I want to begin this letter by validating the fact that you were a victim and the things that happened to you were not your fault. Often people feel the need to display strength or indifference in areas of their lives that have the greatest need for acknowledgement, vulnerability, and care. What we do not realize is that the more we suppress and ignore our pain, the longer we delay the healing process. Years ago, I made the decision to no longer postpone your healing.
What’s funny is that you were not always that way. Remember when you use to color with mom for hours, trying your best to stay inside the lines because that drove her crazy? Our mother was such a great artist, never considering that your small fingers were not quite ready for the big leagues. You tried your best though. Why, because coloring meant spending quality time with mom and for a little girl that’s heaven on earth. You drew picture after picture attempting to present mom with your best work and of course she obliged, claiming to never have seen coloring so neat and pretty. Her validation was everything to you back then.
Writing this letter as a 36-year-old woman, I can’t help but think about how young mom was back then. Think about it, when you were seven she was 22. I bet you never considered that but then again, why would you? In your mind, our mother was perfect and capable of doing anything that she promised. Those promises included coming home after a late night of clubbing with her girlfriends. Do you recall how enamored you were with watching mom put on makeup and high heels before leaving the house? She would paint her full lips with red lipstick and always rock a short haircut like Anita Baker and dance in the mirror to her favorite Sade album. Some nights you were allowed to stay up late and watch Show Time At the Apollo until mom headed downstairs. Those were the good ole days. The irony is that mom was still a child herself back then but she was so strict regarding you: No lip-gloss, no nail polish, no soda, no talking back, no grades lower than a B, and no boys! There were a lot of rules and you rarely broke any of them even if everyone else did.
Speaking of rules, one of my funniest memories of mom is when we all lived in the Southend in East St. Louis. Mom had to be in her early twenties; you were no older than 6, and our aunt and uncle were about 10 or 11. We were all in the bedroom watching an episode of the Flintstones when we heard Grandma’s Cadillac pull-up outside. Everyone hopped up to grab the cleaning tool that was allocated to their unique chore in a pathetic attempt to have the task completed before grandma made the 20ft walk from the car to the front door. In a panic, you stood there scared until a shout came across the room, “Niccoll do something!”
We were so close back then…all of us. Christmas and birthdays were a big deal, the women of the house set the standard for strength, beauty, independence, and we were dressed to kill. There were no fathers around, but mom and grandma made it work.
Then all of a sudden, things changed quickly and life as you knew it was over. Promises were now broken, things started disappearing from the house, and mom’s beautiful face slowly became unrecognizable. And then there’s the issue of us. How did we lose each other? One day you were an innocent little girl and then you or – I guess – I went into survival mode and grew up so fast that for years I forgot what you looked like…
For now, just know that while it took years, we are together again and I will never leave you. Trust me as I embark on this endeavor of telling our story and know that I will not dishonor either of us. While some parts of our story will be difficult to relive, always hold on to what we now know to be true: God has us in the palm of His hand and He will never leave us nor forsake us.
Now let’s do this.