privy to the past.
(SHARED WITH GEORGIA'S PERMISSION)
Weeks ago, some random email fired my way for no clear or traceable reason has resulted, today, in the coordinator for the local African American Writers Alliance to – again, out of the blue – invite me over to her house so she can bestow upon me a bevy of leftover Southern food fixins from her oldies party last night, when a bunch of her friends had gathered to feast, dance, and sing on her massive patio.
Turns out Georgia, too, is a self-professed lover of talking to strangers, and boy, does it show. We two freaks bond over culture-sharing, politics, and... her repeatedly asking me if I need more food, in the form of homemade bread pudding and "better-than-sex" cake and cabbage and green beans and ice cream I need to turn down because I already had ice cream today and ribs and chicken I will take later for sharing rather than inhaling myself, cause I am not huge into the meats, but I reckon someone at the potluck tomorrow might be. (Not a P.S., but P.S. - Weirdly, she just discovered the bread pudding recipe is named after a plantation near her hometown in Louisiana...)
While we chat, she shares what it was like to be one of the first students called to integrate a segregated Southern college. Including the slingshot feeling of excitedly asking a receptionist where your dorm was, only to be answered by:
"We were only told we needed to go to school with you – not that we needed to live with you."
Georgia tells me she was lucky because that comment made her decide to transfer universities immediately. Best decision she ever made. Through the grapevine, she heard later of others who were not so lucky; being first to integrate meant being "angry for years."
In the modern day, I learn that a large local bookstore is happy to book the African American Writers Alliance once a year – but even though they are one of the longest-running groups to read in that store, they are never granted any slots outside of Black History Month (February) because APPARENTLY, black history and black writers are only important when a national month dictates as such.
Not different enough from those first days of integration.
"Is California as bad as here?" she asks me.
"Racially?" I ask.
I know a little bit about that, but apparently, I don't even begin to know, because I am not constantly asking that question. That is my privilege.
"I often wonder who I would be if I didn't have to deal with THIS," she says with sadness, and repeats it twice. "It gets tiring! THIS gets tiring."
And I think how, despite having to deal with THIS, and being so tired of THIS, she continues to give so much. A lifetime of teaching, to retire perhaps a bit too early, resulting in finances that are not stable as they ought to be – and yet, she cooks and cooks regardless, to give and give regardless. This massive spread for friends; that massive spread for church; whoever, to whatever, and with bounty enough to overfloweth even to me, a total stranger – not just in food, but in time, energy, and vitality.
That I should be so lucky to be privy to such a steel trap memory. <3
Stories, stories, stories.
Good ones, bad ones, happy and sad ones. We’re writing a story
Hearing a story
Telling a story
Beginning a story
In the middle of a story.
Finishing a story,
Always participating in a story—not always willingly. Being left out can be part of the story.
We’re the good, the bad, the ugly.
We’re the protagonist or antagonist,
Flat or round
Dynamic or static
Maybe simply a stock character. Other times we can only narrate.
Sometimes we control the action—to a degree. Often we suffer the consequences of the action. Usually we can’t stop others from telling our stories, Others who can get it so wrong—or right. Ashamed of being fooled or having fooled,
Less than what we think we are or ought to be,
we never want to tell all the stories.
(I’ll bet nobody wants to tell all of the stories.)
We tell selected stories.