One of my brothers, Len, talks about the importance of love as an offering. He says, “As an offering we lean into the moment, the person, the cause. We do not lean on. We lean in. If I am leaning in, then I am observing you as you are.” Not as you wish to be, not as you hope to be, not as you used to be. I am loving you right here and right now…no extra toppings or additives…no future predictions or desires or expectations. You are who you are. Present tense.
The Celie Syndrome
I love Celie.
Celie is purple. Filled with glory and royal blood, unknowingly.
Celie looks down.
Celie keeps her eyes to the ground. [not ‘on’ but ‘to’...the ground]
Celie shu’ is uuuugly.
Celie covers her smile.
Celie contorts in her dark+ness. She is pushed into place. She moves in and out of spaces in silence.
Celie is and forever shall be…until she is not anymore.
Celie can’t talk to nobody but God ‘bout her life…her 14 year old ravage-bodied life.
Celie has been impregnated by…
And she “gon’ do what her mammy won’t do” cuz Celie is without
Celie is only 14. And she is the color purple.
And that’s just the first page of Walker’s book.
I love Celie. I love her dearly. She looks like a few of the girls I see in school. Ominous and without. She reminds me of me, sometimes. I covered my smile for the longest time until someone said, “Stop.” How odd that we wait for permission to change our narrative.
I have a bestie who performs Nettie-and-Celie scenes with me. We see each other after years and we run towards each other and play the hand game. We speak the language of these two sisters and become Celie and Nettie interchangeably. That same bestie explained that she is Celie as much as she is Nettie. We are a bit of both, although I never thought much of pretty Nettie. Pretty dark chocolate Nettie whom Celie protected. She told her baby sister Nettie to ruuuuuuun. Sometimes we protect others by telling them to run like the dickens. “Don’t turn back! Just RUN!” And how many of us have told others to run, knowing that we couldn’t run with them?
I happen to believe that people aren’t ready to love who Celie truly is. She is a syndrome. She is the inexplicable expectation to be and do [synonymously] as she has been told because that is the lot she has been given in life.
Eureka! That’s the narrative you’ve been told, and now you own that ‘woe is me’ tale. And every so often, you warn others not to live that life. RUN! And don’t look back. RUN!
I thought I was going to give birth to a baby girl. I don’t know what her name would’ve been, but I know she would have my features the way I have my mom’s features. She would have crystal brown in her eyes; thick untainted curls that you could barely comb because she has 4C textured hair. She would be knock kneed like her mom. She also might have to wear special shoes like her mom did as a child. She would enter the world a full 8 lbs., a very thick skinned jiggly round sun-brown baby. As she grew, she would thin out. She would eat kale all the time because that’s what her mom would feed her. Kale and potato chips. Kale and brownies. Kale and her grandfather’s oxtail. Kale and her grandmother’s cornmeal dumplings. She would even turn a smidge green on rainy days (the after effects of a kale induced diet). She would be her mother’s child the way I am my mother’s child forever. She would also call on her other mothers the way I call on other maternal womyn.
There was a moment…a moment in the air where I thought I saw my daughter. I saw a glimpse of her. I may have been standing in the mirror, fully extended round belly, carrying conversations underneath layers of skin. Or maybe I was walking and felt her touch my face on a cold autumn day, for she would be an air sign as well [like her mother]. Maybe she appeared in my dreams late at night.
My daughter did not enter this world though. I believe she met Celie along the way and decided to choose another path. There are moments when I think she, my daughter, is watching over me giving me the okay to be a mother anyway. She is reminding me that giving birth happens in so many different forms.
So during this school year, when I walked into the Pre-Kindergarten room and met a beautiful brown small PreK girl who runs up to me whenever I come through the door, I thought my daughter was somewhere in that space watching. This little girl is quiet, homely and becomes sad for no particular reason. She does not clean up her playing space when it is time for the children to clean unless I ask her to. She plays with herself (and possibly an imaginary friend). She stares into the air and looks like she is leaning into something that can’t be seen or heard with eyes and ears. When I enter the space she asks me over and over again to play with her. She won’t stop until I give in and say, “Yes.” She is my little Celie-TC. She is my unborn child for an hour and a half Monday through Thursday.
In Maya Angelou’s “Letter to My Daughter” she reminds her daughter(s) that she may not control all the things that happen to her in life but she does not have to shrink or be reduced by them.
I’m not a mother, but I am. I am an offering of love. I get to be an offering, in the same way I get to be Celie and watch a whole bunch of Celies around me. Somewhere along the way, I had to change the narrative though. A syndrome is a syndrome if you keep using the word syndrome, get me? So today, I’m purple. I am glory and royal and I shu’ is pretttttty. Pretty brown Celie with a lot of daughters to love.