What Is An Apology Really Worth?

A lot of people were sorry last week. Rick Ross, who has been under fire for “rape-y” lyrics, finally issued an apology via Twitter to fans, feminists and people who didn’t care either way. His apology: I don’t condone rape. Apologies for the #lyric interpreted as rape.  #BOSS

Whoopdy-doo.  Talk about a piss poor apology. It seemed that folks were most annoyed by the apology itself than what it was actually for. I am one of those people.

When someone offends or wrongs us, though we may wish they could take it back, we have to put on our grown folks clothes and acknowledge that they can’t. All you have to offer is your regret and sorry’s, so it just can’t be sub par. To me, that tweet meant absolutely nothing. He still holds to the idea that the lyrics didn’t spell out rape. WE interpreted them as such. To that I say, look up “rape” in the dictionary or talk to a victim then refer to your lyrics. But that’s another story for another day.

These days, what is an apology, really? Every time someone does something to bring them shame or cause outrage, they’re immediately MADE to spit out some sensational apology (hey Tiger!), as if that makes them a better person, if an apology is even needed at all.

It seems like everyone is saying they’re sorry for what they really meant to do or say. I’m sorry I had an extramarital affair. I’m sorry I made a racist remark. I’m sorry I wrote and recorded lyrics that implied rape. I’m sorry I said a beautiful woman is attractive. I didn’t really mean it. Blah, blah, blah.

Another thing to consider is why these apologies are given. Is it because the person who has been allegedly wronged the one requesting it or everyone else? Last week, a White House press secretary informed the press that President Obama privately apologized to Attorney General Kamala Harris for saying she is the “best-looking attorney general in the country.” I didn’t think his comments were out of line. The appointment makes it clear that the President respects her accomplishments and intellect, as he stated before his controversial comment. Who made that apology necessary? Harris or us?

We’ve done this though. The continual need for apologies by the public and even on a personal note has become so great, when we hear them, they don’t mean as much anymore. They hold little to no weight most times, even if they do pacify us for a brief moment. Hear me: Apologies are needed. Sometimes they’re needed to just keep the peace, like in the President’s case. Also, demanding them can be a major teaching moment for both parties. People can really be unaware of how and why they treat people the way they do. I’m not talking about those folks. I’m addressing the others.

I’d much rather people don’t apologize for things they made a conscious choice to do or say, especially if they know they’ll repeat the behavior again. Saying those two words “I’m sorry” can make us feel so validated, like that person really cares about our feelings. That moment is awesome, and depending on how deep the wound is, it can be all life-changing and all we need to reconcile. What hurts more though, is when the afterglow of the apology wears off and that person repeats the offense. What happens then?

See, the thing about apologies is the only person who gives it really knows the intentions of their heart, which determines the validity of it, period. The person who receives the apology makes a personal choice to believe and accept or not. What really matters in the end is action.

Sometimes you get apologies, sometimes you don’t. Sometimes they’re sincere, other times they’re blatant lies. Either way, the ball is always in your court as to how to deal with it to move past the hurt.

 

 

The Birthday Girl

Today would’ve been my grandmother’s 85th birthday. If you’ve been following this blog, you may remember that she passed away in 2010. Rather than write about how I felt then, I’ll tell you something that made me feel better.

I’d been to back to my grandmother’s house only once since she passed away. Even then, I didn’t go in. Before that, I had no reason to because she lived in a nursing home for two years. My aunt, my granny’s oldest child, now lives in the house. A few weeks ago, I needed to pass some time before I went to church. My granny’s house is 10 minutes away. Mama suggested I stop by. I was hesitant not because I didn’t want to visit my aunt, but because I didn’t know how I’d feel walking into house whose original owner no longer existed.

I put on my Big Girl Undies and headed to South Memphis. My aunt lived there now, not Granny, and I’d been there once before. Then, I pulled up and sat in the car and cried. Almost a year later, how hard could it be?

The closer I got to the house with every corner I turned, every street I slowly drove down, small tears dropped on my shirt. I wasn’t sad, but I remembered picking her up every Sunday morning to take her to church. She would tell me to turn on specific streets, instead of the ones I was used to taking. I wasn’t sure if it was because she knew ways to miss traffic or the people who aimlessly wandered around the hood on early Sunday mornings or if she was just being bossy. I remembered helping her find her house keys, which she often misplaced because she put them in a different compartment in her purse every time. Together, we found one special spot for her keys so she could get into the house safely. I remembered stopping there before choir rehearsal on Thursday nights. I would take a nap or talk to her while she sat in her chair, eating candy and junk food.

I’d spent so much time remembering how we used to laugh and spend time when she was in the nursing home that I’d forgotten her life before that when things were normal. I miss her.

I walked into the house to find it totally different. Auntie had really fixed it up. Hardwood floors that had always been covered by emerald-green carpet shined and sparkled and all of her things were, instead of Granny’s. It was a completely new home.

It was yet another reminder that she, atleast her body, is really gone. That’s okay though.

When I left the house, walked down those few steps from the porch to the driveway, as I have so many, many times, I  told my aunt goodbye, and she said, “Bye, baby.” She sounded JUST like Granny. I had to look back.

And that made my day because that was a sign that she’ll never really be gone as long as we have her in our hearts.

Happy birthday, girl! I celebrate your life through who you were, the family you created, instead of material things that represented you. I love you.

If Rihanna Is About That Thug Life…I Am Too

See, I tried to let it slide because the unthinkable happened. I’m not so sure how it happened, but it did. I’m a Rihanna fan.

After her debacle with Chris Brown, I let my umbrella down and threw it in the trunk because I didn’t see her the same anymore. I just knew that she was a young girl who was head over hills in love and possibly off her rocker, but also under the watchful eye of a four-star publicity and management team (not denying that I don’t feel this way still). I’ve never actually purchased any of her albums, but somehow I always end up having them. Crazily enough, I started following her on Twitter, and I decided that her tweets were just fun enough, just edgy enough to imagine that she, this 24-year-old island girl could be like a “play sister” or cousin. The one who does and says way too much, but that’s what you like about her. She bears watching, as my mama would say.

Finally succumbing to the pop culture pressure, I listened to Talk That Talk.  “Where Have You Been” and “Watch and Learn” sealed the deal. That album is a winner and is in heavy rotation in every place I can possibly listen to music.  I played a Rihanna playlist on Spotify and realized that I know more of her songs by heart than I’d care to admit, and while her performances are hit or miss, her fashion sense and free spirit are lovable.

But that still doesn’t excuse this “Thug Life” phase she’s going through.

A few months back, she tweeted a picture of her knuckles with the letters of “Thug Life,” a term coined by Tupac Shakur that started a movement, tatted on each finger. Cue those crickets. I can’t think of anyone who is farther from living the Thug Life than Robyn Fenty, and though I don’t know what she does behind closed doors, I can bet that thuggin’ it on the corner isn’t one of them. But, hey, what do I know? Then, I let it go, but seeing the Good Girl Gone Bad in a candid with “Thug Life” written across her stomach (did she use a Sharpie?)  a la Tupac made me cringe. I don’ t think taking exotic trip abroad with lavish shopping sprees is what he had in mind, though his definition is debatable.

If Rihanna is living the “Thug Life,” hell, so am I. I’ve compiled a list of things I do or have done that prove it:

1. Park in the handicap spot to run in the dry cleaners. 

Okay, I know it’s illegal, but I’m only running in there for like, five minutes, tops. For those five minutes though, I’m living life on the edge.

2. Purposely not wish everyone happy birthday on  Facebook.

I’m really wrong for this. Birthdays are special, and people should be wished well on their day. The problem is when a million people have the same birthday. Geez, somebody’s gonna miss out. Sorry.

3. Order kids meals at fast food chains even though I don’t have kids. 

Everyone knows that children receive the proper meal portions for the right price. I will tear a 6-piece nugget meal from Chick-fil-A UP! I can’t tell you how many mini coloring books and cows I have stashed. I could keep a five-year-old entertained for days.

4. Listen to and rap ratchet, ignant rap music at extremely high levels in my car.

You really don’t wanna see when Jeezy’s “Superfreak” or “Cashing Out”  by whoever he is or even “No More Pain” by the great Tupac himself comes on. I’ve always done this though. It’s a part of me, atleast until I have children.

4. Don’t always tip the person who brings me my carry-out order.

I read somewhere that this is “ratchet” behavior. So be it. I’m picking my food up, so I’m doing all the work. Most times I do tip, but it’s usually not 18 percent. Nah, who mad?

5. Colored my hair with African Pride’s at-home dye system

This here is what adventure and thug dreams are made of. Only I would buy a home-coloring box set and take it to a stylist for professional use only. My 18-year-old self needed to be slapped. I died to have my hair died, and what better time to do than when I was in college five hours away from home? When my mama visited New Orleans for Thanksgiving, I had hot pink streaked hair. She and I both died. Eventually, it toned down, but for a good month, I looked like Nick Minaj by the head. Smh

6. Unapologetically ate a funnel cake outside when it was windy.

There’s no way to remain cute or look like you have any sense of decorum while doing this. Just know that I looked like I’d gotten into a fight with a bag of powdered sugar by the second bite.

7. Watch Unsung: Minnie Riperton without crying a river. 

You wanna see real tattooed tears flow? Watch that episode of Unsung. I dare you! You cannot do it, but I managed to only let two lonely tears fall when I watched it last night. I didn’t even need Kleenex. Now, THAT is “thug life.”

My Birthday Manifesto

Well, people, it’s here. Today is my 30th birthday. How’d it get here so fast? I remember my 18th birthday like it was this morning, rather than yesterday. Yesterday, my family and friends threw me an awesome party. I am beyond blessed to have people in my life who genuinely care about me and show it. I stayed up until 12 a.m. and at 12:04, it hit me that I am officially out of my 20s, and I wanted to cry. For like, three seconds. Then I was over it. Instead of looking back on the past and comparing myself to others and their accomplishments by this age, I’ll embrace what’s to come because I know without a doubt that I am favored by God. Things will only get better with time.

Meanwhile, since I’d already reposted “30 Things Every Woman Should Have Before She Turns 30,” I figured I’d do a manifesto after I received a funny email about how to write one. A manifesto is defined as a “written statement declaring publicly the intentions, motives, or views of its issuer.” I immediately thought about Clutch Magazine’s manifesto. I always thought it was cute, so why not do one of my own?

My Manifesto

I will live my life and make decisions with purpose and intention. (Except for when I want to catch a good sale.)

I will do what makes me happy, even if it doesn’t pay off right away now. I know it will.

While I know my small circle of friends is more than sufficient, there’s nothing wrong with being “sociable” outside of that circle.

I will work harder to reciprocate the love and care shown to me for my family and friends.

Time is nothing to play with. Use it strategically and to your best advantage.

Community is important. I should invest in it.

I know that “the club” is not the be all, end all. There are so many other things to do, I don’t care what R. Kelly says. (I’ve known this for a while though.)

Reading is what’s up. And of course, writing is, too.

I will take better care of myself physically. I’ve made it to 30 without having to take hypertension meds. That’s a miracle.

God loves me, so I will let my light shine, so others can see He loves them, too. (Yes, I went old school.)

Now that that’s out of the way, let me get my birthday dance on.

While I’m Waiting…

I’m sitting here waiting for a publicist to call for an interview. A 4:30 p.m. call has turned into a 5:45 p.m. and still waiting call. Those are the breaks though. Anyway, it’s been crazy busy for me lately. Actually, it’s just been crazy–period. I’m snowed in and a little antsy because I’m impatient over this interview, plus I have other stories to write. Of course, I’d rather procrastinate and blog, instead of washing my hair until my call comes around. So here are a few things that have gone on in the past month.

I volunteered at St. Jude. During lunch, I participated reading program for working professionals. Instead of reading to a group of kids, you visit each waiting room and offer kids books from the book cart to read. If they’d like, you can read to them individually. I read to two kids: a Latino boy, about six-years-old. His parents, who could barely speak English, thanked me for reading to him. That was the only time he and his younger sister were able to calm down. I also read a mini cardboard book to a 20-month-old who entertained herself by tapping her little tush repeatedly. She saw my cell phone and wanted to play with it. I enjoyed myself. I’ll definitely do again later this month.

I visited a mosque for the first time. Correction: It was actually a study group, which is a “mosque in training,”  as I’m told in the Nation of Islam. I was invited to hear the son of Elijah Muhammad, Yasin Muhammad speak about a campaign to target poverty and lynching in Mississippi. If you didn’t know, a young African-American man was hanged in Greenville, Miss. It was reported as a suicide, but locals say otherwise. Read it here.

It was an interesting experience. I’m not Muslim, and I’m a tad ashamed that what I expected wasn’t all at what it really was. It’s good to explore other religions and beliefs. It doesn’t make you less committed to yours, especially if your belief is as strong as it should be.

So my surgery isn’t anywhere in the near future like I hoped it would be. After a couple of “woosahs,” I was okay with it. That means now that I can enjoy all of the activities ahead for February. I might as well enjoy life before I’m on lockdown for six weeks. Yeah.

Last night, my mama told me she knows I’m not cut out for a 9-5 job. Oh God, what a relief! I’d been feeling that way for a while, but never really admitted to myself. My philosophy is I haven’t come to terms with whatever until I say it aloud or write it down somewhere. I just knew if I told her that she’d tell me I was crazy. I mean, I do have bills to pay. BIG bills. So, how can I do this? All I know to do is keep doing what I have to do until I can do what I want to do, and pray, of course.

Speaking of writing this down and coming to terms, after about four months, I finally wrote about my granny’s passing in my journal. I wrote about it here, but not in my journal where only I can see. I hadn’t written since the week she entered the hospital. There were so many things I could have written in there about other random stuff, but I knew I’d have to write that she died first. Does that mean I hadn’t accepted it all along? I don’t think so, but it was really hard to deal with.

I refused to open the drawer where I keep her obituaries. The week following the funeral, I put her obituary picture (a young picture) and a recent one that I loved on a disc to print out. I even bought special frames to put them in. They were going to sit atop my bookshelf in my living so I could always see her smiling, and anyone who visited me would see her. Every week I promised myself I would walk to the Walgreen’s directly across from my job to print those pictures, but I found every excuse in the book not to. The disc is still in my bag. The picture frames are laying on the bookcase. I still haven’t done it.

It took talking to a friend to realize I was avoiding her death, as if I don’t think about it everyday already. After our conversation, I went to my room and wrote in my journal. I cried from the first sentence to the last, BUT I felt so much better. I FEEL so much better. God continues to keep His promise by sending her to me in my dreams–often. So I’m alright. In a way, I have channeled her. As often as I’m allowed, I sit down and watch Dr. Phil while eating candy uncontrollably. In a little while, those pictures will be up for sure.

Whew, I didn’t even mean to go, but there it is. Anyway, maybe my interview will call in soon. Smooches!

2010 Rewind…My Life in Blog Posts

The year 2011 is upon us, and I can’t say I thought this year would have turned out the way it did at all. To quote the Mr. Clarence from Coming to America, it was “good and terrible.” My faith makes me know that my good always outweighs my bad, so let’s take a look.

1. My first yoga experience: Yeah, it’s not me. I’ve got to find something else. Maybe Zumba.

2. My first story for Honey was published. I interviewed my former Dream Man, Brian White.

3. Thanks to a freelance gig, I was turned on to a wonderful Memphian writer, Dolen Perkins-Valdez, author of Wench. Read it!

4. I was-named project creator for a project that never happened. Oh well. It was a flop, but I connected with some great bloggers and writers. What’s up, D In the D Life!

 

5. I celebrated my 29th birthday on the West Coast. Viva Las Vegas!  Shout out to my Asian fam at Club Tao.

6. I took another position at my job. It’s um, different, but I’m learning new things and re-learning some old things, too.

7. I’m a brace face AGAIN. I up and decided to get braces, including having them extract four teeth in the process. I love them just as much as I did when I was 14. 

         

8. I interviewed my Mentor in My Head, Aliya S. King  and saw Janet Jackson in one weekend at Essence Music Festival.  

       

9. My first time on a beach. I know, I know. Why did it take 29 years to get to one? For years, all I wanted to do was feel sand between my toes. During our getaway to the DMV, instead of taking a train to NYC, my friends surprised me. What a feeling!

10. My granny went on in September. I love and miss her so. I still cry and still get sad, but I know she’s where she’s supposed to be. This was definitely the lowest point of my life, but I’m getting stronger.

11. I received a story assignment from the Final Call newspaper, and it turned out to be a cover story. Talk about surprises! You just never know what’s coming down the pike for you. This story opened my eyes to a lot of things: Poverty, peonage and protocol. I’m grateful for the experience.

12. As of December 18, 2010, I have been relaxer-free for a year. I still haven’t gotten the full swing of things, but read about my rants here and here. I got a post on CurlyNikki.com out of it!

13. I tried ice skating for first time in over 15 years. I was a little rusty, but it was fun overall. No falls or slip-ups!

14. #ImaddictedtoTwitter It brings me so much joy and pain at the same time. It’s like a boyfriend you wish you had the guts to break up with. From Chris Brown/RazB beef to connecting with great writers to finding great sources for my stories, Twitter supplies it all. What will the next major social network be? I’m not signing up.

Thankful

I’m sitting up in my bed watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, preparing to work on a story. It’s cold and gloomy outside, but warm and toasty in my house. I’m going to my mama’s house later on, so she can teach me how to make her dressing (again), and tomorrow, I’ll be traveling to New Orleans to enjoy yet another Bayou Classic with family and friends.

I am thankful.

I would be lying if I said I don’t complain about things every now and then. I’m not where I thought I would be, nor am I doing what I thought I’d be doing at this point in my ife. The crazy thing is, I don’t know if I ever really had a specific plan for my future,  but I did have an idea. But what are ideas without implementation and follow through? Yeah.

However, when I really take time to think about it, I can’t help but be thankful.  For years, I sat in church watching people hoop and holler, shout and nod their heads about thankfulness to God for little things. As I’ve gotten older, I get it. I can sleep peacefully in a warm bed in my own home. I have sufficient income to take care of my needs and wants. My job is not fulfilling, but doors in other areas keep opening.  Though few in number, I have an awesome family and great friends.  

So, though my granny isn’t here with me physically, I thank God because He sends her to me in my dreams. Three years ago to date, I was in the hospital with my Daddy after suffering a heart attack and stroke. Today’s he’s alright. I am blessed, and I don’t take that for granted. Sure, I could wish to saunter up and down the brightly-lit streets of New York City, be a well-known writer or travel across the globe, but the things that really matter, I already have, I already do. I must be thankful for what I have before I can be taken to the next level.

Today, I will bask in the blessings God has bestowed. He’s greater than great.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Lessons Homecoming Should Teach You

Unless you’ve been under a rock (and just don’t care for urban media) you read about the backlash Vibe Magazine is getting regarding a story published about former cross-dressing Morehouse students. I won’t go into details, but regardless of the story’s content or point, students took it personally, defending their dear Morehouse to the death. Amongst the pandemonium, I read a tweet in my timeline that said HBCU elitism is hysterical.

You know what I say to that? Damn right! Why shouldn’t it be?

Nothing gets us more excited than rattling off famous alumni, bragging on our historical value or how great our marching band is, except that which emcompasses it all— HOMECOMING.  

That’s right. It’s HBCU Homecoming season, one of the most wonderful times of the year! I attended mine this weekend, and I’m still recuperating. In 11 years, I’ve only missed one, and I still regret it. Around July, even May, the buzz question is likely to be: “You goin’ to Homecoming?” The week prior to the festivities, I listened to the male BFF talk about the foolery and debauchery sure to ensue for the weekend. Things that only college-age folks should do, he and his boys were planning to do 10x. When I questioned his sense of decorum, he simply replied like he always does: “What do you mean?? It’s HOMECOMING!!

 This is the standard answer/excuse to do things you have no business doing for the weekend. Maybe that’s the appeal of it all. Every year thousands of alumni, some even with baby strollers and diaper bags in tow arrive on campus ready for tailgating, football games and partying (My linesister and her husband attended with all four of their children–eight-month old included).

One might ask why must we travel from near and far every year. Is it that serious??

YES.

Is it really possible to compact the culmination of feelings, good times and experiences of four years into two to three days?

YES, even if you almost kill yourself in the process. After you take the following week to re-up, you know it was worth it. (I’m speaking from experience here.) As I get older, I see that Homecoming should be more than a weekend, but a time to reflect and learn, even while recovering from a hangover. I present lessons Homecoming should teach you:

1. Fine ain’t always forever.

How disappointing it is to see the “finest guy/girl on the yard” at Homecoming resembling Mr. Potato Head. Time can either make or break all of us. Yes, marriage and babies can change us, but atleast be recognizable. If seeing folks who have “fallen off” doesn’t sadden you, it should atleast inspire you to tighten yourself up.

2. Graduation does not equal maturity.

Unfortunately, when we walk across the stage and become an “adult,” we don’t automatically change mentally or emotionally. Having a high-paying job, big house, spouse and even children doesn’t make some any less of the assholes they were in college. All you can do is give them time… or not give a damn. It is what it is.

3. Thankfully, things and people can really change–you included.

Remember that guy/girl you used to be head over heels in love with?  That chick who hated you for no apparent reason? That non-ceasing awkward feeling you had always when around that certain someone? All of that can fade and things can be back to normal. What a relief.

4. But some things remain the same.

Aside from minor changes, you can actually have the same or somewhat similar fun you had in college. For many, this is the one time of the year when they can swap the suit and tie or power suit for jeans, fitted dresses and glam to down endless drinks (or Omega Oil, Alpha Punch or Nupe Juice). Everyone seems to have the same agenda: go in. Have you ever smelled or felt a memory? That happened to me as my friends I danced uncontrollably in the middle of the floor at party. Just like old times.

5. You really didn’t know everyone.

Know matter how off the charts your popularity was, there’s always someone you missed that you wish you hadn’t. Maybe they sat next to you in Biology or worked with you at your off-campus job. Maybe they always saw you in the union. So when they approach you, it’s a surprise. Just because you didn’t see them, doesn’t mean they didn’t exist.

6.  I’m not sure it’s possible to have a good Homecoming if you didn’t make the best of the time you had when you were there.

Maybe I’m wrong, but why come “home” to a place you didn’t care for when you were there? Homecoming isn’t only about partying, but it’s about appreciation for your school, reflection on your experiences. Have you ever gone to Homecoming with someone who hated their college years? Me neither, but I can imagine it’s not fun. No, you can’t get the time back, but you can make the best of today.

7. Looking back, it really wasn’t that serious. Really.

Everyone has regrets. It’s not humanly possible not to. Possibly, there were some missed opportunities, slip-ups and rejections while in college. It happens. Then, you may have thought you weren’t going to live through it all. It’s funny how when you mature, work and acquire real responsibility and bills, those old wounds and hurts dim in comparison. Hopefully, you can find strength in them. So when you see that girl who “stole” your boyfriend or you think about the pageant you didn’t place in, do us all a favor–think about your life now and let it go.

No matter what school you attended–Happy Homecoming! And if you didn’t go to school, find one to attend. It hasn’t stopped anyone else.

Memories of Her

She was a pretty lady. Fair skin, black hair, a big smile and a switch no one could match. When she wasn’t press and curling my hair in her own beauty shop, she was doing work in the church. On any given Sunday (or night of the week), you could find her patrolling the Sunday School department upstairs in our church as superintendent, making sure classes were running smoothly–and checking to see if my friends and I were in sitting in our classes, instead of playing out in the hall. You could find her greeting visitors and members alike during “passing of the peace.” She loved people, and to her, no one was a stranger. They all loved her back.

She would make announcements about special things going on in the church. She was the only I knew that didn’t need, nor request a microphone to speak. Her posture, her voice, her confidence and her charisma made everyone listen to what she had to say. In a scrapbook made for her 80th birthday, I described it as the “It Factor.” She just had this thing about her, and I always hoped just a piece of “It” would trickle down to me.

She was very intentional. An authority figure to some. A mother to all. Though I  never heard her say it, she definitely lived by the motto, “To be early is to be on time. To be on time is to be late. And to be late is unacceptable.” If I had to speak at church, she would throw me a smile and slowly nod her head up and down until I finished. I wasn’t sure if it was a nod of encouragement or approval, but I wanted both. I was proud to be her granddaughter, and I wanted her proud in return. 

As a child, I didn’t stay with her for extended periods too often, but when I did, two things were for certain: (1) I would have to climb to get into her sky-high bed for my 8:30 bedtime and (2) She would be up at the crack of dawn. At 5 a.m., she already had breakfast ready. Uusally rice, egg and salmon or slightly burned bacon.

Once she retired from cosmetology,  she moved one shampoo bowl and one hair dryer to her living room. Still, a few faithful customers would patronize, but when they weren’t there, I always wondered what she would do alone in that house for days on end. She wrote a lot—all kinds of things. Plays, speeches, letters to her children and even her own obituary. I suppose that’s who I get this writing thing from. She kept a written record of everything–family history, her sisters and brothers’ birth dates,  telephone numbers, addresses, milestones, etc. She was the first one to tell me to keep an address book. When my cell phone shut down, I wished I’d listened to her.

When I moved back home, I would visit her often. As I lay on her sofa after work, she would tell me stories about sharecropping in “the country.” She, like so many others, was originally from Mississippi. It wasn’t until she met my grandfather, a quartet singer, while singing at a local concert, that she moved to Memphis. She would tell me about the Civil Rights Movement and even how her father, a biracial man, would pass for white when he went “up yonder to Chicago.” Then, when we thought she had Alzheimer’s Disease, I was always amazed at her longterm memory. My favorite story was about her first time using indoor plumbing toilet, instead of going into the outhouse. She’d seen times change so much.

A few years later, she went into a nursing home after a stroke. By the grace of God, she bounced back, maneuvering her wheelchair or walker. My mom would get her dolled up every Sunday for church and she would eat dinner with the family afterwards. She was always there for family gatherings just as she’d always been. That was a hard, but sweet time.

Visiting her almost daily wasn’t an obligation, but something I wanted to do. Eventually I learned that she only wanted two packages of the “pink stuff” (sweetner) in her iced tea, she wanted her dentures taken out, clothes laid out and a trip to the bathroom after dinner (in that order). She wanted her shoes directly in front of the night table and her television had to be on Channel 5 or TV One. We would even watch Martin, my favorite show, together. Above all, she needed a jacket with every outfit, because “this ol’ lady gets cold.” Though her independence had dwindled, she was still in control.

She began a love affair with Werther’s Original candies. So much so, that all of her children would keep bags of them on hand, just in case her stash was low. There were many other things she did and said that made her so very special. Her wit, her attitude, her strong will made her the woman she was.

On September 19, 2010, as I was holding her hand, Viva Adell Farr Wooten took her last breath. Only a week later, I’m wondering why I was there to feel her burning hot hands, see her eyes close for the final time. It’s something I’ll likely never forget, but I know I saw her spirit ascend into Heaven to be with God. That’s what gives me peace.

The funeral is over. Family and friends have gone, and I’m still crying. I would give anything to hear her refer to me as, “My chile,” call any of her sons, biological or not, “Boy” or any woman, child or adult, “Lil girl”. I would comb her hair one last time because she believed in looking her best or see her eyes to light up when I pulled a few pieces of candy out for her. I would sit with her in silence when it just wasn’t anything else to talk about.

I can’t do any of those things anymore, but I will hear that pretty lady in my heart for always. I loved her, and she loved me even more, just like she did all of her children, so there are no regrets. So as I try to figure out how to move on, yet keep her memory alive, I continue to be thankful to God for giving her to me–to us, the people she touched in so many different ways.

She is missed. She will be loved forever. She is “simply beautiful.”

My Childhood Was Better Than Yours

This weekend, I went to my nephew’s 7th birthday party. He’s become quite intersted in bowling, even though the bowling ball is bigger than his entire body. Obviously the party was at a bowling alley. What seemed like a million little people zoomed around the lanes, jumping for joy when the bumpers that were up (for kids only, I discovered. I’m too old to bowl with bumpers. Damn) pushed the ball into a few pins. They screamed and ate Transformers birthday cake and pizza.

I started to think about my own birthday parties as a child. I didn’t have a big blowout every year, but the ones I had were memorable. I think one–maybe my 6th–was at Pizza Hut. Today that would be a lame location, but then, in the 80s? It was heaven. Nothing like pizza, the ultimate kid food and endless friends running around. I eventually had one at Showbiz, now known to kids as Chuck E. Cheese. It was the best, even though I was terrified of the Gorilla that played the piano. That was real fun.

What do kids have now–period. Nothing but computers, cell phones and a few visits to Incredible Pizza. Confession: I went to Incredible Pizza for the first time this month and had as much fun as the children. Shame.

Reading Danyel Smith’s Tumblr, The Smithian, I came across a quote taken from a recent story in The Independent, “The internet comes of age: Meet the tweeny bloggers’.” According to the story, “Children as young as three are firing up their laptops and connecting,” says Susie Mesure.

There’s nothing–absolutely nothing wrong with developing bright minds early on. The world and everything in it is driven by technology, but is it really good organic fun? I’ll tell you what I enjoyed in my childhood and why it’s better than what these kids have now.

We had better cartoons. Better yet, we had Saturday morning cartoons. I remember being as young as six or seven, getting up early at 7:30 a.m., fixing a bowl of cereal and wrapping up in covers on the couch to watch cartoons for two straight hours—until wrestling came on at 10 a.m. From Gummi Bears to Kid N’ Play and Alvin and the Chipmunks, we had the best. I can’t forget about He-Man, Transformers, She-Ra, Ducktales, ThunderCats and anything from Warner Brothers and Disney. 

We had better toys. What do kids play with these days besides PS3’s and iPhones? I know I’m not the only one who remembers the Sears Wishbook distributed for the holiday season. I wanted everything in that book (except boys’ toys). The EZ Bake Oven? Barbie California Dunebuggy? Legos?

We had better music. Let it be known that 80s/early 90s  music crushes music today. Sure, we have beats and sounds we never could have imagined then thanks to Timbaland, Swizzy and Kanye, but there’s so special about the generic sound of Bobby Brown’s “Every Little Step” (shout out to Babyface) or “If Your Heart Isn’t In It” by Atlantic Starr. It beats the hell out of listening to Wacka Flocka scream his name out over and over again. And if you need any more proof that 80s music was better, grab a Purple Rain soundtrack. Cased closed.

Our electronics sucked, so we had to interact with each other. Even I, an only child, had my fair share of “playing outside,”  running through the sprinklers and playing “Red Light/Green Light” in the middle of the street. I didn’t have  cell phone that can do anything imaginable to entertain me for hours on end like kids today. It pains me to see a group of children sitting together, but glued to their phones.  The closest thing we had then was the Atari and Nintendo. True, the Nintendo went hard–really hard–but after a while, even it got old. I couldn’t imagine sitting in front of a computer web-surfing. Do you remember the first Apple computer? The print-outs had perforated edges. No color. Straight analog.

We had real television shows. As opposed to “reality shows.” Kids today don’t know the fun of singing your favorite television sitcom’s opening song. If you didn’t know the words to “Married with Children,” “Cheers,” or “A Different World,” something was wrong. Then we had family oriented shows that allowed everyone to watch television together without covering eyes or ears. Thursday and Friday night television lineups were major events in my house. Umm, what comes on now? Don’t worry, I’ll wait….

Our fashion was better. Really, I didn’t have much of a choice of what I wore as I child, but thank God my mama knew what was “in” then. I say our fashion was better because it’s being repeated right now, but we rocked it first. I’ve already seen kids with high-top fades and Gumby cuts, so I’m waiting to see a Coca-Cola shirt any day now. I’ll never forget the day I got a pair of British Knights and L.A. Gear “Brats.” They came with five different sets of colored shoestrings. Yeah, it took me like, an hour, to tie my shoes, but it was worth it. We could have fun with our clothes and wear anything without the pressure of “fashion bloggers” and critics.

 Now, tell me. Do you really think you can top that? What do you think was the best growing up?