Keeping Up with the Jonzee still at the right spot.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Southern Hospitality

My father's side of the family is quite open. At least as far as I can tell. About who was the mean aunt and why. How certain parts of the family ended up in certain parts of the country. About how people met, why they got married, why they stayed, and even why they got divorced. My mother's side has always been a secret. My father won't dare ask--he would rather not feel the wrath. And I won't either, because she will start saying crap about and how it is none of our business. In my mind, I have played detective. My favorite cousin and I often put together the things we remember from childhood and bits and pieces of what older relatives have said when we should not have been listening.

Don't get me wrong. While Pop's side may be open about history and geography of the family and where the fam fit in reconstruction, civil rights, and education. They are secretive about people's illnesses--particularly if they are terminal. But mom's side is shrouded in the "Daddy not daddy." Color Purple type stuff (Minus Mister). The mystery of what life was like in Alabama was for the most part a mystery.

But the death of Big Ma aka Muh Dear and Aunt Vic opened the door to conversations about my mother and the cousins she grew up with like brothers and sisters. Big Ma, was one tough lady who loved "Master Jesus." She was stern as I don't know what. But she had a smile that was with her whether in pain or in joy. She counseled, sometimes lectured, always remembered your b-day, graduation, etc--even though she had 14 grand-children; 18 great grands; and two great great grands, and me who was like a grandchild. I never got to talk to her about alot of the history. But memories of her good old souther hospitality sparked conversations about history I just assumed I would never hear.

The network, the web of protection, the village to raise a child concept is what I was exposed to. A number of cousins were raised by aunts or uncles--who in some instance became mom and dad and in others a constant reminder that you were a cousin and not a daughter or son. Or great aunts who became grandmothers in order to qualify as next of kin, when mothers died or were just to young. Older cousins, grandmothers, uncles, and friends of family took over parenting and comforting wheather from a distance or close by whenever necessary.

I see why some of the history is left unspoken. It is painful and heartbreaking. And perhaps now that folks have gotten older--and the events seem miles away from who they are now, they are willing to share. If for no other reason then the edification of young parents. And those who have yet to go down that road.

The death of the Matriarch, brought together the youngest generation of parents and created a sense of love and belonging. Healed some old wounds. And provided closure for some of us.

Thanks, Muh Dear, your hospitality is duly noted and appreciated.


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