11 months, Africa, babies, baby, black boys, bold, boychild, change, community, compassion, dreams, dualities, East Africa, ferguson, first generation, grow, heritage, history, humanity, immigration, Jim Crow, Lake Victoria, lynching, mommies, mommy writes, mothering, mothering body, mothers, new mommy, new mommy writes, plans, plantation, power, scary, slavery, spiritual, teach children, Trans-Atlantic, violence, visionary, wednesday's bloom, whole mother, writing
51 weeks | Tomorrow when he grows | no. 0045
It is hard skimming the news with a little black baby boy at the breast. I haven’t known how to make sense of all these horrors. As a human being I am disappointed at the violence our inadequacies in love have bred. As a mother I am terrified at the sight of other mothers burying their slaughtered children. As an artist, I am looking at my own hands, and wondering how this abundant creativity can save more lives.
When I was pregnant I got lost inside ruminations about how we would explain to the munchkin his complex and dual beginnings as a black American and a first-generation African child. I would tangle the narratives trying to think of how to teach him everything when even I am still learning. Certain parts of the story seemed somewhat definable. Trans-Atlantic slavery, plantations, the Civil War, Jim Crow, lynchings, sharecroppers, the South, North Carolina, Jamaica, the Great Migration, desegregation, riots, the Civil Rights Movement. That would at least be a starting point and then his father could journey through the whole East African heritage. The real name of Lake Victoria, the clans, the villages, the Europeans coming to colonize and Christianize, the dictators, the escapes, the refugees, the many mother tongues, the immigration to the States. We would obviously take our time and go back and forth through our overlapping and divergent experiences of blackness, of culture, of family. All of this would take years of talking, storytelling, traveling, questioning, exploring. Complicated, yes, but not impossible. Our plate was full before any mention of Ferguson.
I shouldn’t have to mention Ferguson.
These are not thoughts I want to have as I stare into my happy munchkin’s face. Next week he will turn one year old and leave infancy behind him. This brings me joy; this almost brings me to tears. For a mother of a black boychild in the United States, the future is not only bright, it is scary. In 2014, they are still lynching black bodies. I was not intending to have to tell my son that history is actually still so current. I imagine he will want to know why there are these evils in the world. How to be honest without crushing his vast dreams to leave humanity better off than he found it? Parenting is such a delicate art. Everything said is always hanging in the balance. You want to show them so that they know, but you also know they will learn some of the hardest things by themselves.
I told the munchkin’s father I was feeling a little sad about his birthday next week. I believe my exact words were, “it’s the end of an era.” When I think back to those first days, weeks, months, I miss it all. Now that we’ve grown into a new stage, I see how this is always going to be just a stream of constant beginnings. There is no way to hold on to any moments. It’s all moving on to the next. If anything, this is encouraging me to be even more present with my mothering work as we enter pre-toddler season. He’s officially walking, and soon will be speaking more of our language. I am also excited to be here too. Mothering so far has been this beautiful ache in my soul, a perpetual pushing and pulling that I am doing better at accepting.
Tonight, the munchkin had a very hard time getting to sleep. I turned off all the lights. I nursed him. I sang to him. I rubbed his feet, his belly, his arms. I rocked him. I walked around with him. Finally I looked at the clock and saw how close we were to midnight. The Wednesday was almost over. I decided we were just going to have to make a late night of it, so I put on one lamp, got back on my computer, and gave him the hairbrush with the handle he loves to chew on. We set up our after hours office on the bed and then after a little bit he wanted to nurse again. I put him in my lap, he latched on peacefully, and finally he fell asleep. I thought it interesting that the most success I had getting him in the bed was not doing all the things I thought I was supposed to be doing. But it was from doing this work, returning to my writing, making sure I completed my ritual for the week.
I will revisit these layered thoughts and charged words I brought up in future posts. A lot of time was spent soothing my munchkin, so I wasn’t able to finish crafting this story. Perhaps that’s my reminder tonight, though. A partial rendering is still worthy of being shared. Especially considering all the gaps that exist when we attempt to show our child who we are, and where we’re from, and what it means that we’re all here now, together.
The munchkin, my first born, was born on a Wednesday. Wednesday’s Bloom: Textual Portraits of a New Mommy is an ongoing multi-media documentary project about my process as a mother. Today’s story is a part of Volume 1, 73 consecutive weeks of posts, spanning about the first year and a half of the munchkin’s life. Each episode explores my weekly discoveries, challenges, questions, and hopes as a mother. I also facilitate the New Mommy Writers’ Workshop for all mothers and women active in their mothering work who are excited about cultivating their own writing practices.