Thursday, February 27, 2014

On being a unicorn…

We sat in a restaurant at a table full of beautiful and talented black women. The group had gotten off track.  We had a side conversation. And then she called me a unicorn. Told me that my relationship with my mother was complex and that for my own wholeness, I needed to keep working on it.

She read my life. Isn’t that funny? How the things we leave unsaid become the things we most need to talk about? I got home that night and begin to reflect. I thought about unicorns and my childhood.

A childhood I don’t remember much of. I wonder if that is a function of wishing to forget. The more you forget the less the you remember. But I recall that I had a book.. One of my favorite books. And it was called, Alexandra and the Vanishing Unicorns. (My middle name is Alexandra)

And in the book she was the last unicorn. All the others were disappearing and she was the only one left.

I can remember reading the book over and over and always thinking I am her.

I had never shared this with this friend or anyone else for that matter but she read my life. Read what I didn't say about my mother and about myself and in doing so made me recall things that at first glance are unimportant. Sometimes its the unimportant, the unloaded, the unassuming parts of life that carry the most weight. Those small details that comprise a life that one day come back around to reclaim you. 

And I spent all day the next day looking for this book and trying to reclaim parts of my childhood. I decided I needed to write this. I needed to talk about being a unicorn born to a mother who doesn’t like magic, who hasn’t ever had space for discovering the unicorn in her.

And this is a poem for her: 

I wonder if you knew you were magic
Myth and folklore
The stuff of angels and dust
Would you walk different?
Lift your head higher
Would you stop looking for life?
In dry places
And make water run from your own well
Would you love the magic in me?

I know DC was not nice to you
And so you never left
Never dreamt for
Aimless hills
 And mountaintops
You settled for cracking the open sky
To rain down on me
Mother you are shame and perfections
Beauty and hurt
All things at all times
And even though you call that making it
I call it magic

I have tried to run as far from your image as possible
But your shadows show up in my
Reminding me that I am light
And for that I am eternally grateful

I know you wanted a daughter that was normal
That wanted a picket fence
A stable job
A college degree
A car
All the markings of middle class we never had
And what you got was me
Maybe your magic
Can only produce unicorns

Maybe masterpieces can only produce
One of kind masterpieces
And maybe that kind of genius
Makes you drink or create
Drug or reach for the moon
And so you created space for me

To be Alexandra the only one left

Mother and daughter relationships are complex and often the place where generational trauma is passed on. I have heard it said mothers love their sons and raise their daughters. I think as a community we have to begin to heal and talk in earnest about legacy and how it gets passed down.

So thank you to my friend who sparked in me a desire to see my mother as human and to begin to heal from the 20 plus years of baggage I have carried around.

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