Monday, January 18, 2021

MLK

We Americans worship heroes we barely know.  We follow athletes because of their sports statistics rather than their character or what they stand for.  We elect presidents because they can argue persuasively in debates, even when we don’t know much about their lives or lifestyles.


Martin Luther King is an exception.  He is an American hero who wanted to be known.  He had incredible family roots and beliefs, which he communicated powerfully through the written and spoken word.  While he was known for his letters and speeches, there is still enough about him that remains a mystery.  

Today, I celebrate his birthday by re-publishing this blog.  These are surprising bits of trivia about Martin Luther King that I hope you enjoy:


1.  Martin Luther King was not his real name.

Michael was born in Atlanta in 1929, named after his father, Michael Sr. When he was only two years old, Michael Jr. (our beloved MLK) went with his family to Europe. Michael Senior was so profoundly affected by the person of Martin Luther, the great reformer,  that upon his return to the States changed his name to Martin Luther King, Sr.  and his son’s to Martin Luther King, Jr.


2.  He came from a powerful and spiritual family.

His father and mother were both ordained ministers. Educated and respected leaders in the Atlanta community, the family lived with his maternal grandparents, the Reverend and Mrs. A.D. Williams.  

While the Kings were known for their virtue, they were also seen as radicals, embracing not only racial, but gender equality. At this point in time, the Christian church preached the submission of women (not much has changed in some churches). The King men were staunch believers in the power of Jesus Christ and the Bible and believed in living according to the word of God, which teaches nothing less.  They led Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, right down the street from their home. 


3.  His call to stand up for the civil rights of a nation started in childhood.

Martin Jr. grew up in a racially segregated world. It really didn’t matter that his parents were educated; the American south had enforced laws about the separation of blacks and whites. 

Etched clearly in King’s memory was  a story of his family's outing to buy new shoes. Excited at the prospect, Martin entered the store with his family, only to be immediately ushered to the back exit. 

“No coloreds.” The store owner said.  The Kings knew this--they weren't ignorant of the segregation--and the elder Kings called these "daily protests" against segregation. They regularly shopped at "white only" stores just so the owners would be forced to confront their own racist policies. 

Martin learned on that day that blacks were not allowed in most restaurants, on public beaches or swimming pools.  They couldn’t drink from the same water fountains as white people and couldn’t use the same toilets. His father's daily protests started a fire in Martin's heart.  This shoe-store event began to shape King's passionate crusade for righteousness.


4.  He graduated high school at 15. 

MLK skipped both 9th and 12th grades (some historians have him skipping the 11th), and enrolled in Morehouse College, a prestigious private, all-male, black university in Atlanta. He graduated with a Bachelors degree in sociology at age 19. 


5.  He thought his wife was brave for taking him on.

After Morehouse, King completed seminary and was introduced to Coretta Scott, a woman whose wit and vigor was an incredible match for his. 

As much as Martin is celebrated, Corrie (what he called her) was as well.  A brilliant thinker, gorgeous in physical appearance and social graces, Coretta was also known for her voice: a mezzo-soprano.  Her voice, Martin said later, was angelic and worshipful. 

On the night they wed, the newlyweds were denied entrance to their hotel (supposedly booked knowing it was a whites-only place).  The couple decided to spend their wedding night at a Black-owned funeral home.  It was only the beginning of many stands for justice they took together.



6.  He’s called “Dr. Martin Luther King” because he was a PhD.  This title was not honorary.

After marriage, King became pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, when he was twenty-five years old.  He then began doctoral studies in systematic theology at Boston University and received his Ph. D  in 1955. 

He was just getting started.


7.  Rosa sat down and Martin stood up - in that order.

On a December,1955 evening in Montgomery, Rosa Parks rode the bus home seated in the fifth row, which was permissible.  It was, after all, the first row of the "colored section".

It was standard practice that when the bus became full, the seats nearer the front were given to white passengers.  This happened and the bus driver asked Parks and three other African-Americans seated nearby to move: “Move y'all, I want those two seats!"

Three riders complied, but Parks did not.

The bus driver threatened to have her arrested, and Ms. Parks said he had every freedom to do that.  She wasn’t breaking any written law; she was just uppity and he called her bluff. 

Upon hearing of the arrest, King and his colleague (Ralph Abernathy) organized a city-wide boycott intended to cripple the financial legs of the bus companies.  A staunch devotee of nonviolence, the men were adamant that no one should lose their cool.

Martin wrote to the city with the organized plan of protest: Black passengers should be treated with courtesy. Seating should be allotted on a first-come-first-serve basis, with white passengers sitting from front to back and black passengers sitting from back to front. Negro drivers should drive routes that primarily serviced Negroes.

On Monday, December 5, 1955 the boycott went into effect – it was the beginning of organized non-violent protests across the south.  Martin was at the forefront of a revolution. 


8.  He was a man determined to be seen and heard.

From 1957 until his death in 1968, King gave over 2,500 speeches; he traveled more than 6 million miles; and  he wrote five books and countless articles published in newspapers and magazines.
Upon seeing him deliver his “I Have a Dream” speech, John F. Kennedy, amazed and open-mouthed, turned to his chief of staff and said, “Damn, he’s good!”

My favorite writing of his (besides the PERFECT “I have a Dream” speech) is the letter he wrote from an Alabama jail to the surrounding clergymen.  This portion resonates the most in my soul:
“We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, "Wait." But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can't go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: "Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?"; when you take a cross county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading "white" and "colored"; when your first name becomes "nigger," your middle name becomes "boy" (however old you are) and your last name becomes "John," and your wife and mother are never given the respected title "Mrs."; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of "nobodiness"--then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience…”

9.  MLK set his face towards Jerusalem.

Martin had two heroes:  Jesus Christ and Martin Luther.  Both men were killed in the middle of their ministry, for their beliefs.   Martin seemed to recognize the same would be true for him.

After many, many death threats and his own people warning him to “go underground for awhile” Martin eventually made peace with the destiny he had – to die for the cause worth dying for.  On April 3, 1968 (the day before he was assassinated), he preached at the at Mason Temple in Memphis, Tennessee:

“Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people will get to the promised land. And I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about a thing. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”


10.  Martin’s heart betrayed a life lived at full speed.

King was assassinated in Memphis when he was 39, after two other attempts on his life.  The details of the assassination are sketchy, but all evidence shows it was a conspiracy, not the act of a lone gunman.

 At the hospital, one of the attending doctors noted during his autopsy that King “had the heart of a 60-year-old."  A heart that was tired; overworked and stressed – beating in the man that championed respect and nonviolence.


Martin, we hardly knew ye…





Tuesday, December 29, 2020

33



Today, Mario and I have been married for 33 years, it's our Jesus year, so to speak. Every year, I write a blog about our marriage, and I ask Mario what I should write about. Today, when I asked, he leaned against the door frame and thought.

“Wow,” he said. “It’s been a tough year. Maybe you should write about endurance.”

I nodded, and began.

In the old days, I swear this would have felt like a slap in the face. If I ask Mario what especially stands out in our marriage, I'm not really wanting to hear how both of us are good at sticking it out. This year is different. This year, 2020, I appreciate him saying this. 

First of all, most of you know what I’m talking about when I write about this year. Most who are reading are family and friends, and most have partners or romantic relationships. You know what this year has been like, right? It’s been tough for all of us. It’s been a year of quarantine, diminished salaries, being trapped in closed spaces together. You know...

This year, on top of all this COVID quarantine stuff, Mario and I had major life changes which took place inside our family.  Where family is concerned, I don’t like change. I understand how family stuff can be emotionally supercharged, so I like it to remain predictably emotionally supercharged. This year has been filled with so many family changes, that it’s caused disturbing outbursts, challenges, discussions, and decisions. It’s sucked a lot of life out of me.

Usually, Mario and I agree about the important stuff, but this year? We felt like Oscar and Felix, Samson and Delilah, MaryMatalin and James Carville.

I love Mario and Janet. Mario and Janet disagree on a boatload of issues, but are genuinely together on critical ones, and always remain each other’s best friend.  This year? Challenged that. The issue of family is tender, and if we don’t agree on the direction we’re supposed to take, we fight. We’ve fought a lot this year. 

A week ago, Mario and I were in one of these terrible fights. It was at the point of a tailspin, telling the other something like, “If only you would listen, then you’d understand...” or something like that. I don’t remember the specifics, but I do remember being exhausted.

There comes a time in most couple’s lives when they get tired of fighting about the same thing, over and over again. This exhaustion sometimes supersedes what they’re fighting about. The disagreement gets old, and the mountain looks familiar, blah, blah, blah... and they arrive at the inevitable fork in the road, where they have to ask themselves: “Do I pursue this later?” or “Do I drop it?”

(I have to give a disclaimer here—I’ve said this before—this doesn’t apply to addictions. Addictions are equivalent to ACID on a relationship. Relationships can’t survive addictions unless the addict gets help).

No one gets to the fork in the road unless they are fighting. No one arrives at this fork in the road unless they’ve traveled the lonely road of disagreement with their partner. We usually arrive at the fork fatigued, stinky, gross, and angry. Sometimes the fork is complicated, with more than two ways to end it. Either way, the fork in the road involves surrender.

This year, Mario and I have had to agree to compromise a lot. In order to move on, couples surrender their way and make a deal that's acceptable to both, if they expect to remain friends. Some of us take longer to reach a compromise. 

Mario and I are accomplished swordfighters by this time in our marriage—we’ve even learned how to duel without drawing blood—and no one would ever guess we were capable of inflicting such emotional wounds on one another. I’m ashamed to say this, but we’ve survived a lot of wounds this year. Tonight, as I type this, I promise you, that we have survived the battles, the wounds, the surrenders, because we share a deep love for one another and a shared faith. At the end of day, I have to remember that this man is the best guy I know—the man who understands me like no other human on the planet.

So, why would I ever battle with him, you may ask? It’s because I’m human and I like being right. Sometimes I wish everyone in the whole damn world would listen to me, and just do what I say. If they would, things would work a lot better. Sure, some people disagree with me, but those people are idiots.  When my husband numbers himself with the idiots, my happiness is suddenly threatened, and I hate it when my happiness is threatened. If there’s change happening all around me, I object—loudly. I don’t like change unless I orchestrate it.

That last paragraph? I hope it made you laugh...even if it feels true. We humans are selfish beings by nature, and usually we're good at masking this, until our happiness is threatened.

This year, the man who is my husband, my favorite human being in the whole world, disagreed with me more than he normally does, because he has the inconvenient job of bringing me back to earth and showing me how change is inevitable. He is the one who shows me our bank balance, and reminds me to stay on a budget. He encourages me to tell the truth, but with less brutal language. He explains how our children are adults, and need our support even when we disagree with their decisions. Mario brings me to the window of a reality that I often ignore, and encourages me to see that I’m not an obstacle to change—it will happen anyway.

This year I’ve disagreed with Mario more than I normally do, because I have the inconvenient job of reminding him that some things in our family are too important to lose, and there are some hills I am willing to defend with my life. Sometimes, when I’m grieving hard, I want him to grieve with me, and this year the grieving has even threatened his happiness. The explosive life and joy I bring to our marriage also comes with occasional dips into depression. I feel things strongly, love people with my whole heart, and usually can't hide what I'm thinking. I ask Mario to dream higher things for us, believe the best about most people, and encourage a life of creating beauty. I bring warmth and color and life, and Mario values these things so much that he accepts the cost. Thank God.

Mario and I both know we’re still together only because of God. Even the best lovers, the best friends, the best team can be split apart by a world that champions self-promotion and individualism. As different as we are, Mario and I have a shared faith, which inspires love, which in turn inspires life, which inspires others, and so on. Anything that’s good in us as people or as a couple has been forged by a refining fire that we know is God.


When Mario and I trained for the only marathon we ever ran together, a seasoned veteran told us, “You can split the race into two parts: the first twenty miles, and the last six.” Not until you run a marathon do you realize that an endurance race is toughest near the end. The body isn’t built to run long distances all the time. The best runners have a training schedule and work up to the distance—this is called endurance training. It's both brutal and critical.

Mario and I have endured so much this year, and we’re still friends. We're still lovers. We still see each other as life-partners. I am more determined, in our thirty-third year of our marriage, to love him and respect him. 

This year has been tough, but we’re tougher. 


Monday, December 28, 2020

58

 




Today I’m 58, and I will love this year.

That’s how I’ve started every one of my birthday blogs, including the one I wrote last year. Who would have known that 2020 was waiting to pounce, that COVID19 was winding up and getting ready to take us down.  For my 57th year picture, I sat behind my desk, smiling and clueless, ready for another good year. Today, I type this blog in a state of exhaustion. My family had a beautiful holiday season, albeit pain-filled, including a threat of exposure. I’m guessing ours was a lot like everyone’s holiday season.

This year, we’ve all gone through the same time of shared isolation. We’ve seen each other on Zoom, covered our mouths and noses with cloth masks, and continued to use social media like everything was normal. Halfway around the world, friends wrote to me from lockdown, just like ours.

This year, I went to COVID funerals, including my beloved Auntie Molly’s. I went to COVID weddings, including my niece, Selena. I celebrated my Virtual graduation from Antioch University Los Angeles MFA program on Zoom, remotely whooping it up with my fellow Cardinals. My son and his family bought their first house and moved out of ours, all of this done with COVID restrictions.


Time Magazine had a cover, which declared 2020 to be “the worst year ever,” and no one disputed this. Even in wartime, a year so fraught with  violence, moratoriums, and political upheaval has not been equaled.

In each blog, I end with my birthday Psalm. This year, Psalm 58 is as brutal as the past year. It ends, however with a promise for the righteous—we’ll all live through this. Not only live through it, but we’ll conquer.

“Mankind will say, ‘Surely there is a reward for the righteous;
    surely there is a God who judges on earth.’” ~Psalm 58:11

I pray this coming year be filled with hope and love for all of you. Tonight, as I go to bed, I pray the same thing for my own family. 
Janet 

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Harmony

 


Harmony Janet-Suzanne Vosburg was born on this day 11 years ago, to my only daughter, Alicia. Her birth came after  a long and complicated labor, and for the first minutes of her life, Harmony didn't breathe without help. In the delivery room, I vacillated between praying for my daughter in bed, and the unresponsive baby with terminal meconium on the lighted bassinet, surrounded by doctors and nurses.



In the end, Harmony got better, and so did Alicia. It was a time of miracles. That night, I battled sleep as I held her against my chest. Her beautiful rosy face reassured me she was a healthy baby and the worst was behind us. 

Today Harmony is one of my favorite people in the whole world. I listen as she sings, watch her as she reads, and often play games in her space-themed room with planets hanging from her bunk bed. This year has sucked for everyone, but I think 2020 has affected children the most.



"I can't see my friends," Harmony says. "Schools are closed." 

Both she and her sister, Alannah, are among the scores of children who have taken distance learning as part of their new routine. Homework used to be something they did without friends around, and now it's school. TV School. As an educator, I know the stakes are higher for children than anyone else. Nevertheless, Harmony remains positive. She loves going out with her family, and really appreciates more time at home with her mom. 



Every Friday, without fail, I travel to Chico to see Harmony, her sister, Alannah, and their mother, my daughter, Alicia. Lately, we've been bound by for social distancing and travel that the rest of the country has dealt with, COVID19 restrictions in place. The days once spent finding the most exciting destinations, restaurants, books, or science experiments are now very limited. We invent our own fun inside. This year, Harmony has introduced me to Percy Jackson, the Olympians, the art of "Let's Dance" and all its fineries, jigsaw puzzles, and different kinds of music I would have never listened to. This week, I found out she's a Zelda fan--even blowing out her candles with a Zelda sword in hand! 

Beyond her beautiful mind, Harmony has a heart of gold. She loves her family, and rarely complains about things. I can't imagine my life without her. 

Happy birthday, Harmony! I know you have some idea how much I love you...but I wish you could see my heart! Even that would surprise you!

Grandma.



Saturday, August 8, 2020

Alannah

 

Alannah and Alicia--three days after birth

For her birthday, I told Alannah the miraculous story of her birth. She and her sister, Harmony, were sitting at the kitchen table, eating chicken strips, grapes, salad and sandwiches—a birthday fun party with their cousin, Scarlett, and her baby sister, Violet. As Violet munched a chicken strip on my lap, I revisited the “being born story”—Alannah’s name for the story of August 8, 2011 told her over lunch

“We were all a little worried,” I said. “Harmony was born two years earlier, and she didn’t breathe for the first seven minutes of her life. With Mama’s type-1 diabetes, childbirth is complicated and her new doctor wanted to be very careful.”

The story brought back a flood of memories: Mario and I were living in South Africa at the time. We regularly SKYPE called Alicia, and at the beginning of July, she informed us that her doctor moved up the due date. When the baby positioned herself in place, the August 10th due date would be more like August 1st. I changed my flights and came to the United States early—arriving in late July for a two week stay.  Mario stayed home—because at the time, a round-trip airfare was about a thousand dollars (unless you changed it, and then it was more) and we were (for lack of a better description) missionaries living very simply.

Three Generations--Me, Alicia and Harmony, one week before delivery


“Mama and Daddy let me come to the last doctor appointment, so I met the doctor,” I told the girls, as they ate lunch. “I was worried that I had a flight out of San Francisco on August tenth, and he told me he couldn’t guarantee that the baby would be born by then.”

 “I was born on the eighth,” Alannah said. “So there!”

We laughed. “What he really said,” I whispered, causing all of the girls to lean forward and listen. “Is this: ‘I can’t do anything about your travel schedule.’”

“WHAT?” Alannah said, indignant. “What did you say?”

“I promised Mama I wouldn’t say anything, so I looked at him like this....” I put on my glare-face and all the girls laughed.

“The mom face,” Harmony said. “Moms do that face.”

“When you were born,” I said to Alannah. “Mama was weak and took a long time to recover. I had to leave Chico the day after you were born.”

I’m silent, thinking of the hellish separation we had for seven years. I had to leave my daughter, who had just had a baby—and it was no one’s “fault”—it was our lives back then.

Alannah broke the silence. “What did I look like?” she asked.


“You were the fattest baby I’d ever seen,” I said. We all laughed. “You were so fat! You came out and cried, and we were all so happy! You were so healthy!”

Today, reliving that story still makes me remember the emotional pain of separation. As much as I loved our life in South Africa, it was so hard to be separated from family. In reality, we’re family people, and the hardest ones to say goodbye to was the grandchildren.

Alicia, Alannah, and me--just before I said goodbye.
August 2011


Today, I can see them on any given day—maybe just by Zoom, Skype, or facetime, but still—we’re here. This is one of the greatest blessings of my life.

***

Today, Alannah is nine years old. She's curious, talented, and loves to learn about so many things.  Science is fascinating, cooking is fun, but art is where she excels. She loves to put on plays, watch ballet, and she's wonderful at singing.  She paints, draws, and writes poetry. Like her sister, she loves reading and being read aloud to.

Lately, she's been really getting into American Girl dolls, and she treasures her collection. She also loves to dress up in costumes. Her birthday party was a flurry of American Girl dolls and costumes, one after another!




To say that Alannah is a joy is an understatement. She is love personified, and expects almost nothing from everyone. She enjoys people, loves her friends and family, and loves laughing. She is the beautiful, adorable granddaughter I treasure. I am so grateful she’s geographically closer to me. I need her in my life!

Alannah, me, Scarlett and Violet selfie


Happy Birthday, Alannah! You are the best, most imaginative nine-year-old this world has ever seen!

I love you!

Grandma



Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Alicia



Seven years ago, one summer night in Johannesburg, I was packing up my jewelry box, and sorting through what I was going to keep or give away. We were scheduled to put everything in a moving container the following day, one that would meet us in Sacramento in two months. I found my bauble bracelet at the bottom, a string of large green beads, the color of a Granny Smith apple. I kept the bracelet because Alicia gave it to me the year we left the USA, on Mother’s Day.

“This is how I see you,” she said. “And I got an employee’s discount.” We laughed together about this. It was on sale at Claire’s, where she worked, so an employee discount made this a great deal.  

At first, I didn’t like the bracelet, maybe because it bothered me that Alicia, my only daughter, saw me as an apple-green-colored-bauble-wearing woman. Did I snap my gum and wear pants that were too tight, as well? In fairness, I probably would have bought my only daughter a gold necklace with a locket on the end, where she could put tiny pictures and keep them by her heart. I would have loved to receive that kind of present at her age, but I know now the gift would not be her at all.


Alicia, as a daughter is a gift from God. When she was born, she represented the union I had with Mario—a beautiful baby girl we loved and treasured. She was genuinely the most beautiful baby girl, and easy to have around. As she grew, she clung to me, especially when she was sick. She learned to color inside the lines, identify the alphabet, read, write, do long division, and put puzzles together, all at our kitchen table. She cooked meals that were beautiful, including lasagna that tasted better than an Italian restaurant. She learned how to play the piano and sing harmonies. In her teens, she fell in and out of love. She made friends with the wrong people, and then the best people I had ever met. She had a habit of accidentally breaking my heart; she had a habit of breaking my heart on purpose. She was a magnet for friends, and traveled everywhere with her own posse. By the time we moved to South Africa, she was independent, headstrong, and vibrantly filled with every kind of life.

Even with all of her magnetic beauty, Alicia and I often struggled to feel understood by each other. I saw Alicia as a beautiful, wild unicorn, glittering but unreachable. I was the mother she ran from. I wanted a close relationship, one where she came to me for advice. Once she reached adulthood, I longed to have the friendship I had with my own mother, or at least our version of it. I wanted us to have deep conversations over coffee, or to join a book club together.

In actuality, Alicia and I were good with each other until something set us off. Both of us had so many hidden trip wires, so many unresolved issues, and we often fought more than either of us wanted. When it was time to build relationship and friendship, there were always plenty of friends around, and events they attended together. I was admittedly jealous of the fact that her friends were the ones who she would seek out first for advice, direction, and comfort—especially during heartbreak. I yearned to be needed this way.

After years of ups and downs, I stopped trying to convince my daughter how our relationship should be and started listening to her more, without offering advice. It was clear she didn’t want advice from me—she just wanted...me. About seven years ago, I made a conscious decision to take better care of my own physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. Alicia and I started relating to each other as adults—still mother and daughter, but adults—and maintained open communication. If I showed up, loved her and was proud of her, that was enough for Alicia. It was easy to do, especially after she became a mother. She easily interacted with her children in a way that made them feel confident and loved. She was warm, affectionate, organized, and nurturing.


Soon, I started to see what the rest of the world saw: Alicia has genuinely one of the biggest hearts I’ve ever known. She’s able to do so many things. Clearly organized and gifted, she started her own business—something I didn’t know the first thing about—and earned a reputation as a conscientious, energetic, motivated, and well-liked business owner. When the Camp Fire hit Paradise, Alicia shared her house with several displaced friends, and volunteered her cleaning services to the Benevolent Elks in Chico—who later contracted her company. She’s a strong member of her community and family.

I look at this synopsis, a five-minute read that I wrote to sum up the most complicated, intricate relationship that any woman can have: one between mother and daughter. Alicia is thirty-two years old today, and I can still feel the warmth of her head on my shoulder when she was an infant. In our mother-daughter dance, we’ve always tried to connect, even if we miss a beat or two. Through the years, with our history of ups and downs, we’ve reached a place where we know each other’s rhythms.  

So, that summer night in Johannesburg, when I was packing up my things, I held the apple-green-baubled bracelet in my hands and thought of Alicia. I knew that soon (very, very soon) I would move back to California be near my baby who gave this to me. I never, ever considered throwing the bracelet away, because it came from my only daughter—the girl who sees me in bright colors.

I love you, Alicia. You are truly my treasured only daughter. Thank you for being you.  


Tuesday, June 23, 2020

proper

"Your Proper Name" is the result of an exercise, led by Tommy Pico at the June 2020 residency for Antioch MFA. We read different trade magazines and harvested a word bank to be used to create a new poem. The crazy results were intoxicating. Here's mine: 



The brain is a splendid instrument

with a lilac tail that winds around

a kale clock, stopping in places to say

your proper name and drip ancestor

fury. Come a little bit closer

and help me look for the stash

of boxtops in the kitchen drawer.

It’s been so long since I saved

anything at all.

 

Coming home to you, the hearty

love which glows and shoots

this intensity, this fetch, which

blossoms on plumb wine. Your

proper name won’t matter, only

your desire to be eaten, your

crisp yet soft texture, the light

that stretches from one part

of you to the other—the JOY of you—

where I’ve craved salt and fat.