63rd Anniversary

My parents, sometime in the 80's, having a night out on the town in San Antonio, Texas.
My parents, sometime in the 80’s, having a night out on the town in San Antonio, Texas.

Today is my mom and dad’s 63rd wedding anniversary. He transitioned in 2002, but had he not they would still be together. So as far as I’m concerned it still counts.

Don’t they look happy and spiffy?! <3 

Were it not for July 3, 1957, I would not be here. So I always consider their anniversary as a natural extension of my birthday celebration. 

My mother is the quintessential definition of the dutiful military wife—which in times of war is essentially like being a single mother. I had the advantage of being born exactly a year after his retirement from his career as a combat medic in the U.S. Army. I didn’t get the trip to Germany and Fort Hood like the rest of my siblings and other army brats. But I got ALL the PTSD. Helluva trade-off.

Uncle Sam may have chewed my father up and spit him out [as he does most veterans], but that r*cist f*cker also grudgingly paid for the house and retirement pension that my mother lives in and still receives. And that’s also why my father grudgingly unfurled the flag on July 4th. Had he not been stationed at Fort Sam Houston—home of the combat medic—they would have never met, fell in love, and gotten married three months later at my late Aunt June’s house. 

And since we are amidst “The Great Reckoning” and storytelling is healing—let me toss this here bone out of the f*cking closet…

My paternal grandmother was petty and unkind to both me and my mother for the duration of her natural life. A deeply colorstruck woman, she called my mother that “Black bitch” to everyone else in the family. It didn’t matter that she was married to a man the same shade of mahogany. I believe it’s because my mother’s DNA entered the lineage, and as a stepfather his didn’t.

That didn’t stop my father from adoring my mother—his “Honey Bun”—and standing up to his own mother in defense of his wife and children whenever necessary. Despite this shade and abuse, my mother remained a dutiful daughter-in-law who would come and wash my grandmother’s hair and clean her house when she was too old and feeble to do it herself.

It sucks to have to air this out. But the healing and reckoning of how deeply racism and colorism affects us across time/place/space/generation must be candidly addressed. And this is only the beginning. 

This photo is pre-1992 since the photographer’s phone number is 512 area code before San Antonio became 210. They are likely at one of the lodges for the VFW, DAV or American Legion since he was a card-carrying member of all of them. When I turned 21 he showed me all his lifetime membership cards, took me out to drink at each of them, and told me how he taught my mama how to drink (five years his junior and rather sheltered coming from podunk Alabama).

Happy anniversary, Mom and Dad—I love you both deeply and dearly. Thank you for love and life. 

46

Today I am 46.

Birthday birthday-suit selfie.

This is the number of chromosomes it takes to make another human being. Yet I am in perimenopause and will soon no longer be capable of committing such an act.

It is bittersweet and full of complicated feelings, exacerbated by the hormonal fluctuations from reverse puberty and the lack of open discussion about what really happens when a cis-woman’s body relinquishes the biological factors that the patriarchy deems the definition of “womanhood” [even the word “perimenopause” has the red underline on my screen as I type this, further invisiblizing the concept].

Yet I feel exponentially more sexy, attractive and confident than I ever did when I was still in physiological full-bloom Spring. But thanks to having a period 10 days earlier than scheduled and two days shorter than my typical cycle, I also woke up so miserable last week that I swear I looked like Donald Trump. It is overdue time to #decolonizethecrone.

Now I understand why when still in my 20’s I asked my daddy if I was beautiful and he said “no” — that I was cute at best because a woman does not become beautiful until she is at least in her 30’s.

Ok, Daddy. I totally get it NOW.

Last weekend I was reunited with two plastic trunks full of my belongings. They were placed in the care of a friend in 2009, a dress rehearsal for the current economy. I was put into active fugitivity as a result and moved three times within six months because the media industry only wanted to offer me unpaid internships as a “favor.”

These 11-year-old archives are especially poignant after finding a CD full of files dating from 1997-2001. It’s really longer and deeper than that timeframe as it includes all of my high school poetry, journals from jobs, modeling portfolio images, projects I created and events I curated over the course of my 20 years in San Antonio, Texas–where “Dragonfly” was born as the inter-dimensional / multi-intentional artist I was and have become.

I have always made art to save my own life.

Now I am old enough to parent myself. The 23-year-old half-life me is an ancestor because all of the skin and cells of that young woman are no longer in this body. She exists through memory, story and archive. I am a life artist and I am a palimpsest of my former selves. Without flesh heirs I deem my ART as my legacy.

I was almost not born.

I almost drowned in my mother’s womb. At 34 in 1974, it was a high-risk pregnancy. One could argue that any Black pregnancy is high-risk in this country thanks to #medicalapartheid. I nearly drowned inside, umbilical cord wrapped around my neck, my mother kept in labor too long. They cut me out of her womb. I have seen the scar that runs straight up and down her belly like a gutted fish, before the medical establishment cared enough to do a bikini cut as well as make sure that the nerves that cause sexual pleasure were not severed in the process.

Like my own life, it is overdue time for me to cut loose the archives of work that have gestated far too long. For me to shed the concept of perfection for the sake of saving my own life and release to the world those words and images and stories that have been inside me far too long and need breath and water and sunlight simply because they were created to do so.

I am here, y’all.

And soon come my archives–as silly and sloppy and puerile and imperfect as they all are–in honor of my own artistic legacy which prepared me for the things to come.

#existenceisresistance