God bless our food. Amen.
For starters, my aunt was begging her spoilt-brat beloved son to “grace us with his presence” and we were rolling our eyes when he finally came through. We began the Christmas Lunch tradition long after my aunt had retired. Her sanity amidst insanity was rooibos tea, newspapers and gardening, because while the sun returned to its mother – there was often turmoil in the house. The walls were closing in on us. There was an unbearable silence about everything. So, that Christmas lunch was as awkward as all the others, and although she had always put up a strong front, she was decomposing. I now know this because she blatantly suffers from the worst form of depression. She’s . . . Far gone. The house is still luxurious, but carries near-death whispers, sirens, blood stains and the wrath of our ancestors.
When the gourmet main course arrived, we were making small talks about nothing, yet, there was so much to address. For instance, the house was becoming a mortuary and we were already corpses. But, small talks were my aunt’s tone of conversing – and when we wanted to talk, she’d say “Sshh, this is a family affair.” After all, she always resembled what Rose in Titanic said while pondering on the fact that “A woman’s heart is a deep ocean.” In hindsight, my aunt is like Rose, except the men hidden in her ocean are not as loving and present as Jack. She is, of course, a black woman born in the 1940s. So, her’s are runaway lovers, absent baby-daddies, lazy brothers and alcoholic sons. The memories she suppressed with tea addiction are that of herself as a black female body who only knows how to be either sacrificed or left. She also comes from an era when forced selflessness was at its height; if you “made it,” you had to take care of the whole village; so, my aunt kept giving to all of us, and we kept taking. She raised us without ever asking anything from our parents, and she never cried in front of us or anyone for that matter. We never asked; “How are you feeling, Ma?”
As we neared empty plates, I imagined writing about my aunt in the future, always profusely apologetic because she’d always end up misconstrued. The truth is, I love my aunt, and I only understood her pattern a year ago. Hence, I can write about her freely. I just need to be honest to myself about what happened if I want to break the cycle. She is one of many black women who were demanded by life to put on their big-girl-pants and take care of everyone else. Her father was only present in his own terms, so she went out looking for him in other men’s sheets. Guess what happened, she found him in them, but it was always too late because they were already gone. There she was, in the exact position her mother was when her father left them destitute – so she looked for her father/lover in her beloved son and unfortunately manufactured a replica of all the men who never showed up.
By the time we ate desert, I was stomaching so many questions; Where did black women learn this plague of drowning to save everyone else? Stitching their men’s wounds and scars while they themselves bled to death?
“Sweetie, that ain’t cute,” I told myself after I realized that I had become my aunt. It was a bright Summer morning after the married man had left me again, and the blossoming flowers were saying I owe my life my healing. But, the frightening thunder and lightning in the afternoon weren’t so nice. They incisively shouted; “How the fuck you gon’ jump off a cliff for someone who is only present in how absent he is? Can’t you see you’ve found your broken father in him? Of course, he left when you needed him to be there, just like your father.”
So, right now, I dedicate this Summer to you my sisters to turn on a new leaf and do things different this time. Put an end to these countless suicide notes you write when you make too much room for the man who left you in your mother’s womb and the other ones who left you waiting in delivery rooms. What good is a man who walks out on you at the dais?
Start this year’s Christmas lunch by declaring that it won’t be your body on Grandma’s picturesque plates, carelessly cut with her contemporary cutlery and it certainly will NOT be your blood that’s sipped by your father. Now, that’s a family affair, honey! Let’ em sacrifice their damn selves for once.