When my daughter was four months old, she caught her first cold and I was a nervous wreck. 19 years old. New mom, new baby and new responsibilities were already a potent cocktail of WHOA! And now, I had to figure out how to soothe and care for a little person who could not tell me what they needed.
My mom was my faithful sidekick when it came to her. It was a new experience for her too. Sparkling new grandmothers, man ain’t nothing like us. I can say that now as a grandma five times over. It still envelopes me. I’m in the dopest inner circle there is! That look that grandmas give, that just says ooooh baby, baby, how I love you so! I know all about what’s behind that now. I saw it when my mom cut my daughter’s umbilical cord, instantly she was in love.
It was so beautiful to see her transform from Mother to GRANDmother. I’m a walking testimony of how it straighens your spiritual spine, opens new chambers of your heart and ignites a protective energy that would take out everybody and everything who dared to harm a hair on the head of your grand, grand babies.
Two newbies together, trying to comfort Jalyn through her first cold, she encouraged me to follow all of the pediatrician’s instructions but to no avail, my baby was cranky, crying and tired. She was an infant, too young for cold medicine, so all that I could do was hold her, suction her nose and wait, and worry.
Her paternal grandmother called with two instructions, “bundle her up good and bring her here.”
I watched with anxiousness as she prepared herself to tend to my baby. She brushed her teeth and gargled, turned the thermostat up, unwrapped Jalyn, cupped her in front of her, Eskimo-kissed her nose and when Jalyn opened her mouth to coo, she begin to softly blow into it. After a minute or so, she started wriggling around and after a tiny sneeze, a bigger sneeze followed and a tornado of snot emerged from those little nostrils. Jalyn gave her a soft little gummy smile. It melted my heart. Relief at last. She did this two more times, suctioned her and said to me, “And make sure you rub vaseline on her nose after you do that fucking suctioning, hear?”
She gave her a bath, rubbed her down in Vick’s vapor rub and Vaseline, cracked the window near the bed so that the fresh, cool air could act as a humidifier and headed out to the bar. Me and my baby both slept through the entire night.
Right before Jalyn turned a year old, things had gotten pretty thick at home. While I was pregnant, I moved into my first apartment but with her father in jail, I was by myself so I never stayed there, I was either at my mom’s or crashing at a friend’s house. 18 and pregnant, I was a damn baby myself, but my stepdad made it clear that I wasn’t raising no other babies in his house so I moved out. After my daughter was born, my mom put her foot down. She and my aunt Roberta packed my apartment up in one day and moved us back in.
Materially, it had always been the best home. My stepdad was a hardworking, functioning alcoholic who had managed his money well and his house, with the big deck and big yard and custom-made bar and his four cars were his trophies. My daughter and I didn’t fit into that display case and after awhile, we had to go. I couldn’t afford to get another apartment just yet, so we ended up staying with my grandmother, my dad’s mom. My Squeeze.
My everything. Talk about good loving. That woman adored me and made sure I knew it. She talked to me, she listened to me. Took the time to sit and look me in my eyes while I babbled about any and everything. Her kitchen table, her porch and her black rocking chair in her bedroom is where she’d just sit and listen and shake her head and smile at my antics. She was the first to ignite my fire to learn about the history of our people. I’ll never forget the first book she placed in my hands, “Black Inventors”, it was as thick as a King James Bible. It was the first time I had ever even heard about us inventing things. She always spoke life into me. In later years, I understood why. She knew more than I gave her credit for. After my dad died, she saw how it broke me and she spent the remaining years of her life gluing me back together. She was the first person who told me that I was going to write stories one day.
Having to tell her that I was pregnant was so hard. She was the last person I wanted to disappoint but when my mom and I sat in her room, my mom in her rocking chair, me and her on the bed, I told her and cried. She took her hand, grabbed my chin, turned my face toward hers and gently raised it. She placed her hand in the middle of my back and to this day I swear I felt her gently push it in. She told me I had no reason to cry. It was the lift of the chin and hand on the back for me though. She straightened me. The way that made sure I saw that she was looking at me, gave me such a warm feeling.
My mom shared that keeping the baby or terminating was my choice to make. My grandmother looked at her over those brown-rimmed glasses and said, “The choice is made. We don’t do that. She’ll have all the help she needs.” And that was that. She died right after Jalyn’s first birthday.
I had to stop typing for a moment and just remember her. Think back to the smells, the calmness, the meticulous yet comforting space of her home, of her. So safe, so loved. Twenty five years have past since she died but I channel her energy every time I’m with my grands. What I know for sure is that she loved me. She took the time to tell me, but she also took the time to show me how to pour it into me, made sure I knew the things that young women were supposed to know. I’m thinking about this one day in particular.
We got up early on a Saturday morning to go shopping for “young lady things”, as she called it. After what felt like a zillion hours, we emerged from the stores with the following: Three girdles – black, white, and nude. Four bras – two black, one white, and one nude. Three pairs of pumps – navy blue, black, cream. Three pairs of pantyhose – two sheers, one off-white. Two full-length slips – one black, one white. Two half slips, one black, one white. Paid a good penny for every single item. She said these are the things that every woman should have, and explained when and how to wear them.
I was fourteen, couldn’t think of any reason that I’d ever have to wear any of these items except to church with her but I listened intently to her instructions. I was young, but I knew that in some way, these were things to help me feel good about womanhood, take pride in it, in my body and how I presented myself in it to the world. Taking the time and care to put yourself together good. As much as I despise malls now and shopping anywhere but online now, I cannot wait until my three grand-girls turn 14 and I gather them up for a day lady lessons and shopping for young lady things. My grandmother would want it no other way.
There was this one time when my daughter and I were staying with her that I often think back to. She was sitting at the kitchen table, holding Jalyn and I watched my beautiful grandmother, feed my daughter regular applesauce from a tablespoon. I said, No grandma, the doctor said she can’t have that!” I said that to my grandmother, who had raised eight of her own children and countless grands, nieces, nephews, siblings and extended family. You know what she did? Gave me her signature over-the-glasses look with a smirk, and simply replied, “Okay.” No argument or dispute, just okay.
My daughter will be 27 this year. She’s a mommy now, to my brilliant, as-sweet-as-they-come eight-year old grandson and two of the sassiest, insightful loving little four-year old twin girls. A strong, wonderful, hardworking, so absolutely in love with her babies, fun-loving, young woman, who makes me swell with pride. We came a long way, together.
Even in the frustration of watching my sons struggles as men, I know where they came from and how they got through, with me and can’t help but to feel full, because I got them through the hard parts with me. No one had to take my children, or jump in my drivers seat. It was just me and my babies and I got them through childhood safely when I was still very much a child myself. I don’t judge anyone why needed help-mates, I remember wishing I had someone like that on many days and dark nights.
I want to take a moment to speak directly to you. I’m especially thankful that you had that. Someone who saw that you needed help and stepped in. So many people watch from the sidelines, see family stepping in and enact opinion and judgement, but I wonder how many actually take the time to say, thank God for that. I’m saying it to you. Thank God for that. Thank God that in your struggle, your time of not knowing how, being unsure, not having the tools, not understanding, someone did and tended to your babies while you tended to you. That’s empowering, there’s no shame in that and if you’ve been secretly carrying it in that way, drop it today. Look at how your babies turned out, because someone was equipped to assist. I’m sending that dark space love and light today. In fact, I’m petitioning the energy of every mother I know and don’t know, here and in the spirit realm to bring light to the space in you today. Release it. Don’t you carry that any further. You did good girl, real good.
We all did. I see history repeating itself in our families, close and extended and what I remind myself is to be who I needed, especially with my own daughter. Her mothering amazes me. The time and energy that she pours into her babies, they just know they’re awesome!
It makes my heart swell so much to see that in all that she went through with me, moving from place to place, utility cut-offs, her dad’s incarcerations, my relationship struggles with men, me meeting needs but rarely wants, not being as attentive as moms should be with little girls, not encouraging her, her getting lost in the shuffle of being the only girl in a house full of three busy, rambunctious boys, my esteem issues preventing me from building her up through hers, and to see…she detted all of that. Crushed it, broke the curse and made it right for her own children. It absolutely takes my breath away. She is a champion.
While I may have struggled to pour into all of her empty spaces as a little girl, I did my absolute best and I see it and I am proud, and she is too. She tells me so. We pour love in abundance around these parts now. It was nothing and I mean, nothing but God that got us through.
When I reflect on the experiences with my mom, grandmother and my daughter’s grandmother, I’m so grateful for the help I had each step of my mothering way. Even when they left me to figure it out on my own, it was love in that. Trial and error is the greatest lesson in love.
While it’s important to give people the space to find their way, think about what would’ve made a difference in your development as a woman. What did you need? If you see a young mom struggling in the same way that you did, you understand that the universe is showing you for a reason, right? Even if you don’t see an external trial, still take the time to speak life into these little women stepping into big shoes.
I think we spend so much time trying to forget our struggles and stay so focused on maintaining stability and wholeness now, that we forget the pain and suffering of getting there.
Which makes us mute our testimony. The testimony that will breathe new life and encouragement into someone who needs it. If someone had taken the time to breathe just a little bit more of it into me, in the absence of the grandmother, I know the difference it would’ve made. But, had I not gone through the challenges, I wouldn’t have received the wisdom in the way that I did. Hold onto your crown, Queens. I promise you, and I don’t make promises I can’t keep, there is an amazing assignment in all of this.
As my favorite quotes states: