For U.S. Mothers’ Day., I asked my mother to write a little something– no prompt, just whatever she’d like to say. Here’s what she gave me. It’s completely different from what I expected, and I love every word.
I might have just been out-written by mother on my own blog. Hopefully it speaks to you the way it did to me.
My Dearest Daughter,
First, let me say I am humbled by your invitation to write a Mothers’ Day entry for your blog. I know how much Brown Books & Green Tea means to you.
I see your face light up when you tell me about your latest post and the number of “likes” you’ve gotten. I’ve also seen your heart ache when an author whose book you were tepid – not negative – about emails you a missive that says, “You just don’t get it.” I’ve seen your face look lost and disappointed when you wonder if anyone, anywhere, is reading it and you ask yourself what you could be doing wrong. It is crystal clear to me, your mother, that this book review blog means the world to you. Which means it means the world to me.
That said, I’m not using my once-in-a-lifetime opportunity on your blog to review a book.
The truth is, you know I’m not much of a reader. I have a stack of books that I’ve started but never quite made it to the end. I confess that the last book I read in its entirety was Nectar in a Sieve, by Kamala Markandaya.
This Mothers’ Day, I want to write about something else. Let’s call it: Three Lessons from Mommy. There are so many lessons that I think (hope) I taught you: Always have clean hands, no matter how dirty others’ are. Life isn’t about how much you can get, it’s about how much you can give. Karma is a bitch. Some of them read like a list from Aesop’s Fables. Others I’ve learned in my forty-something years of a life where I was at times blessed by being up and other times blessed by being down.
So, here we go:
- Always, and I mean always, keep your head up. One of the things I admire in you is your incredible work ethic. You remind me of myself growing up – times one hundred. You’re always driven and focused. You first asked me about college when you were 4 years old. You are so well educated. You’d think with all of the great preparation you’ve gotten for the workforce, that people would respect the hell out of you.
They won’t. Okay, some of them won’t. We could talk for hours about why: You’re black. You’re a woman. You don’t come from money. You’re the product of teen parents. The list goes on. I know you know life isn’t fair. I don’t have to prepare you for that.
What I want to prepare you for are the many indignities that you will face along the way, no matter how great you are.
There will be days when you feel like Queen of the World because you crushed that last work assignment. But honey, there will still be people who question you– even why you’re there at all. It must be because you’re black, right? People who will demand to speak to someone else with authority (read white skin and a penis). And you will sit in many rooms wondering who dropped Quaaludes in your tea because the guy across from you said exactly the same thing you did, but instead of hearing crickets, he is lauded for the best idea in the world.
All of these things will happen. If they’ve happened already, they will happen again.
That’s why, my girl, you must learn to keep your chin up. It may sound trite, but I mean it. Don’t ever let anyone or anything make you feel small or lose your dignity. It is one of the most valuable gifts you have. I tell you from experience that if you lose it, it’s hard as hell to get it back.
And please remember, there are some people in this world that circle like a murder of crows, hell-bent on stripping you of your self-worth to fill a void in their own souls. Somebody probably did the same to them.
- God/the universe is always trying to tell you something. Listen. I know that you weren’t exactly raised in a bible thumping home. I don’t really know any Scripture. I used to read the Nicene Creed from the Book of Common Prayer during church – never quite memorized it.
Though I’ve never worn my religion on my sleeve and I’m not a student of the Bible, here’s what I do know for certain: there is a greater and higher force at work in our lives. For some, like me, it’s a God. For others, it is many gods. And to some, it is found in nature. There is a force at play that is greater than each of us; more powerful than all of us. And there is no such thing as coincidence.
And here’s the most exciting part: it’s always trying to tell you something. All you have to do is listen to it. Never stop observing everything around you: why the trees blow this way and that way. Why for some reason you just don’t want to take the street home that you take every day. Why you ran into that old friend when you did.
Looking back, there were so many instances that I chalked up to coincidence or happenstance– or just outright ignored– that I now know was the voice or the hand of God guiding me along the way. I just didn’t have the courage, strength, or acumen yet to listen. Sometimes I just didn’t like what He had to say. If I’d taken the time to listen, so many things might have been different. Thankfully, He is patient and forgiving. Please just listen.
- Never be afraid to love hard. We’re taught so many things about love. As kids, we read books about princesses and princes who live happily ever after. But as we grow up, something happens: we become hardened and afraid to give up the power and control that’s required to really love others. Perhaps my least favorite saying is “It’s better to have loved and lost, than to blah, blah, etc.” It’s so cliché. But I’ve found that, like many clichés, it’s based in truth.
When I look back in my life, some of the most valuable moments have been when I had the courage to love someone else — even when it made me uncomfortable: a friend who sought forgiveness, my father, your father. Myself.
If I left this earth tomorrow, I would be most grateful for the opportunity and the courage to love. It made me better and stronger. It made me whole.
I’ll stop there for now, even though there’s so much more I could write. Please think about these lessons. Never forget them. I’d love to hear what you think about them, too. Thank you for inviting me to write for Brown Books & Green Tea. Thank you for being my daughter. The greatest joy in my life has been watching you grow into the human being you are today.
With love from your number one Brown Books & Green Tea reader,
Happy Mother’s Day to all the phenomenal women out there!