Wednesday, November 1, 2017

To Baby Girl (on day one of your marriage and year twelve of mine)

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Here is a piece I wrote for class this week in honor of a close family member's upcoming wedding. Enjoy and... you know, be kind and what not....

To Baby Girl (on day one of your marriage and year twelve of mine),

It’s hard to know what to say.  Advice is such a personal gift to give, and I don’t really know if mine will fit you.  I know you, of course.  Since you had uneven pigtails in your hair and zig-zag parts. Before that, when your mom brought you home and your skin was red and wrinkly and I thought you were my new doll. Remember when you told us you were an actress at 5? We all gathered around the television to watch you in your first department store commercial.  You were the cutest little brown thing with a swirls of ebony curls. You were supposed to be pretending to wait for Santa to come down the chimney.  You leaned forward into the fireplace to look inside and said, “He’s too fat” and your Grandma hooted and hollered like you’d win an Oscar for that one line.  We must have rewound it 1000 times until the VHS tape broke.  I knew then – you’d make a space in the world and you’d expect everything around you to fall in place. 

When he told your grandma he was going to ask to marry you, I already knew you’d say yes. I suppose he did too.  When you called to tell me, it wasn’t to gush, it was to tell me what would come next.  There would be a house and babies and jobs in the city.  When we got off the phone, I laughed, baby girl. I was excited for the future you’d live and I prayed you’d have the patience to live it.

I was so different from you. I hadn’t really thought about marriage or seen myself as someone’s wife. I was always my own and planned to stay that way. I was a baby when I came down with loving him. Just barely 22. On our first date, he played me a song he liked and held me to him as we moved in my studio apartment.  He let me unload my dreams, and I, his fears and we cried until we felt better and we laughed until it hurt. We’d lay naked with our long limbs dangling off my full size bed and dreamt out loud a future that felt like promises.  We’d make love everyday, we’d have perfect babies, and live in one of those houses off Connecticut Avenue with the wrap around porches and impossibly large trees.  He’d be better than his father and I’d believe him in spite of mine, and we’d never settle for anything less than that feeling.  R&B songs in the dark and salty popcorn kisses on my Ikea couch.  I remember feeling free in his space.  My funny boy from North Carolina.  Do you feel that way too? We skipped down the isle less than three years later two months before we took the bar. Jumping in grown up clothes and excited about the future we’d create. We gazed at our rings in the dark on our honeymoon. We watched the gold shine and dull in the moonlight and bounce in the ocean outside our hotel window. Forever, we whispered. Forever, and ever, and ever.

But big spaces tend to get small when you keep growing.  And baby girl, you have to know, you will keep growing.  Even if you chose to ignore it for awhile, if he loves, he will call you on it and you will do the same and those expectations will fly like razors around you.  They will cut you and you will bleed and you will blame him and it will be his fault. It’s hard to hold on with that kind carnage. But one of you will have to reach out and the other one will have to reach back, even if just to touch fingertips and take deep breaths with therapists in Virginia and say things like, “I feel…” with therapists in New York and write ridiculous letters to each other when you’re angry that start, “I felt sad when you let your mother criticize my chicken…”

Because despite what they say, although marriage is tough, life, baby girl, is tougher.  And although my story is my own, I know this to be true.

Sometimes the future doesn’t go as you promised yourself.  Sometimes you don’t become the first black woman Supreme Court Judge and he doesn’t become the first black Warren Buffet.  Sometimes the perfect babies grow ill, and so does he and so do you.  And he sees you without your extensions and your lashes and kisses your tear-stained face and inhales your vomit breath and tells you he loves you and gently reminds you to take a shower.   Sometimes you lose the perfect baby growing in your belly.  Sometimes you will need you to hold him in the dark after he buries his father. And sometimes you will need him to do the same when you cry tears for your own.  And then…

On those days, you will need the sanctuary you once created.  Before the planning began and the dreams that felt like promises. When you kissed him that first time, and his lips tasted like chap stick and his breath smelled like breath mints and you knew he had prepared. When you curled up together for the first time on your full size bed.  When the air was thin and your burdens floated because they had yet to grow heavy enough to fall. When you held hands and your rings shined and dulled in the moonlight.  R&B songs in the dark and salty popcorn kisses on your couch.

Love and Light, 

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