It’s been a minute

It’s been a minute – well actually months – since I have posted here. I have been writing a little, but when I’ve had thoughts about what to say in this space, it’s been hard to figure out what I wanted to share. I am doing well, and like many of you, I’ve had to adjust to life in this time where the COVID pandemic seems to influence everything.

A few days ago I was running some errands and decided to go to the cemetery where my mother and other family members were laid to rest. As you can see in the photo, it was a sunny day, and besides that, this cemetery has never seemed like a creepy place to me. I went because I can sit on that rock for a few minutes, gather my thoughts, talk to my mother and God, and pray. Sometimes I speak out loud, although not loudly, and at other times it is enough to be still. If I am patient, I just wait, and try to listen.

This time of year can be hard for me. People talk about the time before COVID as the “before-times” but this season is more the “between-times” for me. It is a few weeks after the day, four years ago, when we found out how sick my mother was and just a few weeks before the date she passed. It is a time when I can feel something in my body shift so slightly, and then I remember, that’s it, Ramona, it’s the same time of year as...

But this day it was not so hard. I had taken care of some important business and was on my way to a conversation that I was just not quite sure how it would play out. So I went to this quiet place, with only the sounds of birds, bugs, and the cars going by outside of the cemetery. I looked around me and was moved by the fact that so many other people had been here to say good bye to a loved one. I thought of how close this place is to the neighborhood we moved to when I was a senior in high school. Even if I just thought of my people here, there were so many good memories – of my mother and her laughter, my grandfather’s annual summer party, my aunt’s lemon meringue pie.

Over the last year and a half there has been so much loss – people, celebrations, gatherings, etc. We thought life was headed back to normal when it fact, maybe there is no longer normal, but just now, and the steps we take to shift to whatever is happening now. I am grateful to still be here, to have my memories and my hopes for a future. I will try to write here more often because there is one thing I have learned over the last year – waiting for perfect means I will surely miss it.

Thanksgiving 2020

This Thanksgiving is going to be different, quieter and smaller, which is exactly what I need. It will be at home, just me with my husband, and far fewer sides on the table. I wish more of my family could be with us, but all of us are staying closer to home this year. The COVID pandemic has required that we shift, and shift we will, because we have so much for which we are grateful, and hopes for a calmer future when things settle down after the pandemic.

I am grateful for the fact that although we have had family members come down with COVID, everyone has recovered. Not all families have had that good fortune, and I wish them comfort during what has to be a hard time.

We have our jobs, and with jobs, the chance to help others who have lost theirs. That is another blessing. We also have our hobbies and other delights – some like to fish, others go to their instruments, or read, build furniture, cook, watch sports or movies, write, or play in the teepee that is resident in the living room. A weekly Zoom call is another way we stay connected and has made the distance much easier to bear.

I am grateful because even though I miss my mother—we all do—she taught us the importance of family and made our holidays special. That is a good memory. And my father is with us, still teaching and learning, sharing his insights, and reminding us where we come from. 

This Thanksgiving will be quieter and smaller, but no less rich because of the huge changes many of us have had to make because of the pandemic. I hope you are able to celebrate the day in a way that has meaning for you. And if it is not quite what you had hoped for, I hope you will experience some measure of peace that helps you get through until the world gets better.

Have a peaceful and safe Thanksgiving,

Ramona 

Advice You Did Not Ask For

You need to know two things about me. Number one, I am a firstborn in a family with four younger brothers. Number two, until I got almost to high school I usually thought I had the right answer. About everything. I remember the first time I did not have an answer to a question. One summer, I went to vacation bible school at St. John A.M.E. Zion Church with one of my brothers. I have mostly good memories of the experience, I may have even known some of the children who were there from my first two years of grade school at Rockdale Elementary. By that summer, I had spent a few years at Annunciation, a Catholic school, where I did well in school, all As except for one in handwriting, which although it broke my streak, I did not fret because after all, it was just handwriting. Continue reading

Weekend in Washington D.C.

This past weekend I was in Washington D.C. for a friend’s birthday. I used to travel to DC often years ago for work, and for a few years I lived in Reston, which is not far away in northern Virginia.

My friend had been planning his event for months, and kept the guest list small so he could gather some of his closest friends and family (many of us had gone to Notre Dame together, but there were people from all phases of his life). The invitation said black tie and we were excited to celebrate him and see what he had curated for the evening experience. Continue reading

Thoughts on Father’s Day and Fathers

Father’s Day has always been special for me; I have such a good father, and the day also comes so close to my birthday that my birthday and being a daughter have always felt linked. Today we celebrate the fathers, godfathers, other family and friends who have raised us and in many cases, helped to raise our children. We also remember the fathers who have passed on, and those who miss them.

Aviya Kushner, author of The Grammar of God: A Journey into the Words and Worlds of the Bible, wrote about her father in a way I could relate to. In this book Kushner, who grew up reading in Hebrew, explores how differences in translation, language, and culture affect the understanding of the Bible. It is also a fascinating story about her  family and I highly recommend you read it. Here are her words from this memoir:

My father taught me what he has always taught me: how to ignore the disapproval of the world, no matter how loud it is. He taught me how to listen to myself, and how to hear that same thing in other people and places: the quiet beating of the individual heart.

I hope each one of us would have such a person in their life.

 

I Go to the Rock

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My husband and I sat with my father at mass this past Sunday, the ritual and order of the service familiar to each one of us, imprinted in a combined nearly 200 years of experience with the Roman Catholic Church. This church, which was renamed the Church of the Resurrection after three predominately Black churches, St. Andrew, St. Agnes, and St. Mark were merged, is where my parents attended church together for the last several years until my mother passed away in 2017. Continue reading

Thanksgiving This Year

Autumn candle

This year was a milestone for me—I turned 60 and it was the first birthday that my mother was not able to celebrate with me, call me, or sign her name with my father’s to my card. When she passed away in late summer of 2017, I had no idea of how her passing would change me. I learned very quickly it was a hurt for which I had no words or experience.

I was excited about my 60th birthday and had planned a party (theme: Honey, I’m Grown) months in advance. As the June date drew nearer, I became apprehensive about how I would feel on that day, and wondered if in the middle of the celebration, I would realize that it was not a good idea. But that didn’t happen. Continue reading

May- early mornings, writing, and ritual

Montpelier bridge

May has been a whirl of activity but let’s start with the 30-day challenge I began in April. My goal was to wake up every day, at 5:18 am, for 30 days. I missed a couple of days, primarily because after the second weekend I asked myself, “Why are you getting up this early on the weekend?” I modified the challenge and did not set an alarm on Saturdays and Sundays; however, even without an alarm, after about four days I found myself naturally stirring around 5:15 am.

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Rising early set me up for the next goal for May. I had been accepted for the Vermont College of Fine Arts Novel Retreat, which took place May 15-21. This experience was positive and affirming for me as a writer because I was able to accomplish a few goals I established for the retreat:

  • Spend hours a day writing, starting a new (and lengthy) project that I want to write,

Continue reading