“For all the joy you brought to my life, for all the wrong that you made right…”
– Celine Dion
I was once a little girl, chunky and wide-eyed at any attention I could capture. I was a little girl that walked to the end of the street of my apartment neighborhood and helped a woman clean her home because she was attached to a body of metal that didn’t let her get into the tight spaces that in her perspective “just had to be cleaned”.
She was my height when I was merely 8 years old. She would lean slightly to her side, in her chair, and I would tell her a joke as we waited in line at the local Wal-Mart, before it was a super mart that never closed. She listened to me in a way that I felt like my mother couldn’t, until I was crying out for attention in my teenage years.
She, we’ll call her Carol; Carol absolutely adored Celine Dion. She was Mrs. Dion’s most loving fan — her words, not mine. From the young age of 6, I was listening to my mom’s old CDs and stumbled upon Celine Dion. It was a black album cover that had a song called “Treat Her Like a Lady”. Don’t remember the name of the album, and I’m trying desperately not to use every millennial’s best friend, Google. Or Spotify…I could also check there.
But that was it, just that song. I didn’t like the rest of the album and my mom would grow aggravated with me when I would ask her to change the CD to something “good” on those sticky, humid days in Florida, as we sat in an incubator of a mini-van, with one working window and no AC.
I met Carol and I began to dance to the songs of “freedom”, as she called them. The songs that released her after a tiring divorce with a man that she probably shouldn’t have been with, anyways. I didn’t realize, as a child with slim understanding of marriage, that there would ever be a need for freedom songs when it comes to marriage. Those songs were sang by Celine Dion. Songs like “Where does my heart beat now?” and “Have you ever been in love?” and please, don’t ever forget “Because you loved me”.
My parents were married then, and they still are to this day. I’m pretty sure they’re celebrating 23 years of marriage this year, and 25 years of being together as a couple. Don’t quote that, though.
But even with divorce keeping it’s sticky hands out of my personal household, I was exposed to the heartache of it all through friends that were bopped from one house to another every other weekend. I had an adoration for adults when I was a child; longing to be more mature, more graceful about situations, I even tried not to cry during hardships, because adults didn’t. Through that desire to be an adult, I spent my time with the “women” of my apartment complex.
Carol, hopeful in her chair that only let her not get into the small spaces to clean…which is where I came in. Rebecca, who taught me that women belong in the justice and criminal system just as much, if not more than, men. She may have been my first taste of feminism. A spanish woman, whom I don’t think I ever caught her true name but simply called her “ma’am” in spanish; she opened her warm home to me, with tortillas, a piano in the corner that was tuned, and beans…so many beans. Ashley, who taught me that sometimes you have to be the oldest one in the group, even when the age of your mind doesn’t match the year you were born. Kara, who gave me the gift of feeling like an adult while babysitting her two boys that would recklessly jump from the refrigerator to the tile floor, all while just missing their fat cat’s tail.
My momma was the absolute best gem God could have ever given me. He knew when it came down to it, I would just need my momma, but until I felt the comfort of speaking to her on a level of “I am in between the stage of being a little girl and confronting the idea of being an actual woman”, I would need other women.
I am all I am because a village of women built a community for me to feel safe in. A community of asking questions and receiving true answers, not sugarcoated thoughts that most adults give to children. I spoke to some of these women about my self-loathing, of a body that I didn’t know I was allowed to like because society told me not to. About how it feels to be a little girl in a house with a father whom I thought wanted a little boy more than me. About what it means to be poor. About drugs, and what they were and why they weren’t necessary. About how it’s more important to let children get their hearts out, than getting “grounded” and not speaking their peace. About how eating processed food made my stomach hurt, but my mind always let me think it was an okay idea. About crime and what crime is in our society; not monsters, but hurt people hurting people. About God and church and multiplication and sweet tea on porches smaller than my current closet.
I wish just for a moment I could walk into all of these women’s houses, as the small girl I was then but now armed with the big girl knowledge I currently have, and say thank you. A true heartfelt and southern belle, thank you. Thank you all for being the village I needed. You all have no idea how you fed into my growth and my joy.
Instead, I must succumb to writing a blog about it, but for now…until I can get into the small spaces and clean out some stuff, this is enough.