only 1 problem....
I'm an 80s baby which basically means I"m a product of whatever was produced in that decade. The birth of Hip Hop. the death of Communism. And let us not forget... The Rise of crack cocaine.
I count myself lucky though, not being born an AIDS baby or even worse, not being born at all. Despite the high level of drugs and alcohol in this woman's system, she managed to push out a fairly healthy baby boy even though the term "crack baby' was possibly muttered around tha maternity ward. I often dream of what could've been going through her mind as she delivered her
2nd child in a year at the age of 18. Was she ashamed? scared? Or was she in a hurry to get all of this shit over with so she could get back to what she loved more than her own flesh and blood...the streets. needless to say, I may have spent the most time of my entire existence with my biological mother in those 1rst nine months I was inside her. Because as soon as she could sign the release forms at the hospital, she "released" me also. I was told that in a true classic movie cliche act, I was left like an orphan on a doorstep days after my birth. No note. No money. No food or diapers. No more responsibility.
Like the night that lead to my conception, it was over.
I was her fathers burden now.
I never even used the term "granddaddy" or "Granny". To me, these were my parents so I was raised & taught to call them "momma & daddy" but the "momma" I knew granny to be wasn't any kind that I wanted. Besides, every time my granddad traveled out of town, I seemed to have a NEW "granny" or "momma" so I stayed confused on the terminology. So through 6 yrs, 7 wives & 8 states I maintained my love for this old man, but never had a consistent "mother" figure.
Then one day, like it was a magic trick, my real mother just "poof"ed up!
Full of kind words, and hugs, and apologies and stories I was too young to understand.
But no LOVE.
Not the kind that I could feel. But I didnt care. I had enough love for her instinctively for the both of us.
Then one day, again like it was a magic trick, she just "poof"ed away.
Void of any goodbyes, kisses, hugs or explanations.
I spent alot of my early childhood looking for love in all the right places, but just at the wrong times. I mean shit, I was a mannish ass lil boy. It would seem as if all I knew about girls was that I was suppossed to like them, kiss them, touch them. Which lead to alot of trouble in school. I always had a natural desire to have a "woman" in my life, but never knew why I wanted one so bad. I knew one thing above all...I wanted a mommy. the kind that used to smell good and go on all the field trips with their kids and bake cookies and pick them up & push them on the swings.
My grandaddy never talked to me about anything other than what I was suppossed to be doing. He never gave me the scoop about why he was raising me, or why my mother only came to visit me once. And honestly I can say, I never really asked. I was happy for the most part with my life even though I felt as though a big "something' was missing.
One thing my granddaddy DID talk about was women. And even though it never was meant for me to hear or comprehend his theories and tales, its not hard when you were always in his footsteps. He had became a bigamist times 7 and it was always those closest to him that would whisper that word behind his back. He pimped hoes and tricked on a lot of them. But I never ever heard him ever say "I love You" to nobody but me. At a young age, after a while, you learn that "THIS IS LIFE". while most children were shielded from most of the mature content that was shoved up my nose on a daily, I was beginning to digest it as being normal. And life goes on.
.....until you die.
And died he did. The funeral was a sad scene in an already depressing movie. Me, my brother & tha funeral director. No crying. No church folk. No wives. No hoes falling all over the casket screamin' "Why Lawd?" Halfway through the service I went to the bathroom so I could be "mannish" with the preacher's daughter. (Yea, I know)
Then, like it was a magic trick, my real mother just "poof"ed up!
like someone had JUST told her her father died.. or she JUST realized his funeral was today, not tomorrow. I wanted to reach out to her and share her sorrow. But just like magic, she was gone as fast as she appeared. I was 11 at this point and a long way from giving a flying fukk whether I ever saw the woman again. It set in that she never did care about me, or my older brother, who she gave up at birth as well. What we didn't know was by the end of the 80s, she had made a career of being knocked up and giving her kids away. 6 to be exact.
Its funny how some of the selfish decisions we make produce positive outcomes. And when it came to selfishness, My granddad was the Don. He lived for the moment, and never gave without getting first. But somewhere between strokes, heart attacks, & nursing home visits before his demise at 83, he wanted another wife. A god fearing, southern style woman who liked tall, dark and handsome. In his pursuit, he found more than he bargained for. A woman that wasn't willing to put up with his old playa ways. So of course you know where that lead us...joining a church!
I met Mother Florence Hightire over the phone and before I knew it we became really good convo buddies. She talked to me almost all day long from the time my dad left in the early mornings to his return in the early mornings. I was in love! this old lady was fun and interesting! And most of all, always available. like a mother.
So before my old man passed, he asked her a question . "If I die, will you raise him?" From what I was told, she said hell naw so fast that it sounded like one word. this woman had GREAT GREAT grandchildren and wasn't in a position to raise a prepubescent lil mannish ass kleptomaniac. But one other conversation would be the breaking point.
After my granddaddy's last critical moments of life, I was staying with Ms. Florence seeing how by law I couldn't be alone in the house I was raised in. As soon as the funeral was over, I returned to my home to gather up a few things and say goodbye to the rest. It was official..I was a delinquent. I was only "staying" with her until social services placed me in a foster home or orphanage.
Then one day, like it was a magic trick, my real mother just "poof"ed up!
Right to the front door of Mother Hightire's project unit apartment. By this time, a few weeks after the funeral, I was utterly disconnected emotionally from this lady that seem to bathe in alcoholic beverages. The convo between the two women started with me ever so present in the room. I had out grew the "let us talk, You go play" speech. It involved me 100%. I can only remember a short piece of the dialog but it was to me the most important...
Mo. Hightire: Yo daddy is dead now, don't you want your baby?
woman: Naw! I dont want him..
Mo. Hightire: But he's YOUR baby! Why not?
woman: they aint gonna gimme nuttin' 4 him! I cant take care of him if they don't give me no money.
Mo. Hightire: Lawd hamercy jesus.. well you ever seen that commercial? that All State commercial? You aint gotta worry bout him ..He's in good hands!
Then , like it was a magic trick, she "poof"ed her final "poof", never to re"poof" again.
I already referred to Ms. Flo as "mama" because everybody called her mama, or Big mama.
But now she really WAS my MOTHER! and trust and believe she treated me like I was her natural child. Her kids became my siblings. Her grandkids which of most were the same age or older than me were my nieces and nephews. It was a whole other kind of bag for me, but it was the love that I had longed for.
I might've gotten away with a whole lotta things with pops, but none of that was flying now! She kept me in check in every move. Taught me how to pray, especially when she was beatin' my tail. How to cook and clean for myself. kept me clean and well dressed even though I felt like Steve Urkell half the time. But she didnt have to do any of it. She had been a mother since she was 11, and also raised a few of other peoples kids down south, but that was in her younger days. She was in her late 60s trying to raise a hard headed prepubescent lil mannish ass kleptomaniac. But after about 3 of them country ass whoopins??
Nigga please! It was a wrap!
She knew how to break you, but at the same time, made you love her more. I learned to respect her, and in so myself. I gave her a hard time every now and then. And even pushed her to the point of reconsidering her decision of keeping me. But she kept her word and didnt let me wear her down. Instead, she wore MY ass down! lol
"spare the rod & spoil the child" was her favorite line
So after living on this planet for 11 yrs, I finally had the love I felt I needed, even though I was about 25 before I realized it. When you go from being a free-to-do kid to becoming a dagg-on choir boy, you kinda feel like the world isn't fair. Can't stay outside after the street lights come on. No eating whatever I want.
No going a week without bathing.
Mama made sure I read and understood the bible, repected my elders, studied my best and stayed out of trouble. You only can appreciate all of that after the fact. After You have lived long enough to see kids your age go to jail, and not come out. or kids die from gunshots that woulda played with you this weekend. No matter how much I disliked the strict but needed instruction she gave, I loved the fact that she cared enough to be there for me. And I grew closer to her each year we were a family. She was all I had. And just like all great things, they must end eventually.
By my mama being an evangelist, she always would tell me how her body was tired, and her soul needed rest. I would reply with "aw, mama, you aint goin nowhere" as a way of jedi mind tricking myself. The truth was she had taken me end real close to her three scores and ten. So unlike her biological kids, I was only blessed to have known her in her autumn years. But none the less, she made a immovable impact on my life. We would sit around and talk after I was grown about some of the crazy things I did as a kid trying to get over on her. And she let me in on how she met my granddaddy, and how she may have married him if he would've been right with god. We laughed and joked about my many whoopins, and how I should be a good father to my kids in spite of how my parents treated me.
"You gotta break that chain when you have babies", she would say.
But through all the long night convos, I could see in her eyes, as she looked upon another soul that she helped mold into a man, that she was set. She felt that she served her purpose, fought the good fight, kept the faith, and ran her course.
I was the only one at her funeral that didn't cry and wear all black. She told me not to.
It was her celebration, a home going. the opposite of a sad occasion. Her funeral was nothing like granddaddy's. People sobbin' their eyes out. Trying to crawl inside her casket
And just like a great prophet she had forecasted it that way.
"the ones that cry the most are the ones that know they could've treated me better in life"
She was an awesome woman. I would trade nothing for the time I had her in my life. And even though I miss her so much, I have her loving memories forever.
I am truly proud to say she IS my mother!
Happy Mother's Day to You mama!
I love You for loving me when no one else did.
Not even the magician that gave birth to me.
Florence Idillia Hightire
September 1, 1924 - April 8, 1999
Rest in Paradise
I Love You