Recurring Dream

I walk up the stairs to the 2nd story of a three-story Chicago apartment building again. I cannot recall how many times I have climbed those stairs. The apartment on some visits is the peeling paint version from the 1980s with the storefront church located on the 1st floor. Tonight, it is the gentrified edition with glass entry doors. The old church is now a performance arts space.  Inside is always the same. Slightly splintered bare wood floors with a thick coat of brown paint to protect bare feet.

I walk down the hall and peer into the door that leads to the room she shares with her preacher husband. It is empty. I walk in and the floral bedspread has been neatly drawn across the mattress. I sit on the stool in front of the wooden dresser with the attached mirror. I am still fascinated by the collection of perfume bottles arranged on a mirrored plate. I pick up an ornate glass bottle filled with pink fragrance and squeeze the atomizer. A floral aroma fills my nostrils with her presence. I spin my head around, but the room is still empty.

I leave the bedroom and turn down the hall. I see one of her living daughters sitting at the kitchen table. She is an adult like me. The chairs don’t match. I sit with her and feel her sadness.

There is yellow paint on the walls and white paint on the baseboards. The metal pipes are exposed under the sink. My memories are fractured like a broken mirrored plate. Nothing quite fits but pick up a shard and you will see a piece of the past clearly.

I stand up from the table and walk toward the backdoor. There is a large two by four wooden plank across the door held up by two metal brackets. I have since learned that contraption is called a drop bar.  I lift the drop bar and turn the lock handle.

The porch is concrete with thick gray paint. The paint is always thick here. It is the years of coats, layer upon layer, to make the old appear new. It is fun to pick at it when bored. The stairs lead to the 3rd floor. I was stung by a bee sitting on those stairs. My nanny had made us kids cheese toasts in the oven. She had drizzled honey over the top of mine. I was sitting on the 2nd stair with the sun warming my left side and swinging the toast with my right hand when I felt a sharp pain on the inner flesh of my right forearm. The toast hit that gray paint honey side down. There is a cost to happiness when it is at the expense of others even if the other is a bee.

Nanny has been dead since 2008. Tonight, I am back to 1987 or so.  I feel present in the past, more solid than I feel in 2022. It is where unconditional love exists, where memories never age. This ephemeral delight is always interrupted by a stinging awareness that this isn’t real life.  Not real physical life in the present, I mean.

What is life anyway if not a dream?

. . . And A Funeral

Last Saturday, I celebrated two people embarking on a new life together – a wedding. This past Saturday, I celebrated the life of my aunt – a funeral.

Life is impermanent

In 2019, we were on the warm sands of Jamaica celebrating her grandson’s wedding. The wedding was a beautiful moment where family got together to celebrate a happy occasion. In retrospect, I am grateful to have spent that time with my aunt. Who knew that eight months later the pandemic would arrive? Travel and weddings were halted in the face of a global crisis. The wedding last Saturday, was the first I have attended since my little cousin’s wedding in Jamaica.

Every time someone passes, the universe shifts. Much like the pandemic, there is the world that existed before and the new world order that exists after the event. I think about my godmother whose passing caused seismic changes in my world.

Life is cyclical

My aunt and my godmother were both old school saints. Having grown up COGIC (#IYKYK), the old school saints represented tradition and faithfulness. My godmother was someone whose advice and judgment I trusted. The old saints could ‘get a prayer through’. With the passing of the old guard, an uncomfortable truth is birthed. We are the new elders.

What will our legacy be? What will my legacy be? It is tough thinking of myself as an ‘elder’ when I still feel the preteen angst of not quite knowing how I fit in the world. I am still learning and growing.

Bearing the Load

Funerals are horrible for empathic souls like myself. I cry when I see another’s tears. My heart aches when a head is bowed in sorrow. Words cannot erase the sting of death. Being present in loving support is all we can do. If pain is transferable, then so must be hope and love.

My nephew was one of the pallbearers. A loaded casket can weigh at least 300 pounds. Yet the weight is distributed amongst six or more men, making the load less heavy. We attend funerals to celebrate the life of the person who has graduated to heaven. We also go to provide emotional support to the immediate family so that an unbearable loss can be borne.