ever share news of being pregnant. My mom once said that because pregnant women go through a journey called pregnancy, it’s best to keep mum about the journey until you become a mom. It has always been my philosophy to keep mum. Until they arrive.
With baby number 4, his arrival illuminated my spirit and set my world ablaze. My soul has been on fire ever since. Because of him, being fearless is all I know. You would too if you watched yourself give birth to a living being. It’s an out of body experience that I can never fully wrap my head around. This gift called motherhood. One that I will forever cherish because I am never overlooked. I struggle with that a lot. Struggle with when I should speak or stay silent. When I should lead or follow. Even when I should stifle my drive so others and their drive are not stifled. It’s a struggle I’ll admit that means women like me get overlooked and underestimated all the time.
But with my children, with my greatest treasures, with my profound creation, with my cup that overflows, I am looked at, with eyes that say I love you and words that speak it all the time. Love that knows no despair. Love as gentle as an evening prayer. Love that never wears or tears. Love that is always there. Love that allows me to go anywhere. Love that I will follow anywhere. Love that leads me anywhere. With them, I found strength for this thing called life. Their love is all I need to get by. Your love Ranyenna is all I need. Happy birthday my gift I gift back to my God always.