Yesterday was Mother’s Day. Happy Mother’s Day to all of the wonderful mother’s and future wonderful mothers out there in the world. Happy Mother’s Day to the beautiful mother’s of the past, that despite the hardships still mothered.
For many this is an easier day to celebrate than Father’s Day. For some it used to be an easy day, but the reminder of a mother now gone can welcome those bittersweet tears. Yesterday I was with my mother, but her mind I’m sure was on her mother, but it might have also been on her grandmother. Lately she’s been thinking a lot about her grandmother, whom she affectionately called “Gram-Gram”.
Gram-Gram lived a life. Born in 1884, she remembered when them “Wright Boys flew that plane” and she remembered how life was before electricity and television. She was a mourning survivor of the Spanish Flu, and a mother to 19 children.
She lovingly told Lil’ Katie, “We didn’t even have no radio back den!”
As Katie, sitting on her grandmother’s lap looked into her grandmother’s sincere eyes in astonishment, her sweet little chocolate arms began to hold on to her grandmother tightly. She nestled her round face onto the cusp of her Gram Gram’s warm neck. Katie was hiding a question and was hoping this would be a good time to let it loose. How accurate were the history books of 1968? Katie mustered up the courage and began, “Gram Gram…”
“Yes, baby,” Gram-Gram lovingly answered.
“Were you a slave?” she whispered.
“Speak up now, say it again?” Gram Gram replied.
Katie, born to Gram-Gram’s son, lived with her family up north in Chicago, but every summer they would make the drive down to Tutwiler, Mississippi to visit family. Years prior, her father grew tired of the limited future of being a sharecropper and dealing with the open-racism he experienced for being a black man in the deep south of the United States of America (where the states were only UNITED if you looked a certain way) left. He and his sisters journeyed during the great migration when multitudes of black folks eager for a better life, began to leave the south for a more promising life in the Northern states.
Ten-year-old little Katie had been learning about Slavery in school and was trying to understand why people could treat others in such a hateful way. When she would ask questions about this during their family dinners back home in Chicago, her daddy would reply, “If they don’t see you as a person, but as an animal, it’s easier. It’s easier to be cruel to something that isn’t a person.”
With a mixture of Gram Grams coca butter scented body mixed with vanilla from the cake baking in the stove, she timidly asked again, “Gram Gram, were you a slave?”
Katie tightened her eyes to barricade the gush of tears she knew would break forth.
“Oh, No baby. I was born after that, but my parents was slaves and dey was freed by Abraham Lincoln.”
“Momma! Gram Gram said WHAT? That means…okay, hold on! If Gram-Gram is your grandmother, then she is my Great-Grandmother. So that means that my Great-Great Grandparents were … slaves?” I asked in astonishment.
“Yep, and my Great-Grandparents were…. That’s Crazy”, my mom said.
“Momma, that was just around the corner. That wasn’t that long ago”, I responded in disbelief.
“I know”, She said, “I know”.