When I see my mother, I often learn things I did not earlier know about her past. For example, I am taking a knitting class right now. I am having a hard time. Without missing a beat, my mother said “You have to hook it real fast.”
I didn’t know what informed her suggestion. She went on to tell me about how when she was growing up in her Mississippi Delta town, a woman who had no children took an interest in her and showed her how to knit and crochet. It’s been years since she tried to do either, but she knew enough to tell me how to hook it “real fast.”
I love when my mom talks about Mississippi. It feels like “home” for one side of my family (the other sides are from Georgia and the Bahamas).
My mom was born in Moorhead. Her mother was born in Belzoni. My grandfather was born in Indianola (B.B. King was one of his childhood playmates).
The first time I visited Mississippi, I was about 3 or 4. One of my most vivid memories was laughing with my brother about who “pooted.” Turns out it was only the smell of some farm animals passing in a nearby truck.
Years later, when I was an adult, I met my grandparents in Inverness, MS, and we spent a week visiting family there and ones in Indianola. My mother would later take her parents “home,” once with my aunt in tow.
These days, when I visit Mississippi, there isn’t much family left. Biological anyway. I have found a family in Bill and Francine Luckett of Clarksdale. Years ago when I was writing freelancing articles on the eve of earning a graduate degree, I was assigned to do a story on the actor Morgan Freeman, another Mississippi resident. When I got to Mississippi, Morgan was in Canada. I had no story. Or so I thought. The Lucketts, his friends, helped me out. They showed me “Morgan’s Mississippi” as best they could. A friendship was made.
I returned again and again to Clarksdale. I once arrived after trying to rebuild my life after losing funding from my first doctoral program. I will never forget what Bill told me. He said, “You can come on to Clarksdale and we’ll find something for you here.”
I went on to remarry. I went on back to school. I now teach at the University of Alabama (Yes, when we play Ole Miss, Fran and I often exchange friendly text messages. I know who she is rooting for. I know who I am rooting for. Roll Tide).
My husband and I once brought in one New Year Eve’s with the Lucketts (me and Fran danced to Motown with Bill as the deejay). Shortly afterwards, I went on to see relatives in Inverness. While there, I ate food and felt memories return.
On this Mother’s Day, I take it all in, aware of many tasks before me, among them: making works of art with fiber.
I am also getting the documentary on my late former father in law, Grant Green, the jazz guitarist, completed. It’s been a 20-plus year effort. With the films on Lee Morgan and the better known John Coltrane, his contemporaries, out, I know it’s time.
Also before me: my present research, which includes a look at my family’s migration from Mississippi to the state of Florida, but other things, too (among them, how the peninsula and the entire Atlantic are sites for people who are oppressed to claim a bit of power via the ability to do something rather simple: move. Centuries ago, it was not that easy to do. When one does it, struggles will always be inevitable, but there is still something worth noting about how the beginning requires simply moving.
I take it all in.