I was going to try and write your biography somewhere, but I don’t think I had enough pages to really do justice to the weight of it all. There are a lot of words and stories that make up who and what you are. You’ve given me a lot to work with. Normally around this time, I wind up writing something to you. I used to hate it, actually. Because it felt so lazy. I’m a writer, mom. This is what I do. But I realized, while actually writing this, that writing to you two times out of the year seems like not enough thanks and appreciation. I have 365 days out of the year for you. I mean, you spent 9 months carrying me so that seems like a cakewalk. I spend so much time going through life, and writing about life, obsessively. I write about women, and love, and death, and my Blackness, about the struggles in our community. I now feel inclined to dedicate a chapter or two to you. See, I’m writing a book, mom. It’s called “Run, Black Boy, Run: A Novel”, except it’s not really a novel. It’s a collection of some prosaic pieces, some essays, some poems, and a short story or two. It actually had the running title of “Letters for My Mama”. Except, there were no actual letters to you in it. Until now. I wanted the book to be a dedication to you, I suppose. But I now understand, my life is my dedication to you.
They teach us in the Bible to be “Christ-like” in nature. We should aim for being like Christ in all that we do. I dunno, though. I sat and watched you switch from the day shift at Jacobi hospital to the night shift so you could help me with my homework after school and be available as a parent when I came home. I saw you watch Kelvin get locked up, and go get on a bus that took hours every month. You sent him food, and money, and clothes. You had none of these things. You got clothes from Helen so I could have clothes to go to school. You hid things from me, too. Uncle Winston brought us groceries. You slept on the couch right next to the door so dad couldn’t kill you in your sleep. Unbeknownst to you, while you slept, I crept in your room and practiced the things that would put on stages and win me awards. I heard things, too. How you came here at 19 with a little boy and found work. Worked in a jewelry shop with things I’m sure that were more expensive then the place you stayed. Or the time dad burned down the apartment. I remember when we first moved to 190th st., and we didn’t have a stove yet, so you made everything on a hot plate. I don’t know how you afforded the cable bill each month in elementary school. Dwain got into the car accident and I was too young to know that kind of pain.
You would make sure I gave away any toys I may have had to kids that needed it at the hospital. You made sure I prayed. You didn’t let me cross the street until 5th grade. You’d be in Dwain and I’s room outside of the window with the fires escape making sure I didn’t leave the block. I remember when we went shopping for a bed and you let me pick the comforter. I picked the NBA one with all the team logos. You made me chocolate milk every night before you left for work, and I’d walk you to the door and made sure you got downstairs safely. You were at every single parent teacher conference. I don’t remember a day you weren’t working, weren’t cooking. You bathed us. You fed us. We worked on sentences together. You threw dad down a flight of stairs once. You didn’t kill me when I poisoned you by accident with the Raid I sprayed in the spaghetti when I saw the roach in the pot. You made Dwain cry that time you hit him because he forgot to pick me up from school. You rode the bus with me the first two weeks of middle school, and rode the train with me the first week of high school. I remember the night I was starving and opened a can of corned beef that I didn’t even attempt to finish, and I tried to stuff it at the bottom of the trash can. You’d get mad at how wasteful we were. I guess we never thought about what it took for you to get that corned beef for the house. The sacrifices you made so we could eat; so we could live.
I come into your room sometimes and try to make sure I can recall everything that rests on you so I can save that picture in my memory for future use when I no longer have you around to ask questions to; when our breaths won’t share the same air and all I’ll have are photos and thoughts and words and things of you, but not with you. I want to remember how the hugs feel, how your food tastes, how sweet your smell is. I want to keep your footsteps. I want to sing your songs. Savor the words. I want to bottle the moments and consume them; keep the stories fresh and alive and bleeding well into the years you and I and the grandkids are long gone and all we have left are the ashes of our faults, the magic in the stars we dipped in, our traces lingering in the clouds of our pasts.
So, I decided I want the introduction of my book to me my dedication to you. So when some little kid that maybe looks like me opens the book up in Strand, or McNally’s, or Barnes & Noble, or their local book store or library, they’ll know that it’s okay to love their mother with every single fiber in their being like I do mine. That it’s okay to attribute their success and love, to the love and sheer determination their mother probably possessed, like mine does. Who will know you better than me, I wonder. Who truly understands the bond between mother and child, and mother and her last child? There are things only our souls and bones know of each other that no one else will be able to define. But we can. And always have. Christ-like seems easier than being Linda T. So, that’s what I will shoot for. Not deification, no. Not to make you out to be a God. But, as a saint, a patron of faith, a prophet? That? That I can ascribe to you. So, thank you Linda T., momma, moms, for helping be the purpose that I longed to be. Thank you for clearing the path for me to find where my path began. My book is your book is our book. I love you, mom.