Minnie and Me

 

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Where were we?

Her name is Minnie. She’s twelve years old and we’ve been together since she rolled off the Toyota dealership showroom floor. I know every inch of her silver full-size body. I like to think the ease with which she handles is because she knows me.

She’s a twelve-year-old hybrid that still gets great gas mileage. She and I, just the two of us, have taken so many fuel-efficient round trips from DC to Boston and back that I could do it with my eyes closed. (Actually, that wouldn’t be a good idea.) Most times we leave at 4am so we miss rush hour traffic on both the Baltimore-Washington Parkway (too early) and the George Washington bridge (too late) and make it to New York City in three and a half hours. Flat. We get behind the fastest car on the New Jersey Turnpike, crank up the tunes and roll. We listen to The Allman Brothers Band’s “Blue Sky” to cruise to as the sun comes up. Then we do some reflecting to Santana’s “Song of the Wind” during the long straight stretches. We use the high energy of Tupac’s “California Love” and Beyonce’s version of “Before I Let Go” to get us through to the end. (There are lots of tunes in between.) I’m sure other drivers see my gray braids bouncing and my lips moving to the music as we fly down the highway at I-don’t-want-to-tell-you mph and think, “What is up with that old lady!” Whereas all I’m thinking is, “Get out of my way!” We get to Boston by lunchtime if we’re lucky on the Mass Pike. Sometimes we’re not so lucky. We did the trip in a blizzard one year. It took us ten and a half hours, but we made it.

Minnie has her issues. Her last name is McSqueaks because one of her sounds is an intermittent squeak that she refuses to let Keith at Franconia Service Center hear. She usually does it after we drive over any raised surface. I told my grandkids that it’s the way she talks to me. On the rare occasions when they hear it, they always squeal, “What’s she saying, Memu, what’s she saying!” Squealing and squeaking. I have the most interesting car rides.

Another of her sounds is the flapping noise under the bumper on the driver side when we go over sixty. That one is my fault. I used to hit things. A lot. I hit concrete wheel stops regularly. Consequently, the front of Minnie’s undercarriage resembles Swiss cheese. The flapping sound is the bit hanging down as it moves in the wind. I once hit my own moving van. That one cost me termination by my insurance company. It also cost me very expensive coverage with another. I was the DMV’s poster child for how not to drive. I haven’t had any accidents since moving to the DC area. (She looks around for wood to knock on.)

So, Minnie is, justifiably, showing signs of age, wear and tear. But then, so am I. I know the time will come soon for me to think about getting to know another car. It will feel a little like a betrayal, though. My husband bought Minnie for me after he was diagnosed with cancer. He wanted me to have a good reliable car that wouldn’t require much maintenance. Minnie is all of that. I’m grateful for his gift and I appreciate her. I don’t have to think too much about it because I can’t afford another car for at least another year. So, for now, it’s still Minnie and me, two old girls rollin’.

It Rises

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise

Two weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending an event hosted by the National Museum of African-American History and Culture that included the exhibit “Rising Up: Hale Woodruff’s Murals At Talladega College. It was held at the National Museum of American History because the NMAAHC building isn’t finished yet. It’s slated for completion in 2016.

Smithsonian via Google Plus
Smithsonian via Google Plus

One of the many benefits to me of moving to the Washington DC area has been the excitement of watching the museum’s development. As I passed on my way to the event that Saturday, Maya Angelou’s powerful poem Still I Rise came into my head. The image of that beautiful building rising out of the ground at the corner of the National Mall  seems like the embodiment of the words to me.

When I was a little girl, the biggest public symbol of African-American life that I saw regularly was a giant fiberglass washer woman dressed like Aunt Jemima which stood on top of the roof of the local laundromat. She was mechanical. and moved up and down in a never-ending task of washing fiberglass clothes in a big tub. I asked my mother more than once why “they” put that big, ole lady up there like that. Even at that young age I knew it wasn’t a flattering image of black womanhood. My mother’s answer came with a sigh and was always the same, “I don’t know, honey. I don’t know.”

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So for me, watching the NMAAHC building go up has been cathartic. It has exorcised some of the many shame demons who taunted me in childhood. I’m thrilled to witness the progression of an emblem of the contribution of African-American culture to the country, as it expands upward toward the sky. As Ms. Angelou so pointedly yet eloquently put it:

 

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

Hale Woodruff's murals exhibit
The Hale Woodruff’s murals exhibit

Showing Up And Getting Over

So, I was with my church community last Saturday. Because it’s the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, we had an event with a speaker who discussed Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy. One of the main points the speaker put forth is that there’s no room for anger in a non-violent movement. Our group is very diverse but there seemed to be a stress line dividing our Black and White members on that particular point. I noticed that the White members wholly embraced the idea while we African Americans were more reserved about it. It seemed that while some of us felt the emphasis has to be on reconciliation in addressing inequity in this country, others expressed the need for justice to be the centerpiece. It was immediately clear to me during the discussion that the effects of racism in the US and the difficultly of trans-racial conversation about it was, once again, at play.

I thought about the event for days afterwards. How best would I explain to my White fellow members why I think anger and a thirst for justice are at the forefront of movements for equality and non-violence is not so much a belief system as it is a political strategy? I decided to make a short video to express myself. It’s the first time I’ve made one so it’s a little rough but I think it makes the point. Both songs on the audio track are called “How I Got Over”. The first one is the song Mahalia Jackson sang at the March in 1963. (Recording from “The Essential Mahalia Jackson”,1980, iTunes Store) The second one is The Roots from their album by the same name. (“How I Got Over”, 2010, iTunes Store) Here is the link to the video on YouTube. Please watch and let me know your opinion. http://youtu.be/6LKmTvFJEG8

Then today I went to the National Mall for the anniversary march. As it was fifty years ago Black and Brown people (and because it’s 2013 every combination thereof) came together en masse to tend to business. The job isn’t done yet, the dream not completely fulfilled but I’m glad to say, we’re still willing to show up and stand up. Here are some pictures to prove it. IMG_1860

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Success? You Betcha!

So the Daily Prompt:Success asks us about a time when things went the way we’d hoped they would. This is an easy one for me.

Last summer I moved from Boston to Virginia. I felt leaving Boston would help me move past the miasma I was mired in. It did. I’m happier than I’ve been since…..Isn’t that funny. I don’t dare write since when for fear of bringing on something as traumatic as the loss I experienced back then. I don’t believe I have that kind of power but I don’t believe in tempting fate either. Things have been going so well since my move that I have the jitters about it. I took a big leap of faith uprooting my life and thankfully its paid off big time.

I suspected a change of place would jazz me and pique my interest. I obviously picked the right place because there’s always something for me to do here. I live 15 minutes away from Washington DC and there is no lack of action there. Between the political types and tourists I can spend a whole day just people watching. I’ve always loved visiting historical sites and Virginia wins the contest against Boston when it comes to history as far as I’m concerned. As an African-American the Civil War is important to me because it’s so much a part of my history. And I got to go to the presidential inauguration!

I knew moving here would bring my family closer together geographically but I had no idea it would bring us together emotionally. We had a tough time being a family for a while; we were far apart because of distance and different forms of grief. Moving our base to Virginia made it easier for us to have time together at holidays and vacations. We used the time to knit ourselves back together as a whole family. And our family has grown larger which I like to attribute to the better weather.

IMG_0451I hoped my move would bring about the changes I planned and not the unintentional ones my friends warned me about. I’m glad to say this past year has been absolutely wonderful and more than I could have hoped for. Success? You betcha.

Here and Now

I’VE DECIDED I’M GOING TO STAY HERE.

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This morning, I found myself sitting in gratitude on my balcony sipping my coffee, listening to the birds and feeling positive and vital. Suddenly, I realized that moving to the DC/VA area has unblocked a vein of energy in me that I didn’t even know was blocked!  Since I’ve been here I’ve been engaged in activities that I couldn’t find the energy for in Boston. For instance, I joined a couple of meet-ups here. One is the history group I wrote about in a previous post. They like to experience historical sites by walking to them. Who knew I would enjoy it as well? The other is a group that deals with spiritual and religious matters. If you’ve read other posts of mine, you know how important that has always been to me. What’s different now is that I’m willing to discuss the topics with other people…face to face…in real time and I’m not emotionally spent afterwards. (See my post on introversion.) And where did I find the energy to keep up with my grandbaby? I mean really, do you know how busy a toddler is? Also, I’ve been writing. Obviously I’ve been writing all along but up until this summer, it’d been laborious and kind of scary. Now I’m writing regularly and with alacrity. That hasn’t been the case for a long time.

Four years ago my life veered unexpectedly and onto a path I didn’t know was there. This happens to a lot of people. We come to a twist or turn in the road and lose our sense of direction. Before we can move forward again we have to develop a strategy to figure out where we are. The unexpected path I found myself on was one of great loss and big change. It’s apparent to me now that part of my coping strategy was hunkering down inside myself and giving away the pieces of me that I thought contained the pain. So I stayed in a place that no longer suited me doing things for  people other than myself. I had gotten through the hardest time of my life without falling apart but I didn’t understand that I wasn’t whole.

The atmosphere here feels right for me. It’s a combination of being around people with whom I’m more comfortable and paying attention to the things that are important to me. So I’m not going back to Boston. I’ve rented out my condo and put in a change of address. Some of my friends cautioned me about making such a significant change at this point in my life. But I’ve decided that if my life can be changed dramatically without my intention then what’s wrong with changing it with intention. I’ve learned that there will be unfamiliar consequences either way.

I feel like my recovered self on this new path and I like where I’m going.  Last night I went with a group to the National Cathedral for a walk around the labyrinth there. How about that, people and walking all in one night!