the 4th generation

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Today’s post comes from a journal entry I wrote in 2011.

My great grandma died in Washington State. I live in Minnesota. I missed her funeral. There were no goodbyes. She had the tiniest little feet, perfect wigs, she was a good cook, very ladylike, her bible had her name printed in gold letters on the cover. Nothing in her life was out of place. She hated that I breastfed my son and discouraged it at every opportunity she had. She sent me away or sent male family members away for the sake of decency. She was lying in a hospital bed, the cancer eating away at her body and she made sure her only great great grandson was covered in a blanket while he was trying to eat.

She thought my beautiful, wild, natural African hair would look better chemically straightened. She thought I should go back to my (first) husband despite his infidelities and lies. She thought I held my baby too much, that women should “keep a good house.” She called her grandkids “bad”.

I miss her.

But I am torn.

Everything in my life, and everything I value, honor, hold sacred and love she was completely against. She never knew me. I loved her, was fiercely devoted to her but am disappointed because I know she wasn’t fiercely devoted to me. I needed that. Someone in my corner to say afros and natural hair mean something powerful, that breastfeeding is important, that women can leave their husbands and live alone. I did not get that from her and I am sad. She was all about blending in, me about sticking out.

Some people say her mother was a slave, but I’m not sure the math adds up. She told me she was born in Albuquerque but her obituary said Frisco, Texas. She had 7 kids, one died. She stood four feet ten inches, married 60 years. I don’t how to feel, but she is gone. Back to the Earth, right across the way from her younger sister in the same cemetery. The secrets are buried with her.

I hope she is proud of me.

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