Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Holidays

Yeah, I know. I've still got a LOT of drafts sitting here unfinished (brother komrade I haven't forgotten about you!), but it's Christmas, so I'm working backward - kind of. I just wanted to send some of that "Peace, Love and Goodwill" stuff to each and every one of you as well as make a couple observations. I've always, always loved Christmastime. People are a lot nicer to each other than during any other time of year. The twinkling lights, the handed-down ornaments, red velvet bows, the smell of a freshly cut long-needled pine tree, fruitcake (yes, I'm one of the 12 people who love fruitcake!), egg nog - all of it! Add to that, lots of family coming in from everywhere (my maternal grandmother's SC brood numbered in the teens!), all the cooking, talking, playing cards, laughing, drinking, eating and staying up all night we'd do, and I had the makings for my most favorite holiday of the year! Sure, as a child, the anticipation of getting was a huge factor in that holiday spirit (we were no less American than anybody else in this consumptive society!). But not since my brother and I happened on our parents' late night bike assembly in the living room (yes, I too believed the lie!), has the getting of gifts been my "reason for the season." Making the transition from anticipating getting to anticipating giving was easy enough. But since the materialism and the insecurity upon which it was based (along with the commercialism that drove it) was deeply embedded in my psyche, the thing with which I struggled hardest, was the reason for the giving. And even now, though I know what's really important, I still found myself today wondering why the streets were so silent - no kids playing outside or skating or riding their new bikes or anything. My husband says it's because they all got computer games instead, no need to go outside. Having made some difficult choices this past year, it didn't feel much like Christmas today. But as difficult as those choices were to make, and even now, to maintain, they were the right ones for me. The downside of those decisions was that I experienced none of the afore-mentioned preludes to Christmas this year. I missed it tremendously. I wasn't totally alone though. I shared this one - quietly - with my husband and my dog. But I still needed some of that "familyship." So, around 1:30 or 2, with no gifts to give but ourselves, we set out looking for a shelter where we could volunteer. I figured surely in DC there'd be plenty, given the number of homeless people I've encountered since I got here. It didn't matter if I served food or not, just the being among others who may or may not have had family with whom they could share the day would have been perfect for me and hopefully for them too. I say "would have," because again I found myself wondering why the streets were so silent. The first shelter was closed. The second, had already served dinner, the third, which catered exclusively to teens, was also locked up tight. We stopped a police car and asked them if the knew of any still open where we could go and help out. They gave us directions to two more, but they were closed too! So much for finding "familyship." Back to the ranch we went. Flipping through the channels, I heard Eartha Kitt had died today at 81. After damn near 60 years of performing, she is now, according to Nightline - "the incomparable Eartha Kitt." I tell you, white America has cornered the revisionist history market in this country! I'm old enough to remember when "incomparable" was the last adjective they'd use to describe her. From birth - the result of her half-Black/half-Cherokee mother being raped by a white man on the South Carolina plantation on which she share-cropped - to becoming "incomparable," Eartha was shunned by whites and a fair share of Blacks (that blending made it at once, impossible to "pass" and impossible to fit in). After having been given away to relatives in Harlem before she was 10 (not an uncommon occurrence in our community during those days), the teen-aged Eartha, like Josephine Baker, had to travel abroad before anybody white seriously recognized her talent. Thanks to the Katherine Dunham Dance Troupe, she took Paris by storm, found her voice and returned to America a star who'd pissed off more than a few Black folks by publicly thumbing her nose at being called Black. I remember distinctly being at my grandmother's in "the country" and my mother, grandmother and a couple of aunts saying, "She can try to act white if she wanna but they'll show her!" I remember because I was an 11 or 12 year-old Batman fanatic at the time and loved the growl (Halle Berry's got nothing on Eartha Mae!). "They" did, however, show her. In 1968, invited, as stars are and continue to be, to a luncheon at the White House, Eartha Mae was an equal opportunity pisser-offer. Deftly wielding her foreign-found voice, she pissed of a whole slew of white folks - in the White House - with her comments about the Vietnam War. She was castigated by white America. My Williams women, smug in their rightness said, "I told you so." But now, since whites have selected the "appropriate kind" of African-American for president, Eartha Mae Kitt is now "incomparable" - and dead, unable to hear all the accolades being bestowed upon her in this (*snark alert*) "post-racial" society. Go figure. In any event, enjoy the holiday season for whatever reasons you claim. But please, spread a little goodwill some-damn-where!

2 comments:

ea said...

Glad you posted.

Deb said...

Me too! I'm trying to do better.

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