Friday, February 01, 2008

The History At Home | 1. The Motherboard

1. The Motherboard

Worse than the taming of contrary kinks by curlers, blow dryers,
chemicals and magic combs, where those wretched days

when my mother took her crochet hook; looped my Will,
Drive and Desire to thin solid titanium bars and Tungsten wires;

then a scorpion swarm of prophecy skittered from her lips -
almost an I.V. drip of venomous wisdom slipping inside

whispering: Pain wastes time. Tears wash away opportunities.
Leave them for the weak. Only this will save you.

Off she’d send me: to school with a 102 degree fever;
to volunteer, to hand out pamphlets for her political candidates;

to networking lunches; to my desk until I could literally pass a test
in my sleep. I should have had those tungsten and titanium bits

removed by psychic surgery. I believe
some days. Even the therapists agreed.

What Black woman would ever have enough time
to untangle and rewire that curious jangle of historic

circuitry? Antique lace ancestors, frayed patchwork wisdom
pieces, funnyhouse mirrors, electric goddess charges,

Great Horned Owl feathers, mortars, pestles,
garden seeds in cracked fragile yellow envelopes,

toilet water, hand made brooms, fused yarn, metal,
faded saints and eulogies on ripped parchment bookmarks,

and a Hail Mary. Mothers conjure then install
these motherboards protect their own.

NOTE: I am into the 13th day of battling a simultaneous infection of both influenza and pneumonia. The delirium is finally almost lifting. The throbbing in my bones and muscles is less like heavy metal and more like a reggae beat. It no longer hurts to read for longer than 10 minutes.

I am in this place because we got a new puppy. The next day, my husband went away on a business trip. I refused to allow the puppy the dominant act of peeing or pooping in my home - ever. Once we left for a walk, I would not allow him back in the house until he performed. So, the first week, I stood in below zero weather for hours on end. My husband returned to a fully housetrained puppy and a wife who collapsed into his arms and needed to be rushed to the doctor’s office and then the hospital.

It got me thinking about the curse and blessing of being a “strong Black woman.” I am not the best example of this. There is still a world of foolish stubbornness in me which is completely untempered by wisdom and moderation. In contrast to my mother - the quintessential example of what people mean when they say “strong Black woman - I am simply wilful and determined - when I want to be.

All of my fibre has been trained to be a “strong Black woman.” Some days, I resent it. I am too questioning of this ideal many Black women hold up for ourselves. I have benefited too much from integration and civil rights. Parts of me have embraced those luxurious ideas of fragility; processing emotions; taking a little time for me and simply being human. They often short circuit my motherboard. More often, they bring me closer to realising this “dream” M.L. King Jr. hinted at - where we can all just be people... that strange, potent, paradoxical blend of strong and frail, wrong and right, generous and stingy, wise and willing to learn.

So here I am feeling a tad bit silly. I’m writing my first of 32 African-American History Month posts for Deesha; eating the freshly cooked soup my mother drops by every morning - in spite of the fact that her best friend passed away on Sunday leaving behind a severely incapacitated adult daughter.

Today, my mother will tend to two families-in-need; attend several world-shaking business meetings; organise activities for her church; review three budgets; make over 30 personal and business related calls; send 15 e-mails; cook lunch and dinner for my father; and not even go to bed tired. She doesn’t have the luxury of stopping or slowing down.

Today, I will cough, blow my nose, read my son a few books, maybe find the energy to play a game with him and mostly sleep. My grandmother had a far more tempered approach. I’ll continue with her tomorrow.


Deesha said...

This is wonderful (understatement). Do I have permission to repost at some point in the 32 Days?

Deesha said...

Reading and re-reading...coming back again and again to the imagery of the circuitry. Love it.

I pretty much had the opposite operating system installed in me. But I did an add/remove. :-)

Christina Springer said...

Thanks Deesha! And of course you - not anybody else unless they ask - have permission to re-post. :)