My mother learned how to salsa in between a table of sheer glittered tank tops and a rack of leather jackets.
That’s the kind of woman my mother is and always will be, the kind to wear red flip flops in mid-October, a platinum gold satchel on her hip, while stepping on the toes of a 20-something Colombian named Carlos who was innocently folding men’s dress shirts in the middle of the Express clothing store before my mother somehow pulled a thread within him. Unraveling his whole life story. The Seams of Carlos All Tangled Up in My Mother’s Humanity and Salsa Dancing.
Carlos was in America for the year on a futbol scholarship and just then began to feel the waves of homesickness push in as the holidays began sneaking under doorways and into the store fronts of Sears and Macy’s.
So, my mother being the she & her that raised me to do just this, invited Carlos to Thanksgiving dinner but only if he taught her a dance. Hence the salsa dancing. Hence the 20-something Colombian learning to knife a turkey at my kitchen table.
My mother reeks of good human being. It pours out of her.
And even though often we are fighting over a) dishes b) bags left on the kitchen table c) student loan checks d) frying pans (all which sum up to the fact that I need a t-shirt that reads “Creativity ruins my Domesticity”), I still want to shake her by the shoulders while screaming loudly, “I wannttttttt tooooo beeeeeee jusssssttttt liiiikkkkkeee yooouuuuu.”
The key word is Be. I want to Be. Just like mother. She gets it. The Being part. She Be’s all day, every day.
She Be a blessing. She Be a lantern. She Be there. No questions asked, She Be there.
And if I can just sort it out, just unravel it the way my mother unraveled Carlos and his homesickness and his need as if he were a pool of yellow yarn laying on the ground at her feet, maybe then maybe I’ll Be too.
These are the notes I’ve taken thus far.
Be a blessing.
Lean in closer so I can tell you a secret: People get all weak in the elbows when you spend time on them.
Suddenly we shrink back into the days where our teachers complimented how nicely we folded our hands in our laps and then named us Line Leader for the day. It’s that kind of weakness.
A sweet, sticky glow that comes out from the cheeks. All because we stop… and think… and then act intentionally for one another in the form of care packages to cool down the homesickness like a hose, love letters to ward off the loneliness, baked goods to plump up and soften the heart, playlists to make the rains come… like clouds breaking open and clearing the drought from our eye sockets.
Be a lantern.
Or a lamp. Or a stoplight. Or a flashlight. Or the flicker of a candle. Just be a light. If you’ve got light, then be light.
People are looking for it. And they will tell you they are looking for a purpose, a higher calling, a lost shoe, their car keys, a deeper meaning, a better story.
And it’s really all just light. We all really just want something larger than us to pour through the cracks and light up the darkness we feel, even when the sun is out.
I think we all just want to dance somewhere in the light, shimmy and shake and hand jive and waltz somewhere in the middle of this quotation: “If you want a love message to be heard, it has got to be sent out. To keep a lamp burning, we have to keep putting oil in it.”
You know, I don’t know anything about how it will be to die.
I’ve not a clue how the thoughts will spiral through my head when I realize that these toes are going, these hairs are going, these legs will be no more, this mouth of mine will hush, but I bet I’ll think about people like Carlos. People in my life who got all wrapped up in me. And I got wrapped in them. All Tangled. And it never even mattered that blue bled into yellow because somehow we knew that together we’d make green, something we could never do apart. Something we could never accomplish on our own.
"I needed you to make my green," I might tell someone in the quiet of the room. "I am your yellow and you are my blue." Something really beautiful like that.
It won’t be the board meetings that held us close to their chests at night. The job title will never have been the one who stood at the door and ushered us home. It will be the time when I needed you and you were there. When I took you by the hand and dragged your tired feet. The time when we both stared hopelessly at one another, with skinned knees but polished souls, saying into the fragile October air, “I won’t regret a single second, as long as you are the keeper of them all.”