Monday, May 15, 2006

weekend excursions and observations, pt. 1

my mother is a trip.

sometimes she's a trip to impatience and frustration, sometimes she's a trip to happiness and security. this weekend her trips included one to the mall, one to the convenience store, one to the grocery store, and one long journey towards insanity. regardless of where she takes me, more times than not i'm riding on a wave of mom-propelled guilt to get there.

date: saturday, may 13, 2006
time: approximately 8:00 p.m.

place: s. dekalb mall

dad had finally coaxed me out of the house and we were just walking in to s. dekalb mall. i hadn't been there since...well, a long damn time. in fact, i hadn't been a regular patron of the spot since i was a teenager. as i stepped through the entrance at the far end where the cavernous shell of jc pennys had been replaced by a no-name furniture store, i was reminded of just how far down the mall had come from the time when i was a shy teen and the mall was a thriving center of black business.

the location of my entry into the mall was pretty much empty, except for the occasional lost patron. the only things taking up space over there were the furniture store, a beauty salon, and the lone black-owned book store occupying a tiny corner. they existed like crumbs, only discovered if someone bothered to pull out the couch cushions.

sidebar: aiight, so why was this the only fucking book store in the entire mall? is it because barnes & nobles was deferring to the power of the itty bitty black-owned bookstore whose selection numbered in the hundreds as opposed to their usual thousands? is it because waldenbooks, out of respect for the small business owner, decided not to establish residence out of fear of squashing the little man? or is it because s. dekalb mall is located in the hood and barnes, nobles, and walden's ignant asses assumed black folk in the hood don't fucking read?

so i glance through the glass walls of the bookstore and notice a brotha and his son at the checkout counter. he was in the right place cuz i was damn sure checking him out. i stopped and feigned like i was interested in the crappy jewelry being displayed on a rack at the front of the store, casting furtive glances at the man and his son.

"see something you like?" my dad asked from behind me.

i continued my pretence of looking at the jewelry and frowned. then i looked at the man and noted the wedding ring on his finger.

"nah...nothing interesting in here..." i responded as the disappointment in the brotha's status tickled my brow into a furrow. damn, he was cute, too.

we left the bookstore and made our way down the long stretch of mallway. i noticed immediately a kiosk decorated in kente cloth and silver. treasures from the motherland...okay, so the name of the business was rather trite. however, the sista running the kiosk looked vaguely familiar. i stopped to check out the jewelry while i tried to remember where i knew her from.

dad basically stood behind me while i picked out earrings and a bracelet for mom, giving the appropriate sounds of approval when required. i should have known he wasn't gonna be an active participant in this endeavor as he made it known early on my purpose there was to make sure he didn't buy her something like socks or a tool set. you see, dad is known for his 'practical' gifts. not known in a good way, known in that "that mothafucka betta not get me another fanny pack for christmas" kinda way. the 'practical' crock pot he'd given my mom a number of years ago had met an immediate and mysterious demise, falling from the top of the fridge to shatter into a million pieces on the kitchen floor.

"what happened to the crock pot?!?" i remember asking her after she told me it was gone.

"there's a ghost around here that doesn't care too much for soup." had been her sarcastic reply.

dad learned his lesson from that one, which is the reason i'd been recruited to help him find her a gift the 'ghost' wouldn't place on the top of the fridge, waiting for the right moment to push it from the ledge. as i'm perusing the jewelry, i look up at the sista and suddenly remembered where i knew her from.

"hey!" i exclaimed as my mind cleared up and a previous image of her appeared, "you had a store over in the west end mall, right?"

she stared at me, her eyes squinting as i could tell she was trying to place my face. "i think i remember you," she said slowly as she smiled wistfully and nodded, "yes, i used to have a store over there."

she emphasized the word 'used'. my heart sank a little. that store was the only reason i ever went into west end mall. she had the greatest selection of crochet hats that would fit a big-headed girl with locs like me, not to mention some of the most beautiful traditional african outfits i'd ever seen. the jewelry she had there had been hand-rendered, copper, silver, and minerals molded into masterpieces by some unknown artisan. the most stunning piece i'd ever purchased, a copper bracelet for my brother, was bought in that store.

"what happened?" i asked, disheartened by the change in her fortunes.

"well," she began on a sigh, "i had grandchildren in crisis. had to close up my store while i went to take care of that situation."

sidebar: see, folk assume black folk in the hood don't wanna own our own shit or that we don't know how to manage our shit when we get it. most times it ain't nothing like that. it has more to do with the fact that our dreams don't erase the effects of socioeconomic inequality manifesting itself like cancerous tumors within the pores of the people around us. in other words, drama don't end with fam just cuz one person was able to latch onto a dream, which means sometimes folk gotta let go of the dream temporarily, go clean house, then come back with the hope that the dream is still there waiting for us.

in this case, the dream was still waiting, but its shine had dimmed. most dreams need money to shine and if you folk living in the hood, usually ain't no extra money left for dreams.

i looked at her and felt the burdens she was carrying as though they had momentarily been placed upon my shoulders. we were still staring at each other quietly when she continued.

"i never thought i'd be raising my grandkids. not at this age," her voice was tight with weariness. i didn't want to know what happened to create the scenario of her having to raise her grandkids, but the look in her eyes told me everything i didn't want to know. she was mourning the death of her child's spirit. whether the death had evaporated within the smoke from a crack pipe or had been mangled to death from a car accident, i wasn't sure, but it didn't matter. she had lost someone, that was obvious.

i spontaneously leaned over and gave her a hug, hopeful the gesture would afford her a moment of comfort.

"you did what you felt you needed to do," admiration in my eyes and voice, "what you're doing is amazing. don't think you won't be blessed as a result."

she nodded silently before leaning over to focus her attention on the silver bracelet i'd picked out. she began polishing it until i could see my reflection, dull beneath the low mall lighting.

we talked a little longer while she rang up our purchases. turns out after she lost her spot at the other mall she couldn't return to set up shop there because they had a policy of only allowing one of a particular type of business to operate on the premises. i stood there and listened while she recollected her struggles to get her business back on track. she'd had to borrow money from family, sell her car, and get a loan from the bank in order to have the funds to start up again. she was struggling in the new spot because of the overall low patronage of the mall itself and wasn't sure if her business would last through the summer. i marveled at her determination to reclaim her dream. my heart felt like lead in my chest as i reached over and gave her another hug after she handed us our a bag with our stuff in it. i couldn't help myself. i wanted to comfort her and offer her whatever i had emotionally that would fortify her own strength.

"happy mother's day," i whispered into her ear as i held her in my arms. she just smiled and planted a kiss on my cheek. i smiled back.

"she's awe-inspiring, dad," i said to dad as we walked away from the kiosk. he nodded in agreement. we strolled further down the mallway, the crowd around us expanding in number as we neared the middle of the mall. young black folk were everywhere. the brothas were leaning up against the walls, their stances a study in forced casualness as their eyes alertly bounced off of the bodies of the females walking by, their attention absorbed in the mesmerizing movements of the bouncing ba-dunk-a-dunks more times than not encased in something either too tight or too short or both.

i couldn't remember ever dressing so provocatively when i was a teen, but then i'd been a major tomboy. i'd mimicked all of the masculine moves of my guy friends, hopeful they'd dismiss my femininity as the unfortunate side-effect of my birth i'd viewed it as being. i'd rebelled against the adult curves invading my pubescent form, struggling in vain against the transformation that would have them staring at me as if i were one of the girly girls. at one time i'd been one of those girls...right up until i was molested at age seven. and then being a girl became synonymous with being victimized by males and so i'd purged myself of that persona.

my time as a teenager at the mall was basically me walking a couple of steps behind my family, my head down as i stared at the movement of my feet, fearful of looking up because it meant possibly making eye contact with the boys lining the walls of the walkway. i remember slouching over so my burgeoning breasts wouldn't protrude so purposefully through my pink sweatshirt. the lens of my glasses would fog up from the heat brought on by my nervousness, which would cause me to trip over my feet every now and again. no matter how invisible i'd tried to make myself, i could still feel their eyes upon me. the only time i ever felt comfortable around guys during that time was when i was playing tag football with them in the street or shooting hoops with them on the courts or whatever activity would make me seem more boyish and less of a boy's wish.

those images and remembered feelings were long ago memories in my mind on saturday. on this day i was a grown woman comfortable in her curvaceousness. i sauntered through the mall next to my father, my ass swaying seductively behind me (not on purpose! that's how this sista walks, damnit). a smirk slid onto my face as i made eye contact with every guy bold enough to look me in the mouth. old or young, it mattered not.

cuz you can't handle all of this shit here, shawty...

dad and i ended up in a record store where we purchased a nina simone cd (i picked, he paid). during this time, i tried to belt out a couple of verses to four women, at which time my dad cringed sincerely and told me not to quit my day job. the sarcastic bastid.

it was cool as fuck hanging with dad.

we left the mall after about an hour and made our way home. the rest of the night was spent chillin' with the 'rents.

sidebar: how come my parents still yell at me to clean up my room? i haven't lived there in over a fucking DECADE! it ain't my room anymore! oh, and why am i expected to take someone's side during a disagreement? do i look like great britain? i ain't a punk that'll side with whomever yells the loudest! my name is SWEDEN, DAMNIT.

i spoke to aries man on the phone before calling it a night. yeah, brotha still trying to woo and shit.