prior to leaving town for christmas, a new friend questioned the importance of actively acknowledging the capitalist machine's designated date for semi-religiously inspired spiritual celebration of christian values and doctrine for one lacking the proper baptism and/or christening into the faith. there is the standard response . . . a dead-pan, "duh" (like when did christmas become so dogmatic that it required adherence to the christian faith?), and there's the friendly combative response . . . "in my family, we celebrate christmas as a way to affirm connection to lineage and celebrate life and love among blood relations (and sympatico near-strangers and like-kin folk).
truth be told, i haven't felt so in that spirit since my divorce (now close to five years old). the reasons are varied -- finding oneself a single mother in a family so wed to patriarchy that the eldest propertied males still bless the food can cause a slight discomfort; holidays serve as a reminder . . . one no longer receives sexy lingerie beneath a well-adorned tree, blushing amdist the giggles of children, or better . . . one no longer receives an electric razor, a wink, and the slick tongue licking the bottom lip like . . ."u know u gettin some tonight". and beyond that . . . a single mother still grinding toward financial stability in a family of folk determined to pull all selves up by boot-straps in the continual movement away from sharecropping, which is closely linked to renting, causes sweat under breasts when eye brows raise at this woman's silence after a question, "so how's the job hunt going?"
but this year, i dared myself to stand firm in where i'm at . . . slightly victorius, having met some difficult goals and emerging with sanity intact, despite the realization of poverty's lingering stare -- living in a toxic rented space creates a map of sorts on the body. my physical self is now tattooed with the proof of america's stench and rejection of bodies unable to spend enough to live in safe terrain. my family members want to see the malady's tricks upon the flesh they birthed; my body testifies -- hives, swollen limbs. my family of literatti black folk scan the internet for causes and remedies. they are feeling a sense of kinship and trust in my abilities post victory. and christmas feels better for the scars. this time.
my mother and i share alarm over bhutto's assasination (we stare into each other's eyes and repeat the number of lives lost. there is the possibility of tears.) my father and i discuss the fearsome force of young men across the globe. we leave pakistan (as close as the television on the kitchen counter) and discuss the genocidal tendencies of men in the congo, and catholic and ibo males in nigeria. my mother maintains a quiet longing for a budhist world take-over. she laughs and says, "when a budhist gets angry, he will go up to a mountain and forsake all desire." i smile despite these verbalized frustrations --
at christmas dinner, my father opted not to lead the prayer and let the youngest child who happens to be male (age 4) recite the lord's prayer with all family members chanting in unison. and the next day, my father gave directions to the moving men who came to pick up my mother's baby grand piano so that it can be refurbished and returned . . . she will play again, blaring a personal symphony in anger or joy whenever her fingers and heart feel the need.
there are victories this christmas, even in the face of so much chaos. and i return to the bronx with my daughters, ready to grind some mo'.