Silence brings clarity if you search hard enough Continue reading
Silence brings clarity if you search hard enough Continue reading
My ongoing journey throughout life has taught me a great many things; often it has shown me to be naïve about a multitude of issues, much to my dismay. Thanksgiving is one those instances that has always driven my naiveté home for me, in that I took the affinity I had for it for granted.
Thanksgiving was always my favorite time of year, not because of the opportunity to have a couple of days off from school, but because I would get to see a large swath of both sides of my family. I never subscribed to the mythology of the Thanksgiving holiday, as it was always about the camaraderie of family for me.
On Thursday morning I would awaken to the rustling of my little sisters watching TV downstairs, the droning sound of snoring in unison, complements of my brothers and Dad filling the hallway and the purposeful clattering of my Mother in the kitchen preparing a couple of her trademark dishes for the festivities of the day. I knew that I had to shower before anyone else had the inkling to commandeer the bathroom. Because once my Mother finished cooking and everyone got cleaned, preened and pressed that we were headed out the door for our first stop which was my paternal Grandmother’s house.
When we pulled up and made our way up to the house, I could always count on my Grandma meeting us at the door to shower me and my siblings with hugs and kisses, as I think back I remember that she would always make me feel as if I comprised the center of the Universe. She would take our coats and we would make our way into the house where my aunts, uncles and cousins were scattered about. The prerequisite “Soul Train” line of hugs and kisses were a given before I could even begin to wrap my mind around the concept of stuffing my face.
Being privy to the conversations that were being held by everyone throughout the house was truly magical and at a young age I thoroughly enjoyed it, although I don’t remember the confines of many of the conversations but it was the torrential laughter and the joy it filled me with that I remember the most. This was the one of the few times that everyone would be in one place and we always made sure that we made up for the prior months that were missed.
After a couple hours we would don our coats to make our way to my paternal Great Aunt’s house, accordingly we went through the “Soul Train” line of hugs and kisses just as we did when we entered and piled into the car to make our way across Chicago and into the western suburbs where my Mother’s side of the family were congregated. This segment of my family was a little bit larger and was comprised of more children, but the “Soul Train” line was still a prerequisite for entrance.
We rung the doorbell and whoever was closest to the door would answer. As we filed in cigarette smoke would be wafting through the air, the booming voices of my Great Aunts and Uncles playing cards in the back of the house were unmistakable in their intensity; as was the infectious laughter of my BigMomma as they regaled each other with stories from their childhood; the sight of my cousins positioned around the dinner table with their faces smeared with food spoke the unmistaken language of love and our gazes of affinity were met with their smiles.
I was quick to make a beeline to the kitchen to make a plate so that I could join the fraternity of the smeared faces, but not without going through the “Soul Train” line. The laughter that reverberated throughout the house was nothing short of intoxicating and we would pick up where we left off last without skipping a beat, with the football game blaring from the TV in the living room this always felt like a slice of heaven. I always remembered wishing that I could make time come to a standstill, but time marched on without any acknowledgement of my futile desire.
Being surrounded by my family as always provided a center of stability that I am still able to carry with me, these were people who I may not have seen eye to eye with, but the power of our familial bonds superseded those differences, making them inconsequential. The holiday and the memories of holidays past only make the affinity and the love that I harbor for them grow in influence and nothing can take that away from me.
I always operated under the assumption that family was something that that everyone cherished until that fallacy came crashing down on top of me. As I started to make the acquaintance of people that expressed dislike, indifference or even hatred for their family it was nothing short of earth shattering for me.
And it would appear that retailers are uniquely poised to take advantage of this dysfunction, with stores open on Thanksgiving to entice people to save a couple dollars off of merchandise that was relentlessly marked up in the first place, instead of being those who are most dear to them.
Nowadays the segmentation of the family unit seems as if it is the norm, rather than it being the exception, especially when one considers the not-so subtle encroachment of retailers, maybe I am the exception in thinking that this is distastefulness at its best. Perhaps it is the concept of Thanksgiving that is being turned on its head; maybe it is the retailers that are more thankful of the prospect of turning a profit than people have of being thankful for the notion of family.
Nowadays it seems that madness is the norm, rather than the exception.
My Grandmother had a saying that she relayed to my Dad when he was a child and in turn he relayed it to me and my siblings.
“It starts at home and spreads abroad.”
This was often the opening to one of his many lectures, driven home with the authority of the Almighty Belt …
I didn’t appreciate the power of these words until I was much older.
My Dad was more apt to bellow his lectures rather than saying it in a conversational tone. I believe it was his contention that he had to project his voice for effect.
Often, I felt as if his words were being embedded in my bone marrow with the resounding thud of each syllable.
He was always reading something and he would weave the material into whatever narrative that fit the situation.
His discourse often left me puzzled, because at 5 years old I had the faintest idea of what “recalcitrant” meant, but I nodded as if I understood. I learned early on that if I looked as I didn’t understand what my Dad was saying, he would make me look it up in the dictionary along with a demand that the words be used in a sentence to ensure that I comprehended it for next time.
For some reason my older brothers did not have to endure the literary punishments that my Dad meted out to me.
Like clockwork, I would trudge off into the corner to harness the words bouncing around in my head before left for work, which was always promptly at 9:15pm.
One exercise that I particularly hated was writing “I will be intelligent” 100 times on college ruled paper.
It had to be properly spaced and legible or he would make me start over; often my tears dotted the paper because my fingers would be sore from trying to mimic the shape of the words as I saw it in the books.
I was convinced that my Daddy was the meanest man in Chicago, but I kept those blasphemous thoughts in the darkest recesses of my mind because I didn’t have any words for that.
I hated going into the corner of the living room with the World Book Encyclopedias and the Childcraft books with a passion, but had I known that words would save my life and ultimately fill me with purpose would I have been more appreciative?
He often told me and my brothers “You’ve got to set an example for each other” this mandate was mainly directed at them in lieu of my being the youngest son.
In retrospect it was very insightful of my Dad, because I was always watching my brothers, always recording what I bore witness and storing it into my mental database.
And it is that mandates are a scary thing. Because a mandate is a authoritative order or command and often we shirk away from commands because of the intimidation factor that they pose.
But can it be said that it is just as intimidating to give an mandate as it is to be issued one?
Perhaps this is the conundrum that society finds itself in …
Fathers and mandates seem to be in short supply with the bellow and the belt being a relic of a bygone era.
As a grown man, I can look back with clarity on years that have elapsed and for the life of me, I am at a loss as to what thought process was running through my head as a child.
Many people reflect back on their respective childhoods with recollections of the difficulties that they burdened their parents with, I’m no different in that respect but I am inclined to think that the Lord was truly looking out for me in the blessing that he provided in the guise of my Mother.
As I reflect on the person that my Momma is on her birthday, I am hard pressed on what I did to deserve to be the child of such a blatantly unselfish person. More often than not when I was growing up, I took the litany of sacrifices that she made on the behalf of me and my siblings for granted.
To say that I was a bad kid; would be the understatement of the century, but through it all she never gave in to the chorus of those who would brand me as an irredeemable wild child to be thrown on the proverbial trash heap. Despite all of the conferences with the teachers, principals and the countless disciplinary issues that I dropped at her feet, she was unflinching in relaying the belief that she harbored in me.
My Momma always provided me with unconditional love; the means to pick myself up; fight the good fight and to believe in myself despite the obstacles arrayed in my path. It was her stubborn belief that eventually rubbed off on me, that enabled me to push back the veil of anger, disillusionment and indifference to take the steps toward justifying the faith that she held in me.
Her actions speak to something stronger than simple love, as what I was shown was nothing short of unconditional love, a force that can vanquish anything in its path.
I wish you the Happiest of Birthday’s with the realization that words cannot do justice for what you have unselfishly given me, I love you unconditionally!
This picture sums up the week I spent on the Big Island.
Awe inspiring; breathtaking, invigorating and reflective are some of the adjectives that come to mind.
In retrospect, I was lost but was able to find myself here, but up to this point I was shamefully oblivious to the fact that I’ve been wasting my time. As Hawaii was quick to show herself as an environment that is purely conducive to a being the writer that I’ve been suppressing for longer than I care to admit.
Sometimes it takes a proverbial kick in the pants to reorient yourself back to the things that are truly important, being cognizant of what gives you JOY, rather than doing something that takes JOY from you.
Realizing that I was wasting my time was one thing, but knowing the necessary steps to employ in regaining the steering wheel of my life was another thing altogether.
This reality weighed heavily on me, because not knowing that you are lost, is tantamount to being in prison with time ceasing to be that essential element that adds urgency to the fruition of goals, but goals be damned; I have mandates…
The spirit of Hawaii was just what my soul needed, as I found myself in a perpetually good mood,
with the toxicity of my 12 to 14 hour work days falling away like the layers of an onion. It wasn’t long before I realized that I didn’t like the person that I was on the outer layers, truth be told I loathed this person.
Solace and beauty was everywhere and seemingly in everything … I felt compelled to soak it in at every turn, but I slowly came to the realization that pulling over to the side of the road every time Mother Nature beckoned me to do so wouldn’t be prudent, because I’d be stopping every couple of feet.
But, I was acutely aware that savoring each moment that I had on the island would be essential.
Later on during my trip, I found myself standing on a pier, unclear of where I was other than being entranced by the breeze blowing across my skin which served as a reminder that in leaving here, that I would never be the same.
I was shaken from my hypnotic state as I watched a boat slowly make its way towards the shore and I couldn’t help but to wonder if the occupants of the vessel had the same peace of mind that I was feeling at this moment in time.
As I thought about my impending return to the mainland, I remember a sense of foreboding enveloping me and for a fraction of a second I was tempted to frantically wave my hands at the boat and offer my services in exchange for the uncertainty of tropical newness over what passes as my existence on the mainland.
And… It was there that it hit me, I was living a boldface lie.
Damnit, I just want to write… And if I’m not writing, what is this so-called life that I am living?
How can I justify letting my alter-ego run my life while I sit idly by?
So now what?