March is Women’s History Month so I thought I’d share this bit with you.
Every year, March is designated Women’s History Month by presidential proclamation. The month is set aside to honor women’s contributions in American history.
The poem below was inspired by the sage advice I received years ago from an elderly lady who truly fought to make a difference in the role (and treatment) of women in society. I feel she made a historical impact by influencing the small groups around her. She certainly left an impression with me.
I won’t name her because her M.O was to act subtly and not bring attention to herself. Surprisingly she got a lot accomplished with her (ur-um) antics. RIP A
We did not burn our bras but wore them proudly; Holding–supporting–glorifying the mammary glands that would feed the next generation;
For the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.
We did not give animated voices to our vaginas for the world to hear but let them speak in secret whispers that moved mountains.
We did not make a spectacle in the streets to prove our equality For we knew in our hearts [already] that we were superior.
Every young girl has dreams. Some dream of being a supermodel or a nurse, a doctor or a fireman, a teacher, a writer or a rock star. Savannah Dawn has dreams too. But she mostly dreams of a life without nightmares.
A few Clips from Chapter 1
My name is Savannah Dawn and I was named for the place of my conception, whatever that means. I’ll be eleven years old come next March. I love to swim and I hate school. I guess that’s all I know to say about myself except sometimes I see things… like in a dream.
The dreams used to bother me but they don’t anymore. When I was younger I would wake up crying in the middle of the night – Mama would bring me a glass of milk and sit beside me in the dark. I’d tell her what I saw and she’d say, “they’re just nightmares honey; nothing but unconsecrated visions.”
As I got older I felt like Mama didn’t want to hear about the things that troubled my slumber. A few times it seemed to rile her so I learned to stay quiet and get my own milk.
Preacher Zeb calls them revelations and says I shouldn’t tell a soul about what I see except him. Zeb is an ex-Marine and a retired pastor. He was also my papa’s best friend. Last summer he baptized me in the Neches River with only God as our witness. We made a pinky swear to keep it secret. A pinky swear ain’t like a promise to God – it’s a promise not to tell Mama. She would have had a fit knowing I washed my sins in dirty water not to mention I nearly drowned while waiting on the Holy Spirit.
My sister got the spirit once at The First Assembly of God in downtown Trinity. She was sitting on the front pew making goo-goo eyes at Brother Tim when all of a sudden she went limp as a dish rag. The brother hollered “hallelujah” and flew down from the pulpit. He smacked her on the forehead then Jodi jumped up and started shaking all over and everybody went crazy.
It took me a minute to realize what was going on; it took Mama about a minute and a half.
Jodi said she felt like a movie star when the whole congregation wanted to touch her. She done it so folks would think she was special, that’s what she said. I always thought she was special so I didn’t care one way or the other but it sure was funny watching her dance around with her hands in the air shouting, “alley baba – naba -naba daba- daba doo.” She was doing a different dance after we got home and Mama whipped her for blaspheming the Holy Ghost.
I don’t like referring to the Lord’s essence as a ghost. Mama says they’re the same thing but I know she’s never seen either one or she wouldn’t say that. I also know spirits don’t always live in a body; some of them live in drinks of alcohol….
Lay your grammar obsessions aside, let your jaw relax, loosen your ears, take a long deep breath as you let your mind drift to the deep south and listen in to the privy conversation between Maggie and her dear, sweet Tallulah.
Happy #Friday y’all!! 🍻 #SouthernProud
From Book 1 of the Clan Destiny Series
“Are you gonna sleep all day Mizrez Lafont? Best try to git up a bit.” It was the voice of Tallulah attempting to rouse the exhausted Maggie. She tapped the rail of a lump beneath the bedding and continued, “Ima open these shades now missy, better make yo eyes ready cuz it’s a mighty fine mornin’.” Tallulah warned. Her bedraggled vernacular seemed to come from every direction at once.
Maggie pulled the Egyptian cotton over her face and murmured, “Thank you Tallulah but for the umpteenth time would you please call me Maggie, okay?” “Okay Miss Maggie.” The drapes flew back and light filled the room. Maggie lifted the cover from her face and squinted at the morning sun.
Tallulah studied the woman’s face which was no more than a shade darker than the snowy sheets. She planted her hands on her hips and stared into the hollow eyes of her mistress.
“Mr. Ray is comin’ home today. He’s gonna be here in time for supper, you gonna tell him?” “Yes Tallulah, I am going to tell him.” “Is you feelin’ sick this mornin’? I can fetch you some dry toast and warm tea. That was always a help to me and to Mr. Ray’s mama too.”
“Yes please.” Maggie strained to sit up and suppressed a gag as she spoke. “That would be nice.”
When Maggie heard the door shut she scrambled to the restroom, turned the cold water on and splashed her face. The wave of nausea subsided and she raised her head to inspect the figure before her. She hardly recognized the drawn, insipid person in the mirror. Maggie had been ill since the last night of her honeymoon when Ray carried her from the beach. She barely recalled the long flight home and blamed it on the rum but there was something wrong and she knew it. The illness quashed her plans to redecorate the beautiful old plantation house. It had been in the Lafont family for close to two hundred years. There wasn’t much Maggie wanted to change about the historical mansion, just a few personal touches to make it her own, their own. The home of Mr. and Mrs. Ray Lafont – Ray didn’t care one way or the other. Mrs. Turner had kept her word and came to visit at least once a week, usually staying for several days, though Maggie hardly noticed with most of her days spent between the bed and the bathroom of the apartment sized boudoir. Maggie wasn’t surprised when she noticed her collar bones protruding like bowed timber at the base of her bony neck; after all should could not recall the last meal she had been able to keep in her stomach. Lifting her gown she could see the distinct outline of every rib – then letting her eyes drop she observed the only thing that wasn’t recessed was her belly. Her abdomen looked like a basketball had been shoved beneath her flesh. “Ohhh god,” she moaned as her emaciated frame convulsed and heaved. Green bile splashed against the marble sink.
“Awe honey child!” Tallulah cried, rushing to Maggie’s side. “Let’s get you back to bed.” “I’m sorry Tallulah,” Maggie swept a trembling hand across her mouth; “I’ve made another mess.”
“Don’t you worry ‘bout that none. That’s what I’m here for.” Tallulah helped Maggie back to bed and softly washed her face then held the cup steady while Maggie sipped the chamomile tea. Tallulah was a thick framed black woman who reminded Maggie very much of Aunt Jemima, though she never said it out loud for fear of offending the angelic lady.
“You have gots to tell Mr. Ray Miss Maggie! You shoulda done told him a month ago. You done let this go too long, way too long.” She fretted, dabbing a damp cloth at Maggie’s face.
“There is nothing to tell Ray that he doesn’t already know. You know how he feels Tallulah – how we both feel about this. Now please…” Without warning tea colored liquid spewed across the fine linens.
“He don’t know the doctor said you need to be shed of this or it’s gonna kill ya. It caint be he knows and let you lay up here wastin’ away.” The old nurse insisted, talking while she put a fresh damp cloth to Maggie’s neck and replaced the soiled sheet, “Mr. Ray is gone all the time, he don’t see what I see and when he calls you makes like ever little thang is fine.”
“Nature will take its course.” Maggie argued.
“That it will.” Tallulah agreed, “And maybe yo life in the doin’. Y’all can make another baby ma’am.” Tallulah paused to weigh her words and put her hands on Maggie’s gaunt, ashen face, “They is somethin’ bad wrong with this one precious. I seen thangs like this here before. If ‘n it lives and you die…”
“I want to sleep now.” Maggie spoke abruptly to put an end to the conversation and disappeared beneath the cotton sheets.
You better take care of yourself and make sure this baby gets born healthy, do you hear me young lady? The words of her mother ran through Maggie’s mind. It wasn’t as if Maggie had any control over it. If she did, if she could will her misery out of existence, the life sucking parasite would have been expelled weeks ago.
Maggie had just dozed off when the rumbling in her gut stirred her. It was not the usual churning she was familiar with and there was no nausea accompanying it. She lay still waiting for it. She placed her hand on her belly and felt it again, a flutter followed by a tiny thump. It’s kicking! Maggie stretched out on the bed and exposed her naked stomach. When the flutter started again she could see a slight rise in the protrusion on her withered frame. “Hello in there.” She said quietly. It seemed to respond to her voice so she spoke again. “I’m gonna be your mother little man.” The communication went on for about ten minutes and when Maggie felt the thumps diminish she whispered, “You go back to sleep now, it’s going to be okay, your mama loves you.” A single tear of relief tickled the corner of her nose and she rang for Tallulah to bring her a full Sunday breakfast.
Tallulah entered a half-hour later with a smile and a tray loaded with soft scrambled eggs, bacon, French toast, grits and juice. “I never seen you look so good Miss Maggie.” She laughed as the starving mother-to-be inhaled the platter of food and kept it down. “May be you gonna be alright after all. You and the young-un, yes indeed, may hap.” Tallulah practically danced out of the room with the empty tray and soiled linens in tow.
The fact that she had consumed every morsel without regurgitating bolstered her confidence as well as her energy. Maggie stood beneath the shower-head, stroking and lathering her stomach as she sang nursery rhymes to her unborn child. After showering she realized her endurance was not yet up to par and returned to bed for the best sleep she had had in months. Two hours later Maggie awoke feeling exuberant and summoned Tallulah.
“Would you like to take a walk with me Tallulah?” she inquired. “Not looking like you look.” The lady laughed, “`S’pose I comb them rats outta yo hair first.” Tallulah guided Maggie to the balcony. “You sit right here while I get a brush and lay out somethun nice for you to wear. You done got so po ain’t likely nuthin’l fitcha but we’ll make do.” Tallulah chose a light yellow poly blend dress from the wardrobe, laid it on the settee and shoved a brush inside her apron pocket. Before stepping back out onto the terrace she made the bed and turned down the covers.
“Here we go Miss Maggie.” turning Maggie so her back was to her, “Lawd child yo head is nappy!” Maggie didn’t bother remarking on the comment. She knew she looked a fright in her current condition. “How long have you known the Lafont family?” Maggie asked, as Tallulah stood behind her on the sun drenched veranda brushing out a mat of blond tangles. “All my life.” Tallulah answered, “My Mama was maid to Mr. Ray’s Mama.” “Really?” Maggie asked in surprise. “Sho nuff and her Mama was employed here fo her. See my peoples was once owned by the Lafont’s.” Tallulah stated matter of factly with what sounded like pride to Maggie.
“Why on earth would you stay after the abolition – I mean why would your family stay on? Didn’t they know they could leave? Did anyone ever say?” Maggie asked, thoroughly intrigued by the information. “Yessum, my mother told me what was told her — that they was no cause to leave. Said the Lafont’s made sure they had money, land and educated um too. Said they always gave um Sunday off and Saturday if need be. Wuddint no beatin’ and rapin’ goin’ on here like in tha other parts I heard tell of. I b’lieve her too cause they paid all three of my sons through college – called it my bonus. I couldn’t a got that nowhere else.”
“No ma’am I don’t believe you could have. So you’re fond of the family?” Maggie asked. “Love um like they’s my own. I got one son is a doctor thanks to Mr. Ray’s daddy.” Tallulah beamed with pride and added, “The other two boys is teachers. Good teachers too.” “I bet they are. You must be so proud of them Tallulah– all three of them.” “I am Miss Maggie, I really am.” “So tell me about Ray when he was a little boy.” Maggie urged. “What’s be you wanna know?” Tallulah asked admiring and grooming the now smooth golden tresses of hair. “Everything.”
The first memory that came to Tallulah’s mind of the young Lafont conjured cruel pictures. Images of the puppy Ray had found in an old grain silo. Tallulah could not bring herself to tell the ailing lady of how her husband had broken the legs of the tiny cur at every joint and tied its muzzle so it couldn’t cry out. She diligently searched her memories for something more pleasant.
The imposition was cut short when Maggie abruptly slouched forward grabbing her waist. “What’ a matter Miss Maggie?” “I’m not sure.” Maggie replied, straining to speak through the enervating cramp, “Can we go in now?” “Yessum. But you gots to tell ole Tallulah what’s wrong? Is you hurtin?” Maggie nodded her head and tried to stand but found her legs would not support her. “Let me help you.” She said, lifting Maggie to her feet. “Oh lawdy lawd child, better let me carry you.” She swept Maggie up and carried her like a child back into the bedroom, laying her gently on the bed. “Ima get some towels – just you lay real still now.” Maggie pulled her knees toward her chest, a natural maneuver to relieve the unrelenting spasm. “Oh no.” She whimpered, “No, no, no little baby.” She cried when she noticed the bright red stain on her gown.
“Up here Mrs. Turner.” Tallulah yelled. Maggie lay motionless staring up at nothing as the nursemaid removed the bloody towels from between her legs. “Looks like that’s all of it ma’am.” Tallulah told her.
“Good lord have mercy! Look at all the blood. Tallulah were you able to stop it?” Mrs. Turner spoke frantically as she stood at the doorway and stared at the sharp contrast of crimson against the white bed sheets. “Tha bleedin’ is slowed to nearly nuthin but she ain’t with child no mo ma’am.”
“Are you sure. Maybe we’d better call an ambulance and get her to the hospital.”
“For the girl may be, but look here.” Tallulah said, opening a towel for the grandmother to be, “Woulda been a boy by tha looks of it.”
“Dear god, that thing is hideous! Throw it away!” Mrs. Turner screamed as the salty rivers ran from her daughter’s silent face.
Get a copy from your favorite retailer here. Google has the series lined up for you here
IT’S JUST A SMALL BROWN wicker basket, not built to hold much –
and a bit tattered from over handling. It’s beautiful warm browns have dulled and faded with age on the outside –
but inside the natural luster still shines.
It’s top is held in place by make-do leather ties because the first woody hasps were worn in two –
and now dangle loosely, without purpose.
What hands made the airy coffer? I wonder as I stroke the thin smooth fibers. Was it one as handsome as the tight weaves frayed by time?
Though dust has long since claimed his finger prints – I know that he was a weaver; I imagine that he was a dream weaver… Diligently intertwining each cane thread with my hopes in mind…
A place to store my breathing dreams so that they could be kept safe and close at hand, amassed in a beautiful fibrous reminder. A quaint little chest of hope I will one day hand down to a child, a grandchild or perhaps even a great grandchild – when I have used up its contents.
When I have taken the dusty lid off one last time and felt deep into the corners to make certain I haven’t left any ideas untouched… I imagine when I offer it up to him (or her) they will look at me like I’m crazy (and I may well be) then they’ll tear the lid off, expecting to find a treasure of sorts before saying with disappointment,
“It’s just an empty old basket.”
It is then I will share with them the wishes and ideas that were stored and later born of that basket.
How they were kept safe till I could see them come to fruition. And one more time I will imagine the handsome dark skinned man who meticulously weaved the wonderful piece… a place to store my dreams because dreams need room to breathe.
Then I will show them how to place their own aspirations into the old auburn chest with caution to keep them safe, to nurture their hopes and give them time to mature. And if my last wish were to come true I will see them realize the birth of their visions.
*I adore woven baskets and this bit of prose was inspired by one of my favorites.
Q:Is any of your fiction true? Do you write about real life?
A:Well yes and no. For example a visit to Rockford Illinois for my granddaughter’s graduation inspired the following scene which takes place somewhere in the historical Lake-Peterson House.
Our dog Leia was the inspiration for the physical description of Gus and that is her on the cover.
Chapter Twenty Five
Mary paced the empty hallway on the third floor of the ancient house. She counted fifteen steps from one lamp to the next and wondered if the people below could hear her. The dark corridor seemed to grow shorter with each lap along with her patience. She considered unlocking her mind so she could tap into the thoughts of those around her but intuition advised against it. Occasionally she paused to listen at the door; each time she found the words indecipherable and returned to pacing until a gentle creak caused her to stop.
“You may go in now.” A flat voice announced as the heavy door gave way. Sunbeams flooded the hallway and Mary squinted at the figure in front of her; at the starched white cap and unwieldy dress which were as outdated as the house.
Ah, Christmas is not over and already I am basking in the afterglow.
I am so grateful (that warm, fuzzy, misty-eyed kind of grateful) for family and friends, the kindness of strangers, God’s mercy and the gift of Christ.
Our gathering was not as large as we would have liked; a few came down sick at the last minute, more than a few are heeding the “Rona law” and a couple or so are recovering (without complications) from Covid. Heck, half of us have had the dreaded Covid and (thankfully) recovered.
I do have a very dear cousin in hospital with a respiratory issue; he’s confident he will recover (from whatever it is) but if y’all have a few seconds, send up a good vibe or a prayer for David. We would appreciate it.
These are peculiar and trying times indeed, how about we all pray for one another. 🙏🏼
Ok – back to the basking…
I would like to share a little of my Christmas glow with all of you.