Tears for Jordan*

One mom’s emotional reflection on parenting in the era of increased gun violence.

Featured Photo (c) Faye McCray 2016 All rights reserved.

He’s up from nap.

He stretches his long legs out over his blue and green sheets, snuggling his curly hair into his pillow.  He opens his big brown eyes and looks at me, a soft smile on his face, then he closes his eyes again, turning so his chubby golden cheeks nestle deep into his pillow.  He curls in a ball, drawing his knees to his chest and breathing softly.  He looks so tiny in his new big boy bed.  His three-year-old frame only making up a third of its length.  The rest crowded with his stuffed animal friends and fluffy comforter.

Are you up, baby?

I whisper it, kneeling beside his bed and breathing in his smell.  He smells like cookies and clay.  From the morning of playtime and the snack he just had to have.  I kiss his nose and he wipes it away, sitting up slowly.  His bare feet dangling over the edge of his bed and his eyes still hanging low from sleep.  I watch as a soft yawn escapes his tiny pink lips.  I remember him as the colorless baby, swaddled and content, nestled in my arms as I dreamed for him, wondering what his new life would bring.  Fresh steps, new soul.

Now, he reaches his arms out for me and I lift him.  Letting him nestle his head into that soft dip near my collarbone, and wrap his little legs around my waist.  I feel his body release a heavy sigh.

He is safe and he feels it.  I run my hand over his warm back, and I do too.

He fills me.  My soul forever pregnant.  Giving birth to thoughts and plans of his life and his brother’s, mine, ours and theirs.  I remember the love that made them.  The love that sustains them.  I nourish it so we witness them hand-in-hand.  I nourish my mind so I don’t miss a moment.  I dream of being silver-haired and watching the children they make, play off a country porch, their shadows dancing at sunset in a lake.  Smiling to myself, content.  Lived and full.

But now I cry.

My tears are puddles at my feet.  Joining in the streams that fill the rivers, staining the Diaspora.  For Lucia and Sybrina.  For Emmett, Addie Mae, Cynthia, Carole and Denise’s Mommies.  For Hadiya’s Mommy.  For Baltimore’s Mommies.  For Chicago’s.  For Detroit’s.  For New York City’s.  For all the dreams halted by bullets.  The joy buried in caskets.  The Mommy’s whose babies they were helpless to protect.  Guns loaded with worthlessness both mandated by a careless society and perpetuated needlessly by its victims.

It’s all hate crimes.

I once again lower my head beneath a stream of water and wash a festering sore.  Hoping to rinse away the virus infecting my dreams.  The virus that worries about the evil in others, the criminalization of the beautiful brown skin love made, and the lowered expectations of every teacher under a brainwashed spell.  That virus that caused me to worry when my sons grew out of their toddler clothes because I knew it was only a matter of time before the world stopped seeing the beauty I did.  Before those kind smiles and waves from strangers, became purse clutching, eye-avoiding fear, nurtured and fostered by an unkind media and an unfair justice system.

I place a Band-Aid on the festering sore and dream awake.  The lullaby of lies is only comforting to the unconscious.

My eyes are open now.

He’s awake.

 

*In 2012, after an argument over loud music, Michael Dunn, a 47-yr old white Floridian fired ten shots into a carful of unarmed black teenagers, killing Jordan Davis, a seventeen year old boy.  Yesterday, after more than thirty hours of deliberation, a jury found Dunn guilty of three counts of attempted second degree murder and one count of firing into an occupied car.  A mistrial was declared on the first-degree murder charge.

This post originally appeared on http://www.fayemccray.com.

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About The Author

Faye McCray is anMcCray_AuthorPhoto (1) attorney by day and writer all the time. Her work has been featured on My Brown Baby, AfroPunk, AfroNews, For HarrietMadame NoireBlack Girl NerdsBlack and Married with Kids, and other popular publications.  Faye also has a number of short stories and a full length novel available for purchase on Amazon.  Most importantly, Faye is a proud wife and mother to three beautiful and talented young boys who she is fiercely passionate about raising. You can find Faye on Twitter @fayewrites and on the web at fayemccray.com.

Confronting My Fear: Lessons from Ta-Nehisi Coates

One Mom’s thoughts on Bestselling Author Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book “Between The World and Me.”

by Faye McCray

When my first son was born, I nicknamed him pickle.  Not for any real reason.  He wasn’t green or lumpy.  In fact, he was a beautiful golden boy with a mound of dark, curly hair and the pinkest little lips.  He was the spitting image of my husband so I fell in love with him instantly and with ease.  I already trusted that smile, memorized those lips and I felt myself melt wrapped in those arms.  He was born with his eyes open.  The physical trait he most inherited from me.  Big, dark, oval eyes looking at us with razor-sharp focus, as if he was thinking, already, about who he would become and how we would fit into his life.

When my second son was born, I nicknamed him peanut.  Odd really, because he would be the only one of us to develop an allergy to them.  He was born bright red and wrinkly, screaming so loudly, his voice echoed throughout the delivery room.  Unlike his brother, his eyes were squeezed shut, we joke he wasn’t ready to be born.  My sweet, kind boy clung closely to me for his first year of life. He, who I affectionately joked would prefer I had a pouch, like a mama kangaroo.  He was perfectly content burrowed in a wrap, tight against the warmth of my body, only peeking out with a toothless smile when he saw fit.

Born three years apart, I fell hard and deeply for my guys.  Their beauty.  Their energy.  Their curiosity.  Now five and almost eight, they still squeal with glee at a chocolate chip pancake or a butterfly that lands unexpectedly on the car’s passenger side door.  I am proud I was chosen to be their mother.  Every single day.

I recently finished Ta-Nehisi Coates’s book Between The World and Me.  In it, Coates writes to his son about race, humanity and navigating this life in a black body.  When I knew the book would adopt the narrative of a father speaking to his son, I knew I had to read it.  I listened to it on audio with the spouse and then read it in print to linger a little longer in the language.

There are so many themes in the book that stopped me.  Halted me really.  Left me sitting in my chair short of breath.  He ran a highlighter along things I had been reluctant to see.  The most profound of which was Coates hard-hitting words on fear.  Fear growing up amidst the sickness of the inner city and the fear he felt from the adults around him who loved him so hard, it hurt, and most significantly to me, his fear as a father of a black son.

I identified with the fear.  From growing up as a black girl in New York City, to loving my beautiful black sons. Reading his words forced me to confront how deeply I feel afraid.  In some ways, I think it was the universe’s way of toughening me up to give me two black boys to love.  To make me a heterosexual female who fell in love with a black man.  I am sensitive.  My mother crowned me with that label as a child. Emotional wounds have always felt deeper for me and the pain felt by people I love always struck me as deeply as my own. The people I love the most walk this life in black bodies. A fact that, as of late, has been nothing sort of torturous to my sensitive soul.

In his book, Coates speaks of an experience taking his son on a visit to a preschool with his wife. His son jumped right in with the other children.  His first instinct, was to grab his arm, pull him back and say, “We don’t know these folks! Be cool!” He didn’t.  “I was growing,” he wrote.  “…and if I could not name my anguish precisely I still knew there was nothing noble in it.  But now I understand the gravity of what I was proposing – that a four-year-old child be watchful, prudent, and shrewd, that I curtail your happiness, that you submit to a loss of time.  And now when I measure this fear against the boldness that the masters of the galaxy imparted to their own children, I am ashamed.”

I read this and cried.  I saw myself in this passage.  Governing my own children’s moves and reactions.  Curtailing their happiness in favor of my wariness.   “Don’t get too close to that child.” “Don’t be the loudest at the party.” “Don’t touch another child’s toys at the playground.” “Don’t dance to wildly at the school picnic.” I am so very afraid and reading his words, I felt so very ashamed.

Truth is, I am afraid for my beautiful boys.  I am afraid of the looks my taller than average eight-year old gets when he moves with too much eagerness in public.  The excitement that bubbles in him animating every long limb he is not quite accustomed to navigating. I am afraid of his sensitivity.  The tears he cries when his feeling are hurt.  The frustration he releases when he doesn’t feel heard.  I am afraid for his fearless intelligence.  His insistence on questioning everything.  His cleverness and keen ear, picking apart questions so well, adults forget the answers.  I am afraid of the grown-up teeth squeezing their way into my five-year old’s mouth.  The changing contours of his baby face.  His burgeoning athletic frame, broad like my husband.  I am afraid for his charm.  His beautiful smile.  His ease with and adoration of little girls.  I am afraid for my boys.  Their huge spirits moving in black bodies with little knowledge of the hurt that awaits them.  The limits people will place on them.  And the ill-will strangers will project on them.  Or the dangers that arise in policing them.

Reading Coates’s words, I felt damaged by my own wounds. I was only ten when a person with white skin first made me feel inferior because of my black skin.  She called me “black” on a school bus.  Hissed it.  Because I took a seat she thought rightfully belonged to her.  I still remember her icy eyes, staring at me in hate, as if any triumph I could ever feel would always be marred by the body I was in.  I knew what it felt like to be judged before I said a word.  To be presumed guilty and have to prove my innocence.  To be presumed ignorant and have to prove my intelligence.  I am hard on my boys because I want to protect them but the reality is my protection can be suffocating. I am chipping away at their beautiful spirits.  The parts of their humanity that introduced themselves even as infants, as their skin first parted the air in this new world.  I’ve become so consumed with how this world will react to them, I almost forgot to nurture and respect how they will react to the world. How they might even change it.

I want my children to be free. In order to do that, I may have to be one of the ones to step out of their way.

Thank you for your words, Mr. Coates.

This post has also appeared on FayeMcCray.com and MyBrownBaby.

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About The Author

Faye McCray is anMcCray_AuthorPhoto (1) attorney by day and writer all the time. Her work has been featured on My Brown Baby, AfroPunk, AfroNews, For HarrietMadame NoireBlack Girl NerdsBlack and Married with Kids, and other popular publications.  Faye also has a number of short stories and a full length novel available for purchase on Amazon.  Most importantly, Faye is a proud wife and mother to three beautiful and talented young boys who she is fiercely passionate about raising. You can find Faye on Twitter @fayewrites and on the web at fayemccray.com.