Our lives preserved.
How it was; and how it be.
Passing it along in the relay.
That is what I work to do:
to produce stories that save our lives.
Toni Cade Bambara
I spent most of my days following my mama from room to room when I was growing up in her house. While she was getting ready for church, when she came home from work, when she was cooking, or even when she was cleaning and doing laundry, I’d keep pace with her as she busily moved between rooms and tasks. Duck and duckling we were; I watched, listened, and talked to my mom while she ran her household. This is how I learned how to be a woman. My mama’s house was also her classroom. Same thing for my grandma Mable and my aunts. I have two aunts on my mama’s side. Aunt Ruby, affectionately known as Aunt PeeWee or, RulaRoo, and Aunt Stella, whom we lovingly called Aunt Panda, and whose memory we now cherish.
I miss the ease and comfort of routinely being in the same space with these women. I still have my mom and Aunt PeeWee but I live a couple hundred miles from them and while I am grateful for even their voices on the other end when I call, the phone is no substitute for their kitchen tables and living room sofas. Still, as it is all I have most consistently, I’ve made it work, remaining their student as I learn about love, remember recipes, and seek their advice on mothering and being a woman in the world.
Before Aunt Panda died, we’d have these telephone dates where I’d ask her, the oldest of my grandmama’s children, to tell me the stories of her childhood, in hopes that I’d get to know her better and, especially, come to know and understand my grandma in a deeper way. My grandma Mable was my favorite girl. She had a reputation for being mean, stubborn, and fierce but, really, what I knew her for most prominently was love.
When my mama called me to tell me that my Aunt Panda had died after struggling and suffering through issues with her heart, I was broken. I cried, “We weren’t finished talking! She still had so much to tell me.” I still mourn the stories she took with her. I don’t know how, but my optimism keeps me believing that they’ll come to me somehow, some way.
These stories of who we are, who we were, belong on pages, in hearts, spilling from our lips as we share a slice of my mama’s pound cake, hot out of the oven. They should be told over and again because they are us, and they belong to us; they do not belong in graves.
When I look into the eyes of my daughters, I see mystery, intrigue, joy, resolve, pain, triumph, and glory that I did not put there; I see evidence of the stories of the women they will never know yet whose histories and features they bear.
So, here I am, remembering old recipes, making new ones, setting my table, raising my daughters, loving my man, making home and being a woman. This site is my creative archive of how I live, in the traditions of the men and women, but especially the women, who loved me into existence. These stories are for me and my daughters and you and yours, too. I pray they will be a mirror, a window and an echoing “amen,” testifying to the bounty of all that we are and everything we can be.