I Wish I Could

I wish I could share all the love that’s in my heart; remove all the bars that keep us apart.

I wish you could know what it means to be me, then you’d see and agree that every man should be free.

I have a deep affinity to joy. It is not the same as happiness. Happiness passes. Joy is an ocean. Adversity cannot dissipate it. Its rhythm beats the truth of this universe just as sweetly at the depth of sorrow as it does at the heights of glory.

Joy, I know. I understand it. So I, too, was caught up in its ring of celebration when Clara’s and Timmy’s bundle arrived, and right on time too.

Remember Where You Were?

You see, I was born free. Timmy too! But Timmy was giddier than a prized goat, that day. Pleased as a puppy, you might say. Beaming so bright, the light of a city on a hill could not dim him.

Put it here, he said, giving me his palm. I placed it there and he pulled me into his soccer-buddy hug. His joy gushed across my shoulder. I’m a father, he said. I’m a father. I’m a father.

I understood.

Then I felt Clara’s motherly arms encircling us, while Timmy held me secure in his embrace. “Would you do us the honor,” Clara inquired with a gentle squeeze, “and be the God Father?”

“The honor is securely mine,” I said.

Timmy slackened his grip, holding me still, and looked me in the eye. I’m a father, he said. I have a child. “We do,” Clara corrected him.

We certainly do, he said. Letting go of me, Timmy grabbed Clara and planted a kiss. Their lips slapped together like breathless slugs, it was as if they were giving eternal life to each other.

I smiled.

The nurses might not tell you this, but that baby smiled too. Laughed out loud inside.

Family and friends came. They brought well-wishes and gifts. Prayers went up. People wrote in the baby-book. Clara wrote, I wish every child born would be as welcome as you.

I so understood.

I wish I could give all I’m longing to give.

I wish I could live like I’m longing to live.

I wish I could do all the things that I can do.

Though I’m way overdue I’ll be starting anew.

Day in and night out, Clara talked to that child, like her mama talked to her, even though her baby could only coo. And that baby cooed like that baby was having a good-ole-sweet grown folk conversation with new mama Clara.

“God don’t make mistake,” Clara would say. “God don’t make mistake.”

So young she was. Strong. And sweet. And that baby was so new.

And every time Clara got the urge, which was quite often, while that baby was quiet or asleep or boxing thin air, Clara would pick up pen and paper and write a letter to her child – all the way growing up.

Clara stored those letters.

And gave me a key. In case there should ever be the need. And she considered and reconsidered the best time for the delivery. Clara wanted that child to know what she knew: how she felt; what she thought;  how she built upon foundations set by many, many, many gone and many-many set on re-enforcing those foundations; how she cracked jammed doors open; how she grabbed some opportunities and how it was that she let some go a-begging; and said there were things she just didn’t understand. But that’s okay. Clara laid these out simply for her child – all the way growing up – through potty training, through fevers, through bicycle riding and bruises, through that child giving his daddy a headache, climbing over the neighbor’s fence. Good God Almighty! Good thing that neighbor’s pit bull was on a leash. Thank you, Jesus!

I wrote him a letter too – being as much an uncle-friend as a God Father – but kept my letter, even though I told his mama about it, for she kept sharing with me all of what and what she was still writing to him.

Timmy too. He chatted up his son, happily, about Stalwarts Along The Journey – all the way growing up. All the way growing up, hearing what Timmy was saying, that boy kept posing the same kind of question, “but why? Why?”

Why?

How could a nation founded on the principles of liberty and equality abide having twenty percent of its people living in bondage? Why?

How can any people worship God on Sunday and dehumanize fellow men and women from Monday to Saturday? Why?

Stalwarts Along The Journey

We will be able to speed up the day when justice will roll down like waters.

……

Well, I wish I could be like a bird in the sky.

How sweet it could be if I found I could fly.

I’d soar to the sun and look down at the sea

Then I’d sing cause I know, yes,

How it feels to be free.

“Yes, baby, you can fly,” Timmy told his boy, and his first cousin on his father’s side overheard. “You can fly,” Timmy said, “many did, baby. They flew.” He told him who too. “They can fly, baby. They flew. They fly. You can fly too.”

“If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude. Don't complain.”

“You fixing him to be bird meat, Timmy? Teach the boy to hunt.” Timmy’s first cousin on his father side implored him. “You turning him into target practice. Train him to hunt.”

But this was Timmy’s boy. And everywhere this boy went – all the way growing up – when his father was not beside him, for Timmy trained him to look, and to listen, and to learn, and to make up his own mind about things, and to not depend on anyone to tell him who he is and what he is to become – that boy kept hearing the same tune:

I wish I knew how it would feel to be free.

I wish I could break all the chains holding me.

I wish I could say all the things that I should say.

Say em loud say em clear for the whole round world to hear.

Timmy’s boy got friends: nice boys from the neighborhood, and from school. And he met their brothers and sisters and friends, some visiting from other neighborhoods, many of whom knew very little about these stalwarts and journeymen and journey-women and foundation-builders and winged creatures his pap was telling him about. These friends couldn’t care less, in fact, and wouldn’t be able to pick any of his pap’s bygone geezers out of a line-up of criminals, if they tried. Most of them knew about Abraham Lincoln. They knew Martin Luther King said I Have A Dream. They knew black people were slaves. A long, long, long time ago. Never heard of the middle-passage, though. He heard them talking a lot about black men in jail. Drug dealers. Trouble-makers. School dropp-outs. Backsliders. But Timmy’s boy  was a nice boy – all the way growing up. Mannerly. Yes, ma’am. Yes, sir. Just like his daddy. But by my estimation, being his God Father, not a submissive yes-ma’am-yes-sir and not spoken by wrote nor given out for niceness sake; his was a mutually respectful yes-ma’am-yes-sir, for he was, by my estimation a discerning child. And of the lot of his friends he had close buddies too, just like his daddy.  Matt. Steven. Rod. Tyrese. Jesse. All in all, regardless, wherever he went he kept hearing that same old tune:

I wish I knew how it would feel to be free.

I wish I could break all the chains holding me.

I wish I could say all the things that I should say.

Say em loud say em clear for the whole round world to hear.

Sometimes I just don’t understand, he would tell his dad and me – growing up. And though it didn’t all happen as smoothly as I am telling you this, Timmy shared more stories with his son, scraping together time here and there to do things together in the community and between soccer practice and track and school projects and trips – hunting included, and good times with me.

Timmy told him about The Carrot And The Stick. I told him the story of The Banker And The Bully. Timmy told him the story of The Mermaid Of Katamahaika. I told him the story of The Boy With A Back Pack. Timmy shared with him the themes of The Sculptor By The Sea and several hilarious versions of The Cartwoman. That boy laughed – all the way growing up. By the time his legs got gangly, though, he’d much rather us shut the hell up, so he could listen to his own tunes. But Timmy never slacked on reminding his son of giants in the wings, pointing out the many who have said and the many who are still speaking the poignant truth that makes us who we are and who still say to us to speak our truth: say em loud and say em clear for the whole round world to hear.

Say It Loud. Say It Clear.

"I let my feet spend as little time on the ground as possible. From the air, fast down. From the ground, fast up."

I understood.

I really understood. Not so much when I was Timmy’s son’s age, way much better now that I am Timmy’s son’s uncle-friend. And I’m his God Father too. As his God Father, when that boy and I are together, I listen. The truth is: that boy is teaching me what his daddy thinks I am teaching him. I really can’t explain it the way I want to explain it. For the most part I just listen to the boy. True, I answer a small question here and there. And that boy thinks I’m teaching him. But he is teaching me.

The date for the delivery of the letter is around the corner. And because I was thinking of it a lot I was motivated to put together for myself – pretty much as if I am writing a letter to me – a montage of some of the people Timmy tells his son about – the journeymen and journey women and winged creatures and foundation builders. I laid them out. How should I explain this? When I laid them out, like I showed you, something cracked open inside. Light came in. I laughed. I wish I could explain it. I laughed. Then I began to sing. Ha-ha! This is the song. I’m still singing. It’s not just a song, you know

I really do understand.

I was born by a river. Born free. You know what I mean.

Clara and Timmy are raising a family – three children now – facing the normal challenges, as just about anyone I know.

Clara has given her passing-of-the-letters ceremony, which she plans to be a family tradition on twelfth birthdays, a name: Delivery Date.

She insists I attend, as God Father and friend.

I want to be there. Her son wants me there. Secretly, though, which is not that much of a secret, he thinks the entire fuss is corny, if not creepy, but he loves his mother, and sometimes you just got to let mothers do what mothers got to do, he told me.

What he doesn’t know is that I have a letter for him too, and a special gift: The HUNK I Dreamed.

As far as Timmy is concerned, until his boy can fetch him on his shoulder to the grocery store and back, with groceries in one hand, and got the smarts to tell me how I came upon the most wonderful woman to be his mama, he’s still our baby boy and he’ll do what his mama says. The only other way is to start walking on his own two feet. Right now he is walking with mine. 

Talk aside, Timmy is proud of his son, which brings me to how I came to decide to spend this pre Delivery Date, coinciding with Black History Month, with two successful southern families – the Price Family and the Marina Family – and why I want to just sit back and hear how they’ve come this far and their view on where we’re headed. Will we get to the promise land? They agreed to let me host them on The Journey, but I was in for a shocker.

Listen:

“Sundown Town, Nappy Hair & God”

Rick Price

“Help Me Understand”

Anita Marina

“I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over, and I’ve seen the Promised Land.”

. . .

Can you name all the giants pictured in this post?

Can you attribute the quotes under each image?

References and links:

Smithsonian National Museum Of African American History And Culture
ILICET – A Time To Begin Again
Flight Of The fused Monkeys
The HUNK I Dreamed
Tulsa Race Riots
Dark Girls Movie
I Wish I could

Where Do We Go From Here?

Coming (part 2) … A Joyous Celebration:

A discourse on Frederick Douglas, Oprah, Jay-Z and Tyler Perry; details of the request to share with you on how you can see the Dark Girls Movie, and a letter from a grandmother to her grandson.

First Black Female Fighter Pilot Follows Childhood Dream

“It’s really hard to build a road if you don’t know where you’re going,” Kimbrell said. “A lot of people have goals, but don’t really put them into context. If a goal is really your end state, you have to look at the terrain you have to go through to get there, how you’re going to build that road and what you’re going to do.

“Nothing’s easy,” she added. “Expect road blocks, expect that there are going to be people out there who don’t want you to succeed, expect people are going to tell you no. But the desire that comes from within — if it’s something that you really want — will carry you through.” . . . more

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