My grandmother had this power of being quiet. She had looks, and mannerisms that let you know she was not for chaos, havoc or foolishness. And with that persona, it made her impenetrable when I got older, and really wanted to know more about her, and how to navigate through this life, using her wisdom as a vantage point.
I would see her, no matter what was going on, there was this strength that made me fear her, especially since I only had 1 set of grandparents left-my maternal set. As I grew up, I noticed how intent and focused she would be when she cleaned, or how she cooked, and when she would garden and snap beans.
After I gave birth to my oldest daughter, and she began to decline only because of age, I noticed that persona was an armor. I wanted to ask her so much, I wanted her to speak to what I was facing as a mother of daughters.
I was jealous of people that had relationships with their grandparents, and could talk to them about anything and everything, and gave of themselves in those conversations.
I was jealous of the stories that other people’s grandmothers told, and how they treated it like it was nothing special. I wanted that from her, but realizing once, sitting across the table from her, there was this wall I could not breech. I thought of the quote biographers added to the myth and truth of General Robert E. Lee: “safe from the pick-locks of history.”
As I added birthdays in the three years she has been gone, I recognized why she was or had to be quiet: personal space and peace. Sometimes you have be to able to cultivate peace in yourself first before you can have it anywhere else.
I know very little about the formative years of my grandmother, only know what I know from my own mother and other aunts. What I do know, what I think I hang on to, I cannot reveal here–but what I will say is this.
There are things that we go through in this life that you can only process, handle or accept when and unless you’re quiet. There things that you cannot even come to peace with unless you’re quiet.
There is a place your mind travels when you process. There’s this peace it fights for when all Hell is breaking loose–this anchoring energy that reminds you, of you. The need you have for your own self, and what you need. There are things that you deal with, I deal with, she dealt with, that you cannot or may never be able to share with other people. Or, perhaps, ever share with other people because they won’t understand or understand why you aren’t dead.
I’m learning to cultivate that quiet, harness it for a base for that same strength. That place in my own self that is safe and appreciative of what it is that I want and need. That appreciates, and seeks to digest the things that have made me what I am, whom I am, and demands that I do something beneficial to myself.
This advantageous quiet…this necessary intrareflection we discount. We think don’t need it, can take it later or think, ‘My mama aint talk, and she told me that black women gotta be strong.’
Let me tell you something–even mules get tired.
I’m a woman, not a mule.
I deserve space to process, space to breathe, and not let people in to preserve the integrity of that space. I get to do the things I enjoy that help me decompress, and breathe deeply. I owe myself, to myself. My grandmother, even with her silence, she gave me all she could: the stoic nature, never let folk see you sweat, and you do what you have to until other things happen.
In doing that, preserving myself…when my daughters and granddaughters come to me, wide-eyed over a kitchen table, I can open my mouth and release that same blessing and hope that my grandmother tried to give to me.