Walking back from the town beach
at Grampy and Grammy’s house
I saw them, innocently waiting
to be plucked from the background
of my sweeter childhood memories,
and folded into theirs.
Watch this. I whispered, to lure them neatly in;
Pull the end part slowly from the blossom
and there at the end a drop of …
Honey! Screamed Marcel, as Sam’s disbelief
dropped away. Seventy or so years ago
my father may have stopped at that same hedge
to sweeten the walk home to his Grammy’s
house two hills and one turn away.
Just like I love to pick Queen Anne’s Lace
because I love to picture my young mother doing the same
on a summer walk along a country road in Maine-
I need to balance the history I know how and want to hand down
with the history I don’t.*
Biking back from the beach the following day,
with Sam on the rented BMX, and me on Grammy’s modern version of the Schwinn
I ask Sam if he had heard the word slavery before?
I was relieved to hear that he had no idea.
Well imagine being taken from your family,
and forced to live far far away, work all day, suffer, for no pay.
This ugly story sort of starts that way..
When brown skinned people in this country were enslaved
by creamy white skinned people against their will.
He asked me why, and who it really was, and if they were enslaved still.
No, I said, but even when horrible things do come to an end,
the effects don’t just go away.
It was a meager start, but it was all I was semi prepared to say.
Sam’s bike was on the ground,
his arms reaching out and into a neighbor’s hedge.
I love honey he said.
I can’t believe you have known about this all this time,
and just now told me about it.
*A special thank you to Hot Shot for being mad and proud earlier this summer, and letting me know I had work to do (with my family)! My conversation with Sam above was brought to the surface by a series of events. The final impetus being this post at Foreigner in Buckeye Nation. If you have begun to have conversations like the ones discussed here, and have resources you rely on, or questions that your family is tackling and want to share, please do so here.
** Personal history and the adoptee/donor conceived child is another layer to this piece that I am also trying to begin to navigate at our house. This idea of the “history I don’t know” how to pass down also comes from questions that surfaced staying at the “family homestead” for a week, and talking about our great, great grandparents juxtaposed to our heading out to the West Coast in a few weeks to meet Sam’s biological mother, and grandparents and all of their history we hope to begin to uncover then too.
Welcome to three new subscribers this week to the blog! Both coasts are newly represented in the ever growing group of Mama C readers who have signed up to have these posts delivered directly into their (e)mail box. Thank you–it feeds the muse!
Oh Mama C… big stuff today. BIG STUFF. Happy to talk if you want to. Or listen. One of the things I found most empowering as we began this discussion was the definition of Kugichagulia (sp?) the second day of Kwanzaa. Self-determination. Making decisions for yourself, your family and your community. We don’t often define so concretely what freedom means or what not having it means. It’s simple. We can wrap our heads around it and so can our kids. You’re doing the hard work my dear.
And… so interesting your mention of Hot Shot’s anger. That story is already in the works as my next post.
Also, regarding the feeling of personal history, how we carry so much and our children have so little… years ago (you may recall) we had a wall covered with black and white family history photos dating back multiple generations on both sides. DV had worked hard on this project before we had children. But after Hot Shot arrived it felt so hard to have this wall full of lineage and not even a photograph of hers. Thinking of you and your upcoming visit. Coming so soon! What you will gather!
Mama Liz! Such a great comment. Thank you. The freedom angle is very helpful. The layers and layers and layers here are so complex and require so much consideration all the time. So helpful to hear your story about the pictures and the lineage questions. And I’d love to take you up on that listening piece when I can imagine how to create space for a phone call…
Can’t wait for that next post!