In the Darkness, the Light of Freedom

Submitted into Contest #120 in response to: Start your story with the line ‘Back in my day…’... view prompt


African American Coming of Age Creative Nonfiction

Back in my day, I remember mornings like this one when an early squall threatened the day and my anguished pleading seemed to fall on deaf ears. Frustrated, I'd watch the ever graying sky, praying for a ray of hope to beam through the dark clouds and save me from what surely would be a tortuous summer day at home with mother.

Those mornings though often found hot pancakes dripping with butter and syrup, dotted with the tiniest of flavorful blueberries, picked along the side of the road, or blackberries, culled from under the porch between snakes and black widows (real or imagined) and thorns dripping with my blood. These mornings quieted my sorrows, shared then behind the howling laughter of a rummy hand, or checkers, or the fascination of smooth rocks and clamshells we had painted in minute detail, the ornate cottages of The Tabernacle or the spirited riders at the Flying Horses in Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts. On Martha's Vineyard, on The Cape where we spent our summers.

Beautiful days they were. There I discovered childhood freedom far from the educational and cultural grind of my parents' design. I could not see it then but the endless music lessons, tennis lessons, writing and artistic endeavors of all sorts would later offer freedoms of another kind. But now, in the lull of the early morning marine layer drifting in through older wire screens, a siren's call pulling me from deep slumber. I dressed in my bathing suit, t-shirt and shorts, grabbed my basketball and hurried to my magical steed, the shiny metallic aqua schwinn awaiting my internal guidance system toward whatever fun the island might offer. Unfettered, unsequestered, the only promise I held was to return home for lunch and the dreaded nap.

This day though, my freedom was stolen by the threat of lightening storms that rocked the granite deep below us. We could feel the rumble shaking our bones. I unleashed the howl of disappointment, released my ball to the floor and stomped mightily begging the rain away to no avail. No magic would separate this thief from its purloined treasures. My treasures - my freedoms! So I'd given in. I'd looked at mother and caught a glimmer of hope in the deck of cards she gingerly offered to me with a knowing grin.

She dealt the first hand. I made a joke. Mom had a quick wit. We sparred, jabbed and kidded; my 11-year-old self full and happy, enjoying the silly goofy, fun mom who came with summer and left with fall. By midday, we'd been lost in our laughter, giddy on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and Nestle Quick imbued milk before the knock broke our reverie. I'd hastened to the door and watched as Mom cleared the table knowing the inevitable had come. The parting hand waved me on, "Go. Be home before dark." Her voice trailing the tires of my iridescent aqua Schwinn.

I now know those mornings were sheer joy for Mother. My frowning face a challenge for her to right it into a smile. She delighted in our time together. She always knew where the best blueberries were. And in our rubber raincoats, pails in hand, warm summer rain cascading down bare legs into soggy socks and sneakers, Mom would lead the hunt, she and I scouring the edges of brush for tasty morsel treasures for our pancakes. She had a way of making everything an adventure. So when I returned from my own hunt for blackberries, scarred and scraped having left my DNA on each vine, she called the thorn laden marks my "battle scars" and wiped them clean with antiseptic so my war wounds wouldn't become infected.

Still, children will be children and the world beckons them in ways we cannot understand nor halt. So it was with the knock on the door. Our moment together passed. Her mission fulfilled. How I wish though that I had lingered a bit longer for one more game, one more morsel, one more creation and adventure. It feels like there was - is never enough time.

Today in the brisk warm winter wind I watch the rolling clouds and roaring waves. I view the expansive yawning Gulf and remember the kind of Love that brought me to these moments. The Love that stirs in my heart and bones, that fuels memory in my DNA: a father who loved the sky and taught me to read its map, a wanderer; a mother who loved the earth and gathered rich black dirt and fertile seed together, a conjurer. The two walked me to the sea, pulled its laughter into my lungs and taught its dance into my feet, made wings of its buoyancy that I would always know laughter, joy and freedom at its shores. They gifted me with an understanding, there is no place on earth I can't find my freedom.

I cherish this gift. Uniquely aware that I, a speck of a thing in this Universe, a tiny little black girl from Dorchester, Massachusetts can spend her days writing and sipping tea by the ocean. That my parents, all five of them - biological, adopted and step, gifted me with a curiosity that defies logic, informs imagination and calls upon God to co-create the unimaginable for my witness. My life is magic. Every. Blessed. Moment. Leaves me in awe.

It is spitting now just enough to make it sensible to go home. Of course, I instead will walk the beach and feel the sand between my toes and remember next time to keep my raincoat in the car, but I digress. I am blessed to have this crazy quilt of a life pulled together and to have it all make sense.

At the end of the day I am grateful. I am grateful for this life. I am grateful for each step that brought me here. I am grateful for all the people who inhabit this dream and make it that much richer. Most of all I am grateful that I am still here to do this life thing another day and remember in it the sweet moments that brought this one magical moment into being: a stark gray rainy day and a woman with the heart of a child beckoning the sun to bring forth a glimmer of hope, knowing it is already done.

November 12, 2021 21:10

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02:53 Nov 24, 2021

Eloquent and heartfelt.


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Amber Mc Culloch
12:49 Nov 16, 2021

This is beautiful.


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