Saturday, March 01, 2008

Finding My Reasons In The History At Home

At 6:49, I woke up to Winston in rare form. He had his imagination on. It was fluorescent orange, cerulean blue and filled with lots of action moves. “Hi-yaaaaah! “Ba-kuuuuush!” Swash!” Arms and legs everywhere! Sudden regret for capoeira classes. Evil-eye to the lay-in husband for Pucca.

He and his dog were Microfave and Little MicroFave. They were going to get me. And they did - for 45 minutes - with stink power, lava flash, ice slash and every conceivable “power” known to the four year old brain. It involved lots of arm movement, tackling, wrestling and throwing of dog toys (which were really bombs.) The game ended abruptly - as it often does - because Winston was scared. That’s the problem with growing up with a writer/performer mother, eventually she’ll convince you that your imagination is real.

That is the wonderful thing about children. They can become so involved in the world of pretend that the boundaries of their minds blur. Pretend becomes real. The more real and scary it gets, eventually the human brain has to call in its controls. The way we often exercise a huge, great and subconscious will to wake from a nightmare. Or like America, right now, teleporting into the reality box after eight years of fantasy Bush.

So we rested by playing in the sand box. No gross motor skills here. No shouted narrative dialogue. No slashing or bashing, just tiny little Playmobil people and a surreal script which would make Adrienne Kennedy proud.

“I am the Man Of The Earth., what have you done with my crab?”
“Is he truly your crab or is he a free and independent crab with no master?”
“He is mine!”
“What say you crab?”
“I am a free crab! Help me!”
“No, he is mine!”
“No evil one, you can not keep this crab and bury him in the sand.”
"Quick, Great Tides carry the crab to distant shores.”
“I am free!
“Take that!”
“Oh, no, we are being buried.”
“I am a free crab and I will come save you!”
“Okay.”
By 9:00, I was tired. Pretend play wears me out. People wonder why i haven’t written any great new works lately. If only I could audiotape our surreal games, maybe, I could also get an Obie. But, alas, at the end of a day of interjecting new and wonderful vocabulary words into pretend games, I’m flattened.

Our whole day would have progressed in this manner - baring a play date. But, thankfully, I was going to have some “me-time." I was going to volunteer for ...you know. I told Little Man that this morning I was going out to have adult conversations with adult friends. He didn’t like it. He didn’t kiss me good-bye. S’alright - a mommy does what has to be done.

For those of you following along, my enthusiasm is in high gear. I showed up at Obama’s Official Pittsburgh Kick-Off Training & Canvassing Session. His office is in East Liberty Proper, next door to Steel City Ribs. I have renewed vigour. The man knows how to put together a team of top notch strategists. Salvation is at hand.

Skip a lot of information..... The training session was designed to be 100% inclusive of everybody’s skill sets. Today’s mission was voter registration. The Regional Field Rep Lauren - a recently graduated, sweet, petite Blonde - shared her story of what brought her to Obama. Then, she briefly discussed canvassing.

Anyone who has been trained in sales or marketing knows that a personal story can often close a deal. In my youth, I was able to put some money towards making a film by selling Mary Kay Cosmetics. What I gained from this experience - other than the lousy film I made - was some of the best sales training a woman could receive.

So - thanks to Lauren’s encouragement, I’m reminded to contemplate what my Obama story is. (Okay - other than his platform and experience.) So, I'm struggling to put my finger on why I'm willing to make my son unhappy by giving time to this stranger.

Among my earliest memories is standing on Murray Avenue handing out leaflets for some candidate my parents endorsed. I don’t remember the candidate. But, I’m sure she was a Black woman. I must have been 7 or 8 years old. But, I knew how to:

1. Smile
2. Say “excuse me.”
2. State my full name.
3. Thank the person for accepting my leaflet.
4. Address three campaign issues our candidate stood for.
5. And thank them again for giving her their consideration.

As I grew older and searched for my identity, I left the field work of: bourgeois Black politics to my parents; feminism to my Mother; and labour politics to my Grandmother. I embraced my new found identity as rebel-heir. I knew of Romaine Brooks, Natalie Barney, and Zelda Sayre - crazy White women whose fortunes had brought them the privilege of doing what they pleased when it entered their artistic brains to do so. I was inspired. Wasn't it time for Black women to have an equal opportunity to make art, get drunk and splash in public fountains? That was interesting for a time.

My father smiled his whole way through the exploration. (He even encouraged me. ) But, when I came out the other side, he was there with open arms.

We’ve been talking a lot these days, my father and I. Since Maida passed, we've talked a lot about her life, parenting, and relationships. One of three bones of contention between my grandmother and grandfather had to do with my father and how much he should be taught to dream. These were some of the things middle class Black folks argued about circa 1933 - 45.

My grandfather, an engaging, quick-witted, storytelling man, had a brilliant mind for science, mathematics and engineering. Born in this time period, who knows who he would have been? But, he knew who and where he was circa 1929 - 1940. Like any doting father, he wanted to protect his son from disappointment.

My grandmother was adamant. She made sure my father dreamed and dreamed big - with a few exceptions. The compromise for dreaming big would be that he would never run for political office.

Being a highly critical young person, I once asked him about his “meagre ambitions.” (Everyone should laugh here.)

A quiet solemnity settled over his face as he paused and thought. “Absolute power corrupts absolutely,” was always his answer.

“But not you, Dad.” I always answered.

“Everyone.” He stated.

Years later, I found out he’d been offered invitations to everything from judicial positions and to congressional candidacies. He never accepted. But, he always gave generously and worked tirelessly on the campaign efforts of others.

Currently, my father, Eric W. Springer is writing a book. Using creative non-fiction, he intends for the reader to understand that “in the 21st century a new racism will be emerging.” But, let us not stop there, “the beneficiaries of this new form of white privilege are not only white people. Some people-of-colour have already been admitted to membership as a new class of honorary whites.” His summary, “The resulting confusion and discord will likely cause some Whites , as well as, many people of colour to feel a bitterness about their circumstances.”

Barack Obama is my father’s choice. Even though my personal independent research aligns me with Obama, the fact remains that my brilliant, scholarly, legal dagger of a father believes in him.

I haven’t asked outright, but I get the sense, that he is even ready to challenge a quote upon which he has based his life. His own life example has proven that power does not have to corrupt. Holding true to one’s own beliefs and expecting others to exemplify them is the Janus head of modern Black identity. I think - he is willing to believe Obama understands and shares the same principles. To succeed a person needs enough ego to conquer the obstacles. To succeed spiritually and emotionally involves remaining humble enough to remember why you are there and what purpose you are to serve.

No, that is my optimism colouring in his cynicism. I think he understands that one or two come every couple of generations. They are not saviours, saints or miracle workers. But, in such times of darkness, we have a need to fill in our own blanks with their vibrancy, so we paint them in an image we desire because the world is so devoid of spark. And we pray that they will at least do one small thing which will save us.

And the world is ready to be saved. Like this morning with my son, I think the whole country is ready to snap out, shake their heads, arms and legs and say, “I don’t want to play this game anymore.”

I think Obama made it real enough for us to leave the surreal.

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