My mother learned how to salsa dance in between a table of sheer glittered tank tops and a rack of leather jackets.
That’s the kind of woman my mother is & always will be, the kind to wear red flip flops in mid-October and a platinum gold satchel on her hip while stepping on the toes of a 20-something Colombian named Carlos who was innocently folding men’s dress shirts in the middle of the clothing store before my mother pulled a thread within him. Unraveling his whole life story. The Seams of Carlos All Tangled Up in My Mother’s Humanity and Salsa Dancing.
Carlos was in America for the year on a futbol scholarship and had just then began to feel the waves of homesickness push in as the holidays began sneaking under doorways and into the store fronts of Sears and Macy’s.
So my mother invited Carlos to Thanksgiving dinner, but only if he taught her a dance. Hence the salsa dancing. Hence the 20-something Colombian learning to knife a turkey at my kitchen table.
My mother reeks of good human being. It pours out of her.
And even though we are often fighting over a) dishes b) bags left on the kitchen table c) student loan checks d) frying pans (all which sum up to the fact that I need a t-shirt that reads “Creativity ruins my Domesticity”), I still want to shake her by the shoulders while screaming loudly, “I wannttttttt tooooo beeeeeee jusssssttttt liiiikkkkkeee yooouuuuu.”
The key word is Be. I want to Be. Just like mother. She gets it. The Being part. She Be’s all day, every day.
She Be a blessing. She Be a lantern. She Be there. No questions asked, She Be there.
And if I can just sort it out, just unravel it the way my mother unraveled Carlos and his homesickness and his need, as if he were a pool of yellow yarn laying on the ground at her feet, then maybe I’ll Be too.
These are the notes I’ve taken thus far.
Be a blessing.
Lean in closer so that I can tell you a secret: People get all weak in the elbows when you spend time on them.
Suddenly we shrink back into the days where our teachers complimented how nicely we folded our hands in our laps and then named us Line Leader for the day. It’s that kind of weakness. A sweet, sticky glow that comes out from the cheeks. All because we stop… and think… and then act intentionally for one another in the form of care packages to cool down the homesickness like a hose, love letters to ward off the loneliness, baked goods to plump up and soften the heart, playlists to make the rains come like clouds breaking open and clearing the drought from our eye sockets.
If you are sitting here, scratching your head and thinking: I want to be someone unlike anyone else in this world then start here. Start by being a blessing. & learning the exhaustion that comes from it but the joy that pours out of it. Be sacrificial. Go out of your way. Don’t take credit. Forget yourself for the sake of someone else. And the let the awesomeness rollllllll in, darling.
People will look at you strangely at first. They will wonder what makes you different but they’re going to seriously start unraveling the parts inside of themselves that don’t look that way if they stare at you and your humility long enough. They’re gonna whisper to the lovely beside them, “What’s that light inside of that one?”
Be a light.
Or a lamp. Or a stoplight. Or a lantern. Or a flashlight. Or the flicker of a candle. Just be a light. If you’ve got light, then be light.
People are looking for it. And they will tell you they are looking for a purpose, a higher calling, a lost shoe, their car keys, a deeper meaning, a better story. And it’s really all just light. We all really just want something larger than us to pour through the cracks and light up the darkness we feel, even when the sun is out.
I think we all just want to dance somewhere in the light, shimmy and shake and hand jive and waltz somewhere in the middle of this quotation: “If you want a love message to be heard, it has got to be sent out. To keep a lamp burning, we have to keep putting oil in it.”
Somedays I truly think there will be no better feeling than when there’s Old in my bones and a rocking chair beneath me but I’ll have wrinkles & stories to prove that I was a source of light to others. That I lifted them when they felt weak. That sometimes we just sat, side by side, and said nothing at all and yet the best conversations & revelations were founded that way when we let silence dance with presence. When we just stopped telling the world how very busy we were and we just decided to be there for one another.
You know, I don’t know anything about how it will be to die.
I’ve not a clue how the thoughts will spiral through my head when I realize that these toes are going, these hairs are going, these legs will be no more, this mouth of mine will hush, but I bet I’ll think about people like Carlos. People in my life who got all wrapped up in me. And I got wrapped in them. All Tangled. And it never even mattered that blue bled into yellow because somehow we knew that together we’d make green, something we could never do apart. Something really miraculous but something we could never accomplish on our own.
I want to say poetic things when I’m lying in that bed and the doctors are whispering that the time will be short now. And I want someone to hear me when the last breath goes, someone who will have been all the life & jazz I needed for many the years before this. I want to tell him it was wonderful. That the dancing was good. That the laughter was thick. And we’ve got no reason to look back with dismay.
That I think we done good. That I would have never wanted to go this thing alone.
“I needed you to make my green,” I might tell him in the quiet of the room. “I will always be your yellow and you are forever my blue.”
Something really beautiful like that. Something that will belong to only us and the things that only we know.
I want the angels to come when I am tracing faces with my eyes closed. I want to spend my last air thinking on the times I needed you and you were there. When I took you by the hand and dragged your tired feet. The time when we both stared hopelessly at one another, with skinned knees but polished souls, saying into the April air, “I won’t regret a single second of this. Stay, please stay, and be the keeper of them all.”