Life is truly a blessing,
a gift not to be squandered on days gone by or lost opportunities.
Everyday is one of self discovery,
letting your inner beauty shine its brightest.
Your capacity to love is unlimited, and in every moment we seek
our own truth!
Sister Mary stood up from the bus stop bench and pulled at her dress that had been sucked in between the lips of her healthy buttocks. The heat was fierce, and she could feel the slow building of moisture under her arms, inner thighs and the back of her neck. God knows she had a love hate relationship with sweat. She hated it because the only time she ever enjoyed sweating was when she was doing something sinful like basting in it under the weight of a man, gyrating against her in a frenzy of passion. She searched the heavens and silently prayed the bus would arrive soon this heat was creating unholy thoughts. Her pacing only made the sweating worse, so she stood still for a moment, but now the purse strap seemed to be digging deeper into her shoulder. Feeling like she was carrying a bag of bricks, she placed her purse on the bench, not noticing how close to the edge it was, barely holding onto the strap she caught the purse before it could hit the ground and pulled it close to her chest then closed her eyes. Relieved, as if she had just stopped a bomb from exploding and destroying the entire planet. She placed the purse gently back on the bench.
JoAnn had made the purse for her a week before leaving home. It was a work of art, virgin leather dyed to a beautiful sky blue, Mary’s favorite. A beautiful cross design was the focal point, yet still, it hunted her. A Latin cross, the arms of the cross stretched out across the front of the purse as if they were reaching for something, while the base stem wrapped around to the back of the purse. The entire cross was made of patches from the clothes of the dolls Mary had made for JoAnn since she was five years old. The dolls were Mary’s way of showing JoAnn how beautiful she was, determined to give her daughter a sense of confidence and strength in the world, she created each doll with a purpose. Every time she gave JoAnn a doll, she watched her with pride and hope, knowing that someday, JoAnn would be more than a statistic, more than just a woman looking for a man to make her whole. Mary had grown disappointed over the years watching Black women spend their time and money trying to look like White women, it disgusted her. The imitating of European aesthetics was out of control, the buying and applying of synthetic hair, it reminded her of the Asian corner grocery stores in black communities when she was a kid, everyone bought from them, and while the Asian families sent their kids to Ivy-league schools on black dollars, the kids in her neighborhood become domestic workers and filled the quotas for jails and prisons. The corner grocery stores had been replaced by hair stores and nail salons. She could deal with Black women wanting to be beautiful, but the self-hate that motivated them to buy products to cover up their natural attributes was another story entirely. Her daughter was going to have a different experience, she would never have to look in a mirror and be ashamed. Every year she gave JoAnn a new handmade doll that represented a beautiful Black girl with some quality of strength. The first doll she gave her was dressed in a leopard evening gown. This was because after JoAnn’s first visit to a zoo it was the Leopards that she was most fascinated with. By the age of seven JoAnn could mimic the movements of a Leopard and in fact made great effort to incorporate them in her everyday life, to the outside world it looked as though the child was being overly dramatic. It would take her almost a whole minute to tell someone her name, she would give a dead stare without even a hint of facial expression, then her body would move slow and cat-like, and without warning she would flash a fake smile and say her name. It was quite entertaining to watch, some would break out into laughter while others gave Sister Mary a concerned look and asked, “Is she okay?” By the age of nine, this bizarre behavior was gone except some occasional cat like moments that would sneak in at the most unexpected times. Eleven dolls had been made for JoAnn, but the cross was made up of twelve patches. The twelfth patch was a lock of JoAnn’s hair.
On Mary’s forty-third birthday, after arriving home from church there was an exquisite wrapped package waiting for her on the kitchen table. At first glance she thought it was another hat for church, anyone who knew Mary was aware of her love for hats. The shape of the package was like a hat box and as she tore away the wrapping it was indeed a hat box, but removing the top of the box she was surprised to find a purse with a simple note that read– “Happy Birthday Mom, I love you with all my heart, so I’ve moved out. See ya around”. It haunted her.
Bittersweet, they had not been getting along for some time, so in some aspects Mary was relieved JoAnn was gone, but this is not how she wanted her to leave. No forwarding address, no explanation or anything, she was just gone. Countless nights followed where she didn’t fall asleep until after midnight, wanting JoAnn to come home, hoping she would call, and fearful JoAnn had fallen victim to one of the many evils lying in wait for young Black girls. Although Mary did feel confident that she had fully armed JoAnn, they had talked in great lengths about the ways of men, and derelicts who were talented in the art of debasing someone unscrupulously. Still she felt this was a selfish act on JoAnn’s part, was she doing this on purpose to torture her? The resentment she harbored was high, she just didn’t have time to be worrying, let alone looking for JoAnn like this.
Over the next two months she made countless phone calls and visited police stations and halfway homes looking for JoAnn. Apparently, JoAnn had stayed at a number of shelters, she had also been picked up by the police on drug charges and theft charges but released on a technicality. The police referred Mary to a Ms. Attie Wilkins, who occasionally allowed homeless women to stay in her house, when Mary arrived it was clear by the decor of the house and the dress of the women she saw there, this was something more than a refuge for downtrodden women. Ms. Attie answered the door wearing more makeup than a woman of her age should ever put on. The dress she was wearing clung to her body like a plastic bag trying to cover an oversize watermelon. She looked at Mary suspiciously wondering if Mary was a customer or an older woman looking for work. “Well hello dear, do come in''. Mary entered and was immediately overwhelmed by her senses, cheap perfume floated heavily in the air, it seemed to reek from the bargain-basement floral wallpaper, no doubt retrieved from the dumpster of a better neighborhood’s home who unequivocally decided against it. Several women sashayed in the foyer, dressed in as little as possible, she almost forgot why she was there. Ms. Attie’s inspecting eyes tried to penetrate Mary’s calmness, “How may I help you, madam?”. As someone from the newer generation would say, Mary was not there for play play, she had plenty of practice in uncovering subtext from conversations of women who thought they could insult her on the sly. Madam, really? But she decided to let it go, she needed information about her daughter, and putting Ms. Attie in her place was not the way to get it. Mary opened her purse and took out a picture of JoAnn, “I’m looking for my daughter, JoAnn, is she staying here?”. Ms. Attie looked at the picture then back at Mary at least twice before giving the picture back. “Well, she sure is a pretty girl and I can see the resemblance” Mary was beginning to lose her patience. “Have you seen her, is she here now?”. Mrs. Attie’s attitude turned sour real quick, “No, she ain't here, and she better not ever come back here again if she wants to keep breathing God’s good air. And if I was you, I’d let that hefa stay wherever she might be”
“So, she was here, do you have any idea where she might have gone?”
“No, I do not, that girl wasn’t nothing but trouble when she was here, even though all she did was clean, and she left here with stuff that didn’t belong to her, that’s all I got to say about that one, now it's time for you to leave” She opened the door ushering Mary to leave, not giving her a chance to ask any more questions.
After that experience she began to lose hope, and did what came naturally, she turned to the church. The Reverend told her to release all of her worries and put it in the hands of the Lord God our Savior, and that is precisely what she did. After all JoAnn wasn’t a child anymore, she had a right to make her own decisions. Maybe that’s why JoAnn gave her the purse, so that she would never forget her. Thinking about JoAnn made Mary’s mind travel to dark places where women became nothing more than chess pieces to be manipulated and then sold to the highest bidder. Dark places where the fight to reach the light at the end of the tunnel was long and hard, a fight many didn’t have the strength to finish. Why did JoAnn give her this purse and then leave home so abruptly? She knew there was something about the purse that JoAnn wanted her to discover, but what? Maybe something that would help her bring JoAnn home. It haunted her. At some point she decided, it might be a good idea not to open that can of worms and just love the purse for the beautiful piece of art it was.
Almost a year to JoAnn’s departure Mary was downtown shopping when she noticed a woman begging for money at the next intersection, as she got closer the woman turned around, their eyes met. Mary stopped suddenly dropping all her packages as she stared at the women, it was JoAnn. Before she could call out JoAnn ran, she ran after her, but when she reached the corner JoAnn was nowhere to be seen. She stood there not knowing what to do, it was just not believable, her child begging for money on the streets? A young white boy came up from behind her, gently touching her shoulder, “ ‘cuse me, are these your bags?”. Realizing just then that she had left all her bags on side-walk to run after JoAnn, “Oh Lord Jesus. Yes, those are mine, thank you so much, thank you, I totally forgot”. He gave her the bags without question and asked if she was okay, it was like he had seen this kind of behavior before, he didn’t ask any other questions, just went on about his business.
Shortly after that on the day of Mary’s birthday JoAnn showed up at her doorstep, that was the beginning of their traditional yearly visit. The visits were both joyous and painful, most ended in either crying or yelling with JoAnn disappearing for another year.
A year of Sundays in-between visits, no matter what dress she wore to church, she always took the purse, and while the Holy Spirit filled her soul in church, she clutched it, praying the Lord would protect JoAnn, cleanse her body and mind, and bring her back home. But, today here in the hot Sun, the purse had brought pain both in her shoulder and in her heart. It had been four years since JoAnn left home, and the year was almost up since last she saw JoAnn. The last visit they argued as usual, when JoAnn left, she took three-hundred dollars from the cross purse and a diamond brooch Mary received for her 25th anniversary on her job. The three-hundred dollars she was planning on giving to JoAnn anyway, but the broach signified a benchmark of accomplishment for Mary, having her daughter steal it from her was a kind of hurt that just wouldn’t go away. She thought bringing her child up in the church would have given her the family foundation she never had before, but it was just the opposite, after all she was brought up in the church, but that didn’t work too well either. She couldn’t wait to get away from her parents and even though her sister lived in the same city they would go months without speaking. She asked the Lord in her prayers to give her a sign of what she did wrong, how could her daughter end up being homeless and a drug addict?
(You'll have to read the upcoming book for the rest of the story)
by Terry Sidney
Patch Work - is an example of the kind of self-discovery stories that will be featured in my upcoming book. An exploration of moments in life where we are enlighten in our own truth. Sister Mary is first introduced here in, "Patch Work" but continues in the stage play, "A Birthday Wish", to be produced soon.
I was born of a Louisiana conjure woman,
into a family that was anything but common.
Molded by fingertips that dug deep into Louisiana’s clay dirt.
The humming of spirituals at dawn rooted me in the lessons of wrong and right.
The smell of Jack Daniels on Friday nights,
taught me about dreams faded from sight.
I watched the swaying of wide hips to the rhythms of the blues.
Gut wrenching laughter brought joy to joyless places,
A beacon of hope on empty faces.
A laying on of hands,
Aunts and great-aunts jeweled fingers and open palms. often stroked the back of my head giving age-old wisdom,
Lessons learned to strive for freedom.
Uncles worn down by hard labor and street sense,
In their golden age, pockets lined with little cents,
toughen me with closed fists,
Second chances are rare boy, and there are always risks.
Before there were marches and protests,
Votes on rights and dinners with political guests.
A laying on of hands had taught me self-value,
Before there was HIV and AIDS,
Fundraisers with drag-queens and ACTUP raids,
A laying on of hands had given me strength through faith.
Before there were gay marriages, and
men together pushing baby carriages,
my path had been bought and paid for from generations in strife,
I have no need to be ashamed of my life.
These are my stories and they have been tested and tried,
Scrapped over hot coals and sprayed with snakeweed.
I told you my mama was a conjure woman.
David stood outside the small men’s boutique staring at the $3,000 black leather boots. He had exactly thirteen dollars and twenty cents in his pocket, that was to last him for two days. Some fake ass sista with weave down to her knees ran into him while she was preoccupied talking on her cell phone. “Hey hold up baby, watch where to fuck you going”. She lowered the phone thinking about how she going to cuss him out, but then decided against it- she gave him the finger and casually continue on down the street picking up her conversation where she left off. His first mind told him to catch up with her and do one of his famous bitch-slaps on her ass, then grab her fake Gucci bag and run, knowing damn well she wouldn't be able catch him in those cheap heels. Instead, he watched her walk away, with his head cocked to one side like a curious dog, something was strange about the shape of her ass, more than likely it was really a dude. He turned his attention back to the store window.
Maybe he had looked at the sign wrong the first time, so he stepped closer and refocused, yep, he was right, the sign did read, $3,000 and below that in smaller print, "hand-made Italian Leather Boots". His rent was already two days late and it was only, $850.00. Hell, there was a car at the Shell gas station with a, “For Sale” sign on it, that was only, $2,500.00. He scratched his head, it made more sense for him to buy a fucking car. He thought endlessly of what he could do with $3,000, If he had it.
The boots were sharp though, damn if he had those boots he would wear them with the jeans he bought last month and a loosely hanging red sweater to show off his chest. But where in the hell could he go with $3,000 boots on? He sure in the hell would not take his girlfriend, Lisa out- the last time they went out, she stepped on his foot with them damn spike heels and not to mention the Cosmo she spilled on his white shirt. If he had them boots on and she stepped on his shoes like that, he would have be beat her ass for real!
A brother with $3,000 boots on, need to go somewhere the people knew the value of expensive shit. But he couldn’t think of any place like that, and he realized that he had never been to any place like that.
Suddenly, it hit him like a ton of bricks. His life was fucked up! He had spent most of his life in a continuous loop exhausting his talents and resources to acquire shit he didn’t really need. A beautiful girlfriend that was the dumbest bitch he had ever met, an apartment that was falling apart and the landlord didn't give a fuck, he couldn't remember ever inviting anyone over. He was a certified Real Estate Agent, he hated trying to sale people anything, but he loved being a graphic artist, something he only did part-time. When he got home that evening, he took a shower, packed a small bag taking only the bare necessities and left the following message on his answering machine. “Hi this is David, you may think you know me, but you don’t know shit. I’m gone, anything I left behind you can have”.
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