My Auntie Deborah recently produced an anthology called, “All the Women in My Family Sing.” Go buy a copy! Seriously. It is not surprising that my aunt is responsible for such a powerful body of work. She is an established author, journaler, and storyteller. Plus, she has edited many papers for me over the years, including my college admissions essay. I guess you would call her my writing muse. Auntie Deborah writes from a place of tender authenticity. She gets it from her daddy, Saunders King (AKA Grampy), who was a musician. And from her mama, (AKA Grammie) who taught me, a woman does not have to have a baby unless she wants to.
Factoid: Auntie Deborah is, in fact, my second cousin. She became my aunt because her parents – my aunt and uncle – operated as my grandparents for most of my life. My grandfather was her father’s brother. They and their wives were close. This meant that my grandparents ‘shared’ me with Deborah’s parents. When my grandmother died I was nine years old. So while she was the guiding presence in my early years, I spent more time building memories with my Grammie, Jo Frances King. Grammie was a white woman, married to my beautiful, Hershey’s chocolate complexioned Grampy. They loved and protected me. They guided me in a way I believe my grandparents would have had they lived to see us become adults.
While I loved them both, Grammie was my beacon. We wrote letters, talked on the phone and enjoyed endless hours of laughter. I cannot remember a significant time in my life where she did not have a role before her death in May 2006. I miss her. Every. Single. Day.
Take a listen to Auntie Deborah talk about Grammie (she starts around the 3:15 mark):
Grammie was an amazing woman to live and look up to. She was humble, straightforward and generous with her time and love. I spent many a Sunday with her. When I moved back to California at 25 years of age to attend graduate school, my seventy-year-old plus Grammie taught me to drive.
A bit of Grammie lives on in us all. She was foundational like that.
Watching Auntie Deborah talk about Grammie on this Tuesday evening leading up to Mother’s Day hit me kind of hard. I was reminded of how much Grammie kept our family in-tact when we all, at various points in our lives, seemed to be falling apart. Watching Auntie Deborah sit on that stage and own her power as a woman, rejuvenated me a bit. It made me remember that no matter what I am facing, I have what I need already planted deep inside myself.
I keep a note I wrote to Grammie on Mother’s Day 2006 taped to my wall. In it, I wrote “I miss you lots. I know my schedule has been crazy. Please remember that you’re always in my thoughts…and prayers. You taught me so much and now I’m learning to live those lessons with my family. I take the kids to the library. We go play tennis as a family. Trey picks lemons for me off my lemon trees. The seeds you planted in me are in full bloom. Thanks for being so wonderful to me — I love you more than I can say. Kelli”
This year, I am happy to say my busy is not as out of whack as it has been in years prior. I do not feel a depression about my infertility. I am more intentional in my time commitments. I am more generous with my ‘no’ and more conservative with my ‘yes.’ I can say all this in spite of the fact that life has been really hard the past year. I am walking in my truth and power like never before.
My Auntie Deborah holding space for women just like my Grammie taught her/us to was the reminder I needed that the legacy of our foremother(s) is our collective responsibility to pass down better ways of doing and being to those who come behind us.
I will be that beacon of light for my daughter and granddaughter.
Our foremothers will lead us home.
This is the real meaning of Mother’s Day.