Ay man, that's my play brother. Don't talk like that to him.
My play sister hooked me up with the interview, and if I get the job I'm straight.
That's my play uncle. He usta come pick us up when my mama was too drunk.
You remember my play mama right? Girl yeah, she helped me get the down payment.
That's my play daddy-my god daddy....he fixed the engine leak.
It truly does take a village to raise a fucker--especially in a village ghettoland. We had such a great life growing up. Our mothers didn't play Bridge, or have pie baking contests at the local hall. But they did create a loving environment for us all. A fierce group of lionesses that watched their cubs, and would pounce at the first sign of danger.
I never felt unloved, and certainly unwatched. I don't know if it's a cultural specific thing, but I can only speak to my unique Black midwestern (by the way of the Mason-Dixon) upbringing. We all had "play" relatives. My play cousin. My play mama. My play brother. It's a term that basically means an adopted person with whom you identify as family. The Jones-Matthew clan were my play relatives. We have all been neighbors since 1980. I've known them all since I was a toddler. Our mothers were close friends, the kids even closer, and now there are even a few grandkid crumbsnatchers.
Cecilia Jones Aaron. Mae Mae as we affectionately called her. Wife to Dave, mother to Danielle, twin sister to Cynthia. Mae did not suffer fools gladly--but she did gladly make fools suffer. She was acerbic with that gatdamn tongue, and funny as hell. Watching Mae Mae, Pill, Sylvia and my mom sit on the porch cracking them Stroh's keeping a watchful eye over us all as we played from dawn til dusk. My childhood bestie Boom and I, kept a watchful eye on the adults, as much they did on us. All little girls, want to emulate the adult women: lipstick, coiffed hair and pretty perfume. But that ain't what we were after. We watched them like hawks because we knew the moment they finished one of those beers, who ever made it to the fridge to retrieve the new ice cold beer? Got to finish the suds from the old one.
Now I know some of you are thinking "oh my god, those little girls were drinking beer?" And to you I say: We sho in the fuck did.
Boom, and I would tear through my mothers house trying to knock each other down to get that new beer. No matter who "won" the race, we'd always share the suds with each other--licking at it like some goddamned cake batter. And by the time we made it to high school we didn't need to sneak liquor like some of our peers. I can remember the first time someone offered me some Malibu Rum. I remember quipping "Naw hammer, I'm straight. Got me some Jack Daniels waiting on me at the crib. Later dickheads, oh and try not to get pregnant."
Mae Mae and Pill (her twin sister Cynthia) took us to Girl Scouts on the weekend, and the YMCA during the week. Back when you had to be back in the house by the time the "street lights" came on. Back when if you were outside being "fast" with a little boy, you caught hell from your "play auntie". Your play auntie watched you off to prom, brought over a casserole of food to celebrate your graduation, and slipped 20 bucks in your pocket as you set off on a journey to conquer Hollywood.
We never stop playing House.
Life goes on, and roles change. Your play sister has a kid, and then you become a play aunt. Your play father gets a slowed down by Diabetes and you make sure to race up the stairs an offer him your cheek to kiss, so that he has always something sweet. Your play auntie gets plagued by cancer and you must now figure out your new role. My spirit was seized by her pain. I didn't know what role to play. While I sat back, terrified and deeply saddened. Cancer fucking sucks, no other way to put it. What kind of role does one play, when that awful disease disrupts life? While I sat back, I watched my mother take her new role to her play sister in the game of House. The play sister became Play Mother.
She help feed her food when she had no appetite. Rubbed down her legs. Watched tv with her. And naturally, told her dirty jokes to keep her laughing.
I talk to my Mami at least 4 times a day. And in recent months, almost every time I called, Mami was across the street. "I'm with my daughter. We drinking coconut water. It's gross as hell, but it works them white people say it helps."
When Mae Mae would get fussy and try to give my mother a hard time my Mami should "You don't tell me what to do. I'm the mama little girl. Now come on and eat one more bite..."
Last night, something in my spirit wouldn't let me sleep. I was restless, antsy and my thoughts were hazy and unfocused. I fretted over my back taxes, unemployment and need for health insurance. So I did what one does now a days when your thoughts race. I downloaded new apps, watched Braxton Family Values--I even tried sipping on some wine...but it tasted bad. It was a fine bottle, but it just didn't sit right with me. I got a few hours sleep, and before making my coffee I called my Mami. She told me that Mae had passed during the night-- along with my cousin Napoleon.
James Napoleon Hardy was my cousin who knew all the family history. I'd speak with him on the telephone ever so often, to ask him questions about where we came from. He told me about my great great grandfather Garfield Hardy who came over from England and married into my family. We also had a indigenous influence in our family tree. "Your great grandmother was red like brick. Stern eyes like a Indian. And her mother? Was just plain injun. Tall, long hair, flat feet. All them Cherokee was down in that area--Miss' sippi. Like it or not, we are apart of their history, and they ours."
Stories about my grandmother Josephine (my namesake), being a great athlete and had amazing arms earning her the nickname Hoss. She was always in the fields playing ball with the boys; she had no tolerance for girly things. That passed onto my mother, and naturally to me. I guess directing Mr. Rickey Calls A Meeting, a play about baseball has a totally new meaning to me now. And as for the love of alchohol, I'm just gone blame it on that white man. My great great limey grandpappy.
With each conversation with Napoleon, I learned more. He was my connection to my past. It always bothered me to not have ton information about my family tree. Sadly that's an adverse affect of slavery. Sometimes, I see those ancestry.com commercials and get to frothing at the mouth like a rabid schnauzer. I silently wish a plague of ear wigs munching at their brain matter, those fuckheads on those spots. I'd have better luck phoning up The Ghostbusters, and finding out about the past--before I called up ancestry.com.
I always reminded myself to call him more often. But then he died in his sleep. Just like that. I was shocked by his passing, and then angry with myself for not doing more.
Two relatives, gone. I sat quietly as my mother filled in the details. She wasn't maudlin or sad about it. No melodrama or harsh words. She just said "Well, they both doin' real good now."
Needless to say, it's been an interesting past couple of hours. 2 in one day is rough--I pray there isn't a third. I suppose this is how life Is. The sun sets and rises. Squirrels play in your tree and runs along the tight rope that supplies your home with electricity. We use that power for our computers, where we type words to one another. We use update statuses to let the world know how we are feeling...but today, I think I'll back away from that. I'm going to the nursery to grab a seeds to plant something for Mae Mae and Napoleon.
Although none of those girls drink anymore, I'm raising a beer to you right Mae Mae. And to you Napoleon, I'll pick up from where you left off. I will keep digging for my family history. Hopefully I'll discover that David Beckham is my cousin, and he'll give me some of that young fresh money. I'll say "Hey dude--we're family. You kick balls, and I like balls...so lets reunite fucker."
Familia. Ohana. Fam. Peoples. Clan. Tribe. Soror. Frat. Friend...whatever you call them, I hope that you pay tribute to them today. Just take a little moment, and smile--knowing that you have them. Good, bad or ugly--they're yours. And you are mine. Yes, YOU.
ciao for now fuckers,
|Cecilia "Mae Mae" Jones-Aaron|
|Our American History|
|Good old English Black American 'hood values.|