My mom and I didn’t talk much when I was a kid. For one thing, she was young and had no idea how to relate to a small child — I just realized that at the time of the following anecdote, she was the age I am right now. Also, there just wasn’t a lot of time. My mom lived in Columbia/Winston Salem/Greensboro/Charlotte while I lived with my grandparents in Florence. She came to visit every, sometimes every other, weekend but between resting from the drive and running errands, there wasn’t a lot of time for chit chat. I was a lonely, bookish kid.
I got my first period when I was 10. She was out of town and for whatever reason, I was terrified to mention it to my grandmother. So I didn’t. Through a ridiculous conceit of stolen pads, wadded up tissue, and boldfaced lies, I somehow hid a full-flow menses from a grandmother who did laundry every day and scrubbed my back during morning showers. The next month, faithful to the schedule I’d marked out in my dayplanner, it started on a Monday morning just before school. My mom was still home, packing to leave for the week. I feigned surprise and whatever other emotions I thought I was supposed to be feeling, thankful that I could return the pads I’d hoarded from the teachers’ lounge bathroom.
We never had The Talk about my ~coming-of-age~, but when I came home that afternoon, there were maxi pads, flowers, a card and two books on my bed: Growing Up Feeling Good (an Our Bodies Ourselves for teens of the 90s) and a fresh copy of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. I’d previously read at my mom’s weatherworn copy of I Know Why… a couple times, but the sex parts weren’t fun so I always lost interest. She’d driven to the bookstore, purchased it specifically and drove back to my grandparents house before an hours’ drive to work that morning. I was obviously required to revisit.
I devoured that book that night, cried about it and read it again the next day. That was all the talk we needed. I’d grown up. My world was different. And from that day forward, I knew I wanted to be writer. That desire has never waned since.
Good night, Dr. Angelou. Thank you for visiting.