The Dream

I had a dream the other night where I was surrounded by people from my community, “the elders” you might say. A contingency approached quite abruptly to inform me that I was late on a payment that I was responsible for as executor of my grandmother’s estate. The payment had been $50, but now that it was late I had to pay $10,000!

“What?!”

Their faces were quite serious.

“Are you crazy?”

“No, you owe us $10,000 and you must pay it immediately!” was their stern reply and I felt them pressing closer as if they might arrest me if I didn’t produce the money right away.

“No!” I screamed back at them. “What, do you think I’m crazy or something? I’m not giving you anything! You can’t control me! You can’t make me do anything! That doesn’t even make sense! What makes you think you can just tell me to do something and I’ll do it? Who are you to tell me what I’m going to do anyway?” And on I went, raving at them, pushing back with all of my might as they tried to press me down.

They seemed confused by my resistance, and the faces of all those surrounding me registered shock–not at the men, but at me! The entire community that stood around watching looked at one another in surprise and I could hear them murmuring, “is this Alice’s grandaughter? Oh my! Alice? Yes! Oh, I just can’t believe it, not Alice’s grandaughter it couldn’t be…”. They were “amazed” that Alice’s grandaughter would “behave” this way!

When I awoke I was tired and could still feel a pressure on my chest, as if I am still being pressed down.  There’s a knot in my throat. It’s a familiar feeling–this pressure… to meet ridiculous expectations, to attain to ridiculous standards and to be someone I’m not.  Maybe it was just a dream.

maybe it wasn’t.

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Prisoner in Paradise–a Parable

Once upon a time a peasant girl met a handsome prince who swept her off her feet and carried her away to his magical kingdom to live “happily ever after.” There he provided her with “everything she could ever want”–a gorgeous castle, fancy clothes, servants and chariots. Eventually, she even gave birth to two beautiful children. It seemed the peasant girl, indeed, had “everything”! She was certainly the envy of all the citizens in the kingdom. Yet, deep in her heart, the peasant girl was unhappy and the prince could not understand why.  After all, he had given her “everything.” He offered her more things, but she turned them away. He tried to impress her with his heroic deeds and commendations, but she was unimpressed. With each day, month and year the peasant girl-turned princess became increasingly depressed.

Then, one day, she was gone!

No one in the kingdom could find her. The servants searched her quarters, the children searched the gardens, the prince searched the bedroom. She was nowhere to be found. Suddenly, the maid came rushing in from the kitchen waving a slip of paper. It was a note that read:

Dear Beloved,

When I was a peasant girl I was confined to my father’s house. I had to obey him and abide by his rules. When I became a woman I left my father’s house but was, again, subject to a man’s rule. I have spent my entire life longing to be free. I loved my father and I love my husband. They are both good men who have been good to me, but the person who I long to be can not exist in captivity, even if it looks like paradise! I am more than a daughter, a wife and a mother. I am also a poet, an artist, a speaker, but you’ve never heard my voice! How could you? In this kingdom it is drowned out by so many other sounds… So, I had to get away…to hear the sound of my own voice!

I wonder how many women can relate to the princess in this story? Feeling like a “prisoner in paradise” who can–or should–not complain about a “good” life with a husband and children who love you, but also feeling completely underwhelmed and unfulfilled because you have your own dreams and ambitions that have been set aside for theirs?  I’ve struggled with many of the “safe” choices I’ve made, wondering if I should have taken some risks instead.

But, where does the princess in this story go? She leaves the safety of the kingdom–the protection of her prince and the surety of his purse! She’s on her own without his advice and she’ll have to figure out how to navigate the wilderness all by herself! She dares to venture out after years of pampered, protected and privileged captivity. What does she feel now that she’s gone? Fear? Freedom? Both? Will she succeed or will she fail? Will she hear her own voice or will it be drowned out by a cacophony of sounds she never anticipated? Your/her/our plot thickens!

To be continued…

slipper

 

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Life Lesson in a Hot Tub!

So, here we were, the token ‘blacks’ on a budget vacationing at an exclusive Marriott resort, knowing good and well we couldn’t afford the beach towels wrapped around us, much less the high-priced suites or high-end amenities, but here we came just the same, tipping over to the hot tub, hoping not to make a splash!

There were only a few people around the pool area and only one older couple in the Jacuzzi.

“I’ll give them 5 minutes to make up an excuse to leave” I whispered to my husband as we came near.

I pulled my carefully pressed and dyed blonde hair up into a knot so it wouldn’t get wet.

“You’re so wrong for that.”

“Okay, one minute.”

We dropped our towels and stepped in.

The wife said something to her husband and climbed out. It hadn’t even been ten seconds!

Aha! I looked at my husband.

Then a woman and her teen-aged daughter came around on the other side of him and stepped into the water. About the same time about four or five children come—seemingly out of nowhere and practically dive bombed in, including one little girl, about six years old, dark hair, clear blue eyes, slender arms and legs.

Fearless.

She looked right at me as she stepped into the churning, frothy, water and sidled closer. I looked at my husband.

“She likes you” he said.

I looked back at her and smiled. “Hi!”

“Hi!” She said and scooted closer. She kept looking at me, inspecting my face, my hair. “I caught a fish.”

“Oh really?”

“Yeah, a yellow tail tropical fish, I caught him in my hands like this” she cupped her hands together and held them out towards me.

“Oh wow. You weren’t scared he might bite you or something?” the little girl cut her eyes at me as if I was dumb.

“He was a little bitty yellow fish. Like, this big” she held her forefinger and thumb together so that there would be just space enough for a tic-tac.

“Oh, well, I guess nothing scary about that, huh?”

She gave me that look again.

“So, what did you do with him?”

She shrugged. “I let him go.”

“Oh.”

A slim, dark-haired woman holding a chubby baby wearing only a sun hat and a diaper began calling names like a drill sergeant and the little girl obediently splashed out of her seat beside me along with all of the other children who had so unceremoniously barreled in. As quickly as they came, they were gone, ordered, with precision, by Sergeant Mom. The adults who were left in the pool were awe-struck.

“I think she has 8”

“8 kids?”

“Yeah.”

“You mean all of those kids are hers?”

“Oh my gosh!”

“Wow!”

“That’s amazing!”

“That’s crazy!”

“How does she do it?”

“She seems to have a system.”

“Yeah, look at them, they’re all together.”

“Can you imagine trying to keep up with 8 kids at the beach?”

“Lord, I’d probably never leave the house.”

“I know! I’d lose one for sure!”

And so the conversation went with the older couple—oh, yeah, the wife came back, perhaps she went to the bathroom?—the lady with her daughter, who happens to be just a few years older than our daughter, and us, the only black people at the exclusive Marriott resort. We continued in the conversation, without any weirdness, awkward moments or ridiculous questions.

We marveled at the fearlessness of the mother and the ordiliness of her children, we talked about our own children and our parental triumphs and shortcomings. We laughed and chatted about all the little nothings that people chat about with acquaintances that you meet by the pool when you’re on vacation.

The water got a little too warm so we got out, wrapped ourselves in the over-priced towels and bid our resort mates adieu.  As we walked back to our room I, of course, chastised my husband  for making assumptions about others based on such simple differences as skin color or social class. He had almost let pettiness ruin a perfect vacation! ; )

Oops