That time I did a dance routine to Jill Scott’s Crown Royal in a black unitard and mask. And there was my mama in the audience. Clapping.
That time I told my mama I was mad at the boyfriend who couldn’t complete a slow dance because he couldn’t control his erections. I think I was 14.
Once, that I was gonna go out of the country with a boy I’d met all of three weeks before because he offered and he was nice and I was 21 years old so I was grown.
The time I admitted I believed I was ugly.
Mommy (yes, Mommy still and always) showed up to boring band concerts where you could barely hear my school-issued xylophones, drove me to Philly and tiny towns in the bowels of Delaware’s most rural counties as I conspired to find any program, scholarship, or opportunity to get out of the stricture my home town and state felt against my brown-ness and ambition; let me walk right away and into it like it was the most normal thing ever to watch the last of her girls walk off into a Georgia sunset while she and the family trekked the 16 hours back to Delaware without her.
I write often to locate and manage my father. My mother rarely shows up in these spaces except in the negative. She’s the white space. But what is white space that is not a canvas; offering agency and every possibility to whomever confronts it? It’s quiet and patient; generous; never pompous and clearly not greedy. It lets you shine against it.
So I was working on some stuff today only to realize I write about my dad a lot yet there’s my mom everywhere too: in every confession and every risk—even in daring to locate the truth that is the beautifully flawed man whose I was chosen to be, but not because she didn’t first choose him over 50 years ago.