The Rose of Montgomery, part 2

A perfect Alabama sky.

Since returning to New York from Alabama, I feel like things have been non-stop. One minute I was complaining that everyone but me was enjoying an adventurous summer, making plans to move elsewhere, or new and exciting doors were opening to new and exciting seasons in their lives. I was thrilled for each of them, but did multiple precautionary heart checks to scan for any possible jealousy. There was none. There were only long showers, where I was losing time contemplating my purpose. I thought I knew what I was waiting for, but where was it? Purpose doesn’t get lost in the mail.

And patience doesn’t get fed-ex’d.

If ever you ask me what’s going on with me and I shuffle my feet, it’s because I detest having nothing to answer with. If the answer could daily be “I rescued a lion, trained it to love pasta as much as I do,  I went to Haiti, and I lost ten pounds because the lion eats all of the pasta now”, I’d be thrilled. But that wasn’t the case. And so August began with nothing major happening.

Then things started moving. I joke not a bit when I say that having had it both ways, the slow and mundane versus the hectic pressure-test, that I will forever be grateful for both settings. You slow down so you can speed up. No one can tell you this at the time you’re going through it, but when you step back and look at life from afar, that’s all it is. One long race, and it’s about having the mental state and the endurance to last.

And for that mega lesson I’ve only the good Lord to thank. And ok fine, Ryan Lochte.

The past two weeks have also taught me not to rush to judgment on anything. So I’ll wait to fill you in and comment on the latest happenings. For now, here’s the last bit I wanted to recap from my southern vacation:

The local baseball team in Montgomery is called the Biscuits. The Montgomery Biscuits, I’m not making that up. Google it if you don’t believe me.

Montgomery is one of my two hometowns, Tuskegee being the other, and it’s a place I’m proud to have been raised in. Big, wide highways connect the little inner-city to the larger outer city, but it’s really just one big mall with a few movie theatres, some schools, and some ice cream shops spread out in between. Everyday seems like it’ll be above 90 degrees during summer, and it’s not unusual to find rows of locked cars with the windows rolled down in big parking lots. It’s too hot to risk rolling up the window and then sitting on leather seats. Sadly, the rate of car theft has gone up so more people are having to roll up their windows and sit inside of miniature ovens the first part of their car ride through the town. My Mom owns a cute townhouse in the middle of it, and I arrived there so desperately wanting it to feel like home. I wanted an experience like what you see on television. A Mom who greets me with open arms, offers to wash my clothes and cook my favorite meals.

The same day that my Father’s family reunion ended, I took the car keys from Brandon and drove to my Mom’s place while he slept with his mouth half-open in the passenger seat. We had finished a great weekend with the Harrisons, and now it was time to spend some quality time with my Mom’s side of the family. Luckily, Brandon understands how to balance out love between divorced parents. Although my relationship with her has been rocky in the past, I was looking forward to being around people like my Mom and sister, people who are like me and enjoy being on a schedule.

I counted four pictures of my sister Lea, two of me, and one of Lionel Richie on the mantel above the fireplace in my Mom’s house. I increased my picture count by one, but my sister will always have a steady lead. She’s the favorite. And I’m the favorite when she’s not around. Once Brandon had gone, my Mom started rolling out what I had hoped for little by little. First she brought out my favorite pasta, then she offered to mix me a glass of cranberry juice and ginger ale, and then she asked what I wanted to watch on tv. I declined tv, because I knew my visit would be over before I knew it, and instead asked her to give me updates on other members of the family. Naturally, she started with my great-aunt Nora.

Nora is in her mid-to-late eighties. Her body is slowing down, but her mind remains surprisingly sharp. She has no trouble recalling the names of people or places where she once lived, which is amazing when you consider that her birth place, New Orleans, has changed immensely since the hurricane. During Katrina, Nora stood on top of a dresser until the water was so high that she finally called for help, and one of her two sons came to her rescue. I heard she was carried out praising the Lord, and crying at the same time. She loves the Lord, and she loves that house. But now she lives in the house next to her Church. To her disgust, she’s become the old lady who lives next to the Church, and now she’s forced to keep decent clothes on at all times of the day in case a minister drops by just wanting to show her some Christian hospitality. And she hates Christian hospitality.

Nora teaches Bible Study every week, or did until recently. She can talk about the Bible for hours, and recite all of the key parts in great detail. No, she has no problem with her memory. But her mouth is something else entirely.

Nora fell down three months ago, banged up her knees pretty badly, and finally had to be admitted to the hospital. She forgot to alert the ministers at the Church that she wouldn’t be teaching Bible Study, and they became worried when she didn’t show up. One of the ministers walked across the lawn that evening and knocked on her door. When there was no answer, he called her son and got word that she was in the hospital. So loved is Nora, that the minister drove to the hospital to see her personally, but was told there was no one at the hospital by that name. My Mom wasn’t sure if he went to the wrong hospital or had asked for her by the wrong last name, but in any case the minister called her son again. This time the son was with Nora when he got message #2. He told Nora that the minister was looking for her, and that the minister wanted to know what name she had checked- in under.

Nora sat up in bed, flipped over, exposing her pale buttocks and said, “HELL’S ASS. Tell him to ask for Hell’s Ass because I’m tired of them bothering me all the time.”

Almost on cue, the doorbell rang as soon as that story was over and in walked my Aunt Jackie. They laughed, they shouted, they hurled insults at Mitt Romney, and they asked me a lot of questions. None of them were the type of questions Mom’s on tv ask their daughters, but by this point I was settling into a simple fact: my family is absolutely, positively, wild. On both sides. Being wild runs in my bloodline, it’s inside of me, and it’s something that’s a part of my nature. There will always be a little piece of me that’s not clapping to the beat of the drum, but I’m thankful that nature can be outdone by renewing the mind.

I can’t change my family members. I can love them, pray for them, encourage them to read my favorite scriptures, and call them weekly. But I’m always going to have a Mom who chooses to see “Magic Mike” rather than a movie that has Meryl Streep in it, a sister who is bent on collecting as many fast-food cups as she can in her room, a Dad who likes to tell strangers that 9/11 wasn’t an act of terrorism but rather was planned by the US government. And most of my cousins are always going to carry flasks of whiskey in their back pockets.

As wild as they are, they don’t ever try to change me back into the old me. They let me do my thing, and I love them all the more for it.

That’s all for tonight.


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