Monday, January 20, 2014

Keep On Keeping On

There has been a very real shift in my life and the way I live in the past twenty-something years. I am sure this is true of most people, we all shift gears, change careers, have kids, move….any number of life’s little shimmies that cause us to hop off the path we were on, the path we were sure was what we wanted…what we were dealt or what we needed. It all changes us, adds texture and depth to the people we are and that one fact has always been extremely powerful to me. I’ve spent hours, weeks if we are talking accumulative, thinking about just that…truth is I have been grateful to each and every little sliver of, “life” that added more padding, (fuck like I need more padding…ugh) to this puffy person you see now.

I knocked out of work a little early on Saturday afternoon to have a drink with coworker and a customer that we all dig quite a bit. We were all sitting around, icy cold martini in each of our hands and the customer mentioned where his kids went to high school, “Oh I was expelled from that high school” I announced. The second the words leapt from my gin kissed lips I was aching to stuff them back in. The look on his face that mix of intrigue and shock…well it went a long way in reminding me how very different I am now. How the newer layers of my life have buried or built upon the stuff that was there before. Very weird feeling…a combination of shame and pride that kind of cinches around your melon and causes your spine to react in a stiffly uncomfortable way.

I sat there fidgeting waiting for the inevitable question, “What did you do to get thrown out of Poly?!” a school in one of the worst parts of town…a school with a serious divide between the amazing academic programs and the rest of us. A school with sliding metal gates that lock you in, (and the rest of the neighborhood out) a school that on my first day saw one of my good friends from middle school get jumped and stabbed in the head with a pencil. 

So I had to suck it up a bit, share that this woman he was clinking glasses with, this woman he had taken years worth of wine advice from was, well I was once a hood rat. I was running the streets with any number of shady cats, skipping school, telling my math teacher to, “Go fuck himself” when he called me a waste and getting into fights left and right. Stunning that the school didn’t want me back right?! It was a rather telling and frankly, embarrassing look back for me, I knew that girl, I was that girl but she couldn’t be more different than the woman I am now.

The day I accepted the fact that I was going to be a mother to an African American male, I knew that if he was to have any chance whatsoever I needed to stop beating myself and everyone else up. I needed to be a safe and strong place for this young man to come, to feel accepted, loved and to see in my pale skinned face, my green eyes, absolute adoration, hope, love and belief in him. I would harness my angst and rage, my feelings of inadequacy…all my fears. I needed to cinch them in, pull them tight, let that pressure cooker of feelings spill out all over him, but this time for good.

I used to spend hours just touching him, laying in bed near him…my fingers tracing his brow, my lips across his sweaty little hairline. I would talk to him about everything; warn him of the things that would be coming his way, his little fingers curled around mine as I made his chubby little arms dance while I cooed at him. I let my past be the rod in my spine when my sweet little son came home in tears after someone called him that inevitable, “N” word for the first time. Let my newly warmed heart teach him to laugh about the fact that he looked so different but so the same. He wears my face my son, he wears my smirk and raised eyebrow, my laugh, my sense of humor and I wear his heart. His gentle heart, the sweetest soul I had ever met was in my care…one of the angriest girls her friends had ever met was in his. We learned so much together my son and I, he learning to be strong with his words, his voice and his intellect and me learning to let myself be loved, needed and proud. I made up my mind early on that I would never again do anything that dishonor that bond, make him see in me any other light. I owed both of us that much.

Sitting in that bar with that customer, skimming over my history and feeling my son throbbing in my heart I knew there was not enough time to go over everything, not that he needed or wanted to know everything…plus I was unsure how to encapsulate 20 plus years over a martini. I drove home feeling so torn, sure I was thrilled that I didn’t come off like a hood rat, that our customer was unable to see that side of my history but more than anything…it made me feel Jeremy in my heart and reminded me of where we came from and how our love has brought us to this point, this here and now. 

 I spent over half of my life living with him, teaching and learning from him and when he went away to school in Louisville, I had to open my palms and let him learn without me. Me still here learning without him. The training wheels removed, the two of us on our own…no more sweaty hairline kisses, no more chubby arm dances, his adventure just beginning and my role in his life changing. Me here without his hands on my back pushing me, learning how to be this woman…the one without those hands on her back pushing her. Knowing that the love, the bond, the life changing relationship would made us both strong enough to handle it. There are two things that bring me tremendous pride; knowing Jeremy is one of those things, the being able to look at him and say, “That’s my son” is the other. 

I got home from my little bar date and I was feeling so full…full of love, joy, pride and sadness, feeling it all so close to the surface of my skin that I couldn’t even talk to my husband about it. I grabbed my ipod, poured myself a deep glug of Madeira and slipped off to the bedroom. I left the lights off, just flipped on the bathroom light so I was able to make out shadows, slid the headphones over my ears and let her say it better than I ever could

When my soul was in the lost and found
You came along to claim it
I didn’t know just what was wrong with me
Till your kiss helped me name it
Now I’m no longer doubtful
Of what I’m living for
Cause if I can make you happy I don’t need to do more
Cause you make me feel
You make me feel
You make me feel like a natural woman…

Aretha’s voice, my tears and a glass of creamy, citrusy, briny Bual to wash it all down and I was feeling better…stronger and more proud than ever. 

I think of the fight that so many others had to endure to make my life, my life with this amazing young man even possible and on this day, when we honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his willingness to stand honorably and defiantly, the others that sat in, stood tall and fell to make this life and this pride I feel possible...from the very bottom of my immeasurably full heart....
 I thank you.  


Michael Hughes said...

This was fantastic. A well written reminder of how everything in our past has informed us but also how we can choose to grow & change. Love.

webb said...

It says volumes about you, Sam, that your love for your child caused you to raise yourself, as well as a wonderful son. So many women would have said, "it's too hard" and just let their sons- and themselves - drift into the easy. You loved him and yourself too much for that.

We are all the richer for that.

Thomas said...

As Shakespeare wrote in The Tempest: the past is prologue (but only if we learn from it).

Oh, as soon as you mentioned Madeira, I knew it was going to be revealed as Bual. My favorite of the Madeira grouping. I am certain that our DNA overlaps ;)

Ron Washam, HMW said...

My Love,
An apt and articulate tribute on Martin Luther King Day.

We are all shaped by the mistakes of our past, and by the measures we take to learn from our mistakes. You may have made a lot of mistakes in your youth, mistakes fueled by the abuses you endured, but you learned every lesson, fixed every mistake, found your inner Light and extraordinary Beauty, and, as a result, were blessed with a better life and a remarkable son. You earned every bit of that. And as a role model, Jeremy could not have asked for a better one--except maybe Dr. King.

I love you. Even more than that, I deeply admire you.

Dale Dimas said...

Beautifully written. A moving tribute to your son, to MLK and to you, Samantha. Your journey, in that little essay is inspiring.

To quote Dug from Up (yeah, I'm quoting a cartoon dog) "I've only just met you and I already love you!"

Samantha Dugan said...

So nice to see your sweet face here. Thanks for reading, and for getting me...

I honestly never felt like there was an option. Anyone that fought like Jeremy did to be here, well he earned my love and admiration. I am the lucky one.

In French fries, Madeira and my dear friends I trust. Thinking we might just have to be much alike you and I.

Ron My Love,
Don't know that I earned anything but I am forever trying to be a living tribute to those that stood to make my life this extraordinary place, where I get to touch my keys and use my words to stoke emotion, and find love. You too are a gift to me and there is not one day that goes by that I am not thankful. I adore, and admire you too.

I loved Up and because of your reference to it as well as your understanding of me, I love you too. Thanks for being here....when one opens this much it's so wonderful to find a bunch of open arms to fold into. Appreciate it more than you can know.

Winey The Elder said...

A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile, the moment a single (wo)man contemplates it, bearing within him (her) the image of a cathedral.- St. Exupery

I don't know so much about wine, as do so many of your suitors, but I know much about the matters of the heart and learned many of them in ways not so dissimilar to yours.

I love your prose, your honesty, your courage. I've learned so much from you, not the least of which is to hold up ones unflattering past and say: was me; ain't me no more. For the liberation of it all, I say thank you and for the freedom I rejoice. And for your "you ness" : a lusty tip of lagrein your way.

Samantha Dugan said...

You My Sweet Man, just gave me a true gift, one that made me cry. So lovely to have someone made me feel it too. Thank you. Thank you and the warmest, longest hug across the internets as I can muster. Wow. So touched.

Becca Masnick said...

Wonderful again! I so enjoy reading your thoughts & emotions as you share them with so many. My parents moved to keep me from attending Poly & I attended Lakewood instead of Jordan as my mom wanted me to. I am so proud of your grasp of your growth in yourself & for your tended care of that amazing son of yours. I would love to meet him one day! Stay just the way you are! You are AMAZING!

Samantha Dugan said...

About a million miles from amazing but ever so grateful, and lucky. As you well know we learn nearly as much from our kids, sometimes even more, as they do from us. It changes us in ways that we could never have imagined...I hit the jackpot with Jeremy and my life is without question better because of loving him...his loving me. Thanks so much for reading from so very far away. Very happy for you and your family that you will be back home so soon. Hugs to you.

Sara Louise said...

You done good. x.