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My family is what you would call “Geechee.” Some call them Gullah. Whatever. I didn’t really get what that meant until I went to school in SC. This is probably where our family traditions stem. It’s actually crazy.
My grandmother kept a “garden.” It was almost the size of a park baseball diamond. There aren’t a lot of us so why she’d need a garden that large is beyond folks that don’t know her. In the center of the garden was a REALLY big fire pit. When we would have family gathering, which now I recognize were solstice events, we would go out to the pit and have observances. My grandmother died when I was 17 after a lengthy illness. The last time we all assembled, I had to be like 10? I so can’t remember anything but the frolicking of a child.
My mother was smart and my aunt was quick. Auntie stayed in SC. My mother went to college and eventually moved to NJ. In NJ she learned that she was not only country (that she learned in college) but Geechee. My mother is one to fit into any Cipher she exists in. So what we did in my childhood home was watered down and secret.
When I was 8 and visiting my grandmother, a strangely dressed man came to Mama’s house and watched me. I watched him back. I heard them speaking about me. And since it was about me, I felt I had the right to listen. They both agreed that I could learn. That I should learn. My mother came running from her room and said she had her own plans for me. And she was the mother not them. It was a confusing day. The man came and spoke to me. My mother looked worried, but her own mother prevented her from coming closer. He was a nice man. He smelled like fresh tobacco. He asked me all kinds of questions. He told me that when I was ready, he’d teach me if he was still living. I said ok. And that was it. I didn’t see him again until my grandmother’s funeral. But then, I was a stank assed teenager. No adult could tell me anything.
A few years ago, I asked my aunt, before she got sick, about him. She said he returned to the essence. That may seem like a missed opportunity, it’s not. I have noticed that strangers come to me with lessons. Lessons that show and prove themselves to be right and exact. The challenge is to keep them together so I don’t forget them.
I don’t know how I feel about the decisions my mother made for me. That’s what parents do; they make decisions for their children. I suppose she did what she thought was right? Or possibly she would have been ashamed to have a child who was a worker? My mother and I aren’t close… for many reasons. But we still communicate. I have not had success with any career of mine or her choosing outside of working. All the roads, street signs and arrows point in 1 direction. The direction I am least prepared to journey. But she and I have come to a tenuous agreement that I do this. And she helps as she can remember.
Mother moved back to SC and is contact with a few of the older ones. But their memory and at times sanity is questionable. But we journey through.
As I progress, the more I know that the decision to learn from the elder was the life I was meant to have. Instead of 30+ years in this life I have 15. Let’s hope my youth remains as long as I need it.
The HooDoo Honey