My mom’s favorite holiday is The 4th of July. When I was growing up, we had a home with a swimming pool, and we lived on a cul-de-sac (dead end street). This made our home the perfect place for the family to get together and swim all day. Then, that night, it was the safest place in the family for kids to light their fireworks in the middle of the streets and not have to worry about traffic.
I remember staying up all night on the 3rd with my mother, granny and aunts, helping them get the food together. I remember standing in the kitchen, cleaning the greens, listening to them gossip about other family members outside of our circle. The smell of the bacon as they got it, and the bacon fat, ready to go into the pot of greens. Watching just how much brown sugar should go into the baked beans. Watching my mom sneak a little mustard in the potato salad when my granny turned her back.
Being an “80’s Baby” (which actually means I was a teen in the 80’s), I can really remember the times when holidays meant so much. It was really great to have these family traditions that ensured that you got to see certain people, at a certain time, every year. Attendance at family holiday gatherings was not optional. It wasn’t exactly optional. But, it was understood. It was always implied that as a family member, it was your duty to attend. It was not just a responsibility. It was a privilege. You were groomed that way from birth. And, you never questioned. it.
Then came the late 80’s. I hate to admit it, but there was a substance that came along that not only destroyed lives, but it obliterated neighborhoods and changed the entire concept of what the word “family” meant. This, in turn, changed the way our families valued and celebrated holidays.
As our grandparents and other elders began to die, many people were left with a generation (our parents’) whose values did not match those of the strong, family-oriented grandparents of our past. They forgot where they came from, on the positive-tip. Their priorities were not of God, our Lord, but of the “gods” of the streets. Those substances became more important than the time it takes to enjoy teaching the next generation the value of family.
As I write this, I wonder if I have done enough to try to re-instill these values in my younger siblings and cousins. As the oldest, I have a voice. A very important voice. It is very important to me that I use it to teach them and help them realize the dreams shared with me by elders passed before their time. I need them to know God. I need them to understand the value of family. I need them to look forward to those family holiday gatherings that ensure that we are a strong union of one. We are a network of leaders. I need to lead them the way my elders lead me. And, teach them to lead the next generation the same way.
With all that said, this will not be a sad holiday for me. I am taking Granny to see her tomorrow, July 4, 2011, her favorite holiday. I will reminisce with her about past 4th of July and try to really get an understanding of what happened to make her stop celebrating it. I need to understand it to learn from it. Because, I do plan to change it.
My hope is that one day, my mom will be home, celebrating the 4th of July with us, her family. We will all be together, swimming by day, fireworks by night. The only difference is that we will be at my home. She will be so proud to see me carrying on a tradition she started so many years ago. That is what a “legacy” is all about.
Happy 4th of July 2011,
The Prisoner’s Daughter
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