Updated: Jan 14
As I reflect on 2021, there are many lessons learned, most of which I will take into 2022. The most impactful has been not everyone is ready, willing, or able to accept you as you are. However, this is not your problem or issue, nor should it be your concern.
You cannot stop living. You should not stop being you to adapt to anyone else’s shortcomings, trust issues, or just pure lack and respect of humankind. After all, the person you wake up with the most is you.
As I mentioned in My Birthday Wish, we all have choices and one shot at this life. I encourage you not to spend it broken or minimizing yourself to “fit” into someone else’s mold of who they think you should be.
I got my tenacity from Daddy Floyd, fearlessness from my dad, and my strong will from my great grandmother, Lucinda Houston – known to the grandchildren as “Musha.” I never knew where that name came from, but I’m sure I asked as nosey as I am. Musha taught me to be unapologetically me. She was a god-fearing woman with quick wit and a sharp tongue – another skill she taught me. When she spoke, the world stood still, and everyone listened.
Before attending grade-school, Momma would drop me off at Musha’s. I’m not sure how old she was then, but she had solid white hair as snowy as talcum powder and soft as silk. Against her dark smooth skin, it was such a beautiful contrast. And now that I think of it, she was also a very petite woman with the strength of an ox.
There are so many stories about my adventures with my Musha. From picking plums and eating her famous cheese toast with a touch of sugar to her saving me from myself when I got a little too curious. I used to go with her and her friends to weekly senior citizens’ lunches at the American Legion in Waxhaw.
Mr. Hood would pick us up in his 1970 something black Nova, sometimes, along with three other ladies – Ms. (Tossie) Miller and Ms. Vinson. That was the highlight of my week. I always sat in the middle back seat where there was a hump. I could stick my head through the center to the front seat to watch Mr. Hood drive. They were all so nice to me. Either that or they were trying their best to keep me occupied. I racked up on chocolate milk, Jello, nutty buddies, and fudge popsicles. I think they gave me this stuff because #1…they never wasted anything, and #2…most of them had “sugar” diabetes and couldn’t have most of that stuff anyway.
I learned how strong Musha really was during one of my inquisitive childhood moments. Like many other women in my family – Grandma Cacko, Aunt Rachel, Aunt Lynn – she dipped snuff. For those who don’t know, snuff is a form of tobacco converted into a dark chocolate powder substance. If you didn’t know, you could easily mistake it for cocoa until you got a whiff of the smell. It was so fascinating to me.
Our day started just like any other day. Momma dropped me off with my pillow and blanket. Musha set me up in her sitting room with the wood-burning stove, and the TV was set to Sesame Street while she was in the kitchen fixing us breakfast.
On this particular day, for whatever reason, the silver tin snuff can wrapped in blue paper with white writing caught my attention. I was not just intrigued that women in my family dipped snuff just cause. No, it was the technique. Musha could flip the silver lid filled with snuff directly onto her lower lip without spilling a drop.
Welp, this was the day Niecey (Martha) was going to try it. I sat my pillow aside, pried opened the tin can, poured a good amount in the lid – which was a lot messier than I had thought and flipped the lid back with my mouth wide open. I tell you what, my life flashed before my eyes at that moment. Chocolate dust was everywhere – mostly on my face and up my nostrils; none went into my mouth. I started gasping for air and coughing. Musha came running into the room and immediately knew what had happened. I wasn’t sure if she or the snuff would help me meet my fate. “Ah Gal, whatchu trying to do? Kill ya self?” I heard anger and concern in her voice, but I couldn’t answer.
Her petite frame scooped me up with one arm and rushed me off to the kitchen, where she had a pail of water. She quickly rinsed me off – all the while fussing. But I also noticed something in her voice that I had never noticed before – fear. As a child, I had asthma, and the most minor event or activity would set me into an attack. I’m not sure exactly what she said, but I knew it was of concern to her.
She never let me go. She stood there with me tucked under her arm while, with her free hand, steadily washing my face with water. Honestly, I’m pretty sure she was holding me upside down. Musha had saved the day. I was able to catch my breath and didn’t have an attack. But I was a complete mess. My hair was a mess, and my clothes were soaked. But Musha took care of me and cleaned me up before Momma got there to take me home.
Neither one of us ever mentioned that day again. From that moment on, when I was dropped off, I was never in the sitting room alone again. For the most part, I sat in the kitchen and “helped” to make our breakfast or whatever chores she had going on. From that day on, she never let me out of her sight.
But I started to realize that day that it is important to “…choose to be the greatest expression of yourself… every day.” Learn to laugh at yourself, remember your humble beginnings and never forget where you came from because it is what made you…unapologetically YOU.
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