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Wednesday’s Bloom: Textual Portraits of a New Mommy

Mommy spins through all the changes Munchkin brings. Photo by Colin A. Danville

Mommy feels for the warmth as she spins through all the changes Munchkin brings.
Photo by Colin A. Danville

56 weeks | Somebody prayed for me | no. 0050

Somebody prayed for me
Had me on their mind
Took the time and prayed for me
I’m so glad they prayed
I’m so glad they prayed
I’m so glad they prayed for me

I sing to the munchkin in these tough moments when the day has run itself dry of discoveries, and all he wants to do is be sleep already. But we have to do a wash off and a fresh diaper, have to knead his growing soles with coconut oil, have to do pajamas, and then nurse. There, waiting for him like a clearing in the wilderness, will he find his sleep.

I too am waiting for the clearing. This is more often becoming when I can write. A flickering sliver of time between when he’s in bed and when I can no longer resist the bed. This is when I can attempt to journey into my thoughts alone. When I don’t have to share the path with a newborn toddler who roams our home by day, his feet heavy with determination. This is his house too. This is when my words can breathe a bit. Still I am rushing to say something. Wednesday will not wait for me much longer.

My mother prayed for me
Had me on her mind
Took the time and prayed for me
I’m so glad she prayed
I’m so glad she prayed
I’m so glad she prayed for me

The singing calms him, so I pick songs that can be easily extended. Sometimes I sing the same hymn for 30 minutes straight. I know I could switch up, but after a while the rhythm becomes this constant tug on him to let go of his need to be awake. It can be too risky to switch the song when he’s on the cusp of surrender. I am careful in this way; I only start off on a song if I know it can handle the job. I too need to get lost in the sway of high and low notes. I need to not have to think so hard about what I’m saying. The lyrics must come on their own. I should only have to provide them a way out.

I think this is why the old church songs come to my aid. As a little girl swallowed up inside the endless, dark wood, church pew, I would sometimes just sit as the people stood up and opened their praise books to sing. Looking up into the bottoms of their faces, the undersides of their hats, the shadows beneath their jaws, I could hear the bright voices of a congregation in love with their Jesus. There was a page in the hymnal for every possible life situation. Just turn to it, and so it was you could have your particular joys or woes mentioned in the word of God.

My father prayed for me
Had me on his mind
Took the time and prayed for me
I’m so glad he prayed
I’m so glad he prayed
I’m so glad he prayed for me

I had many questions growing up in my black and baptist church, but the songs seeped into me still. When I was standing on the side of the road in Legon, waiting for hours for a trotro to my home in Madina, these songs would find me. There I was in Ghana, leaning on the songs my enslaved ancestors had forged through the audacity of survival in Jamaica, and North Carolina, and parts unknown. It was hard to explain then, but I didn’t suppress them. I let the songs come out in a hum, or mumbled under my breath, or if it was noisy, I just would sing full out.

This kept happening, the way the songs would appear and carry me through an experience. There was never any one reason, they just were always there not far from the surface. It’s like of all the knowledge I’ve accumulated in life, I kept these worship medleys always within reach. Soon after the munchkin was born, I began digging through my stash of prayer anthems. One by one, I would unroll them from my foggy memories and audition them against the moment. Certain songs are better at certain times than others. This I had to learn.

My grandma prayed for me
Had me on her mind
Took the time and prayed for me
I’m so glad she prayed
I’m so glad she prayed
I’m so glad she prayed for me

I want the munchkin to know these broken truths he inherits through my blood. My non-geographically-descript, African-by-way-of-here-and-there blood that can’t trace any parts of its whole to one village in East Africa like he can on his father’s side. I want him to know he comes from something miraculous anyway. From people who poured all their faiths into intelligently coded spirituals, and passed them on person to person, plantation to plantation.

This is how we can know chunks of who we are, I will tell him. This is why we listen to the echoes of our history. Our weather-stained songs that have survived despite the shackle, and the whip, and the lynching. Despite the distance, and the rupture, and the amnesia. We remember something of how to talk to God with our two folded hands. Mouthing the words to centuries-old prayers that someone turned into songs. Still so potent is it all, even though we speak their hearts with English on our tongues.

My sister prayed for me
Had me on her mind
Took the time and prayed for me
I’m so glad she prayed
I’m so glad she prayed
I’m so glad she prayed for me

 

~~~

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.

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