Isn't She Perfect?
I caught sight of her face through a strip of glass. Happiness covered her from eyes to smile, and I swallowed around the lump in my throat. We were all waiting for her. Although this day was about two people, it was put together so intricately to shine the spotlight on Leila. The music started, and we all held our breath. Slowly, the double doors were opened, the bride revealed.
I watched as she made that familiar journey down the aisle, resting on her father's arm. She seemed to float on a sea of white satin, the bodice of her dress molded to her thin waist and showcasing her tan skin. How many times had I helped her lace that dress, pulling the ribbons tight, practicing for just this moment? Her steps were slow and careful. Her father and stepfather grinned with pride.
The sanctuary was quiet as I shifted in my three-inch heels. There is something about true beauty that renders words useless. She was like a statue, perfectly carved, breathtaking and yet breathing. This, I thought, is the woman described in the Bible's Song of Solomon, the dark, ethereal goddess who could steal the king's heart. The other bridesmaids and I exchanged smiles, our eyes asking, "Isn't she perfect?"
The ceremony continued as any wedding does, with rings and vows and one chaste kiss. We took communion and prayed and saw their lives changed in a moment. So much to watch and remember, but what my mind is drawn back to is the beginning, her face in that frame of glass, waiting on the threshold of a different tomorrow, about to take his breath away. I see again, the slow opening of the doors, like removing the covering sheet from a masterpiece.
You see, it doesn't matter how handsome the groom looks in his starched black tuxedo, his hair combed and shoes shining. No man can rival a woman. There is pure glory in the curve of hip and breast, the expanse of soft skin carefully revealed, the mystery in her eyes and the fullness of her painted lips. A woman's beauty is inviting, alluring. At once, it welcomes your touch and demands your reverence.
God created man first, molded him and breathed life into him. Man was a work of art, the first carving. But then God made woman, stood back to admire her and let all heaven gaze in awe. Before, Lucifer was said to be the most beautiful creature. I think, though it goes against creation theology, it was this moment that ignited his jealous heart.
No man and no angel could rival the glory of Eve.
Octaves of Life
On days that I am alone, memories keep my soul from forgetting the words I left behind. For I am nothing more than a pen through which the ink of experience flows. I am a writer and nothing more; all that I am and all that I do is to improve that which God made me to be. I am a writer.
I have been writing poetry since I was 11, have gotten three editor's choice awards and have been performing it for almost three years. At the ripe old age I am now—26—I understand why my life has taken all the turns that it has. Life is an unexpected storm that makes me better for having weathered it. It gave my voice range. I now can write in all the octaves of life, understanding the many hills and valleys that people go through from day to day. This understanding helps me to reach any audience.
Although I hope to be a successful writer, it is not my wish to have fame and fortune. My only hope is that I am an inspiration.
I live my life as a person, not necessarily female—although I am quite feminine—with no extra consideration to my womanhood. But for a person, life gets rather difficult, and I must remind myself to have the tenacity to carry on.
Being a student, an employee and a friend is quite a load to carry, but I carry it proudly, knowing that it will pay off.
My existence is like a caterpillar, toiling daily in awkwardness, awaiting the day that I grow butterflies' wings and fly.
Though this life is hard, I live it with excitement, believing that there's no other life I'd rather live.
- Anchee Lofton
Two Pink Lines
Two pink lines divided the girls from the women the summer I turned 21.
My belly was pressed flat against the small tiles of my grandma's bathroom floor, an e.p.t. test scattered on the floor beside me. The cuckoo clock in the living room sang, little German barmaids dancing as tears pooled beneath me.
"I can't be pregnant! I'm never coming out!"
My best friend, Jennifer, stood in the hall. The smell of cigarette smoke wafted under the door and straight to my stomach.
"Just go away!"
She ignored me, picking the lock with her gas card, and gathered me up in her arms.
"Everything will be OK. You can't stay in here forever."
So I didn't. I painted a small room turquoise and became best friends with our upstairs toilet. Jennifer continued our traditional afternoon car rides in Shelley's cherry-red Mustang, calling from a pay phone past the Haunted Bridge, Steve Miller loud in the background.
"Come out with us today," she'd say. I'd beg off, claiming an appointment with nausea.
She quit asking after my 10th excuse but never quit calling. She'd tell me stories of boys, misadventures with the old crew, and nights of card-playing in the apartment I once shared with her.
I still wanted to dance until my legs felt shaky and weak. To eat taquitos in the Whataburger parking lot at 2 a.m., burping Dr. Pepper and Jose Cuervo. But with pregnancy a noose around my neck, I quit calling.
Instead, I met other mothers and married couples who wouldn't remind me of the life I left behind. We talked about children's bowel movements and idiot husbands.
Four children later, I was settled on my path, content with being a mom. The me with a Bible, astrology book and a "Dictionary of Serial Killers" on the coffee table, who had dreamed of being a writer, poet and psychic, all at once, had long ago grown into someone who baked homemade cinnamon rolls from scratch and ran car pool.
Jennifer called on holidays to touch base, each of her life steps jogging memories of my unfulfilled plans.
When I turned 30, I looked around and realized I had three children in school, one undemanding child at home and lots of silence. I looked in the mirror and wondered at the person I saw. I picked up the phone before I had time to reconsider. Years melted away when she said hello.
"How are the kids?" she asked. "You have four now, right?
I replied, pacing the floor.
"What will you do with all that free time, girl?"
I wasn't sure, but I thought for the first time in years about possibilities, things I had written off. I had been fearful to be more than just a mom, using it as an excuse to give up on dreams and friends.
Single, married, lover, friend, mother, writer. Hundreds of paths and thousands of titles define us, not just one.
Two pink lines did not divide us for the past 10 years. I did.
- Tiffany Todd-Fitch
At the relatively ripe age of 58, reflecting back on my years as a female intrigues me. I love my life in its many aspects and ramifications. I'm a daughter, a mother, a librarian, a writer, a photographer, an artist, a supporter of local artists and businesses. How did I get to now from then? Seems like I've always been going somewhere, looking for something.
I used to be a little girl who traveled the USA for seven years, living in 26 states and never going to one school longer than three months. That made it easy for me to meet people, curious as I was about them and their lives. I remember traveling home to Mississippi, to Jackson or Walnut Grove to visit my grandparents' house, where my brother and I enjoyed the oddity of a few days without wheels beneath our beds. I remember baby sitting in San Antonio, must have been the second time we were there because I was in the fourth grade, and reading that family's "Book of Knowledge," just opening up any volume and devouring the text, putting myself in the photographs.
Those years of travel instilled wanderlust in my soul, but I didn't know what to call it then. In the summers after we settled down in Jackson in 1957, I'd go to the library and check out dozens of books, reading about lives and places, trying to satisfy my curiosity and wanderlust with the turn of each page. When Whitten Junior High opened, I experienced the joy of brand-new teachers in a brand-new school; we all burned with curiosity for knowledge about ourselves, about the world nearby and afar. My sophomore year at Provine High School, I was a teen gone crazy over the Beatles and dreaming of traveling to England.
In the `90s I did make it to Europe. I was an English teacher at Forest Hill, a widow who'd raised our sons with the help of my family since 1983. With my youngest son, Leland, and other students, I traveled 17 days across England, France, Switzerland, Italy and Germany. Thanks to his Latin teacher, Debbie Good, my wanderlust and curiosity got a great whopping infusion, so much so that I myself took student groups to Europe every couple of years up until June 2001.
I didn't stop traveling because I fell flat on my face on our last day in Paris, breaking my glasses to smithereens and requiring six stitches beneath my right eye. No, I stopped because, after 9/11, none of us felt safe, none except Leland, who flew one month to the day later from Charleston, S.C., to visit his brother, Lamont, in Portland, Ore. Knowing the importance of their bond, I prayed that entire day for his safety, knowing that at some point he'd want to move where his brother lived and cooked and that I'd be happy with that—I'd have a new place to go and explore.
Now, in 2006, I'm a blessed female embarking on my next journey with confidence born of my life-long curiosity about people and places, bolstered by my work with the Jackson Free Press, by the special people I've met and the gifts of time and knowledge and music and art and friendship that they've graciously given me in my hometown.
In June, Mama and I will pick up stakes and head for Portland, Ore.
- Lynette Hanson
To be completely honest, this is one of the most difficult things that I've written to date. I've been thinking about what I wanted to say about "chickdom" for going on two weeks, and even now, I'm not exactly sure what it is that I want to say about it. There are fine lines everywhere, if we pay attention when we look. Sanity and insanity. Love and hate. Truth, deception and lies. Then, there are the lines that aren't so fine. Adult and child. Maturity and immaturity. The old me and the new me.
At the risk of being a bit too narcissistic and esoteric, I've decided the most genuine way to translate my feelings about being an individual who's a daughter, niece, confidante, singer, "every woman" like Chaka Kahn testifies, is to share something I wrote some time ago while I diligently soul-searched. What I found as I searched were principal differences between the old me and new me, the mature and immature me. So, I can simply declare now, "I am, and that's OK."
I am Natalie A. Collier … 5'10", nowhere near model thin … I'm a thinker, an analyzer and a confuser … yes, a confuser … I muse so much that oftentimes those things that are clear are obscure to me … things that are convoluted are basic … I am simply complicated …
Growing up, I thought I was white, despite my tawny brown skin … in college, one of my white cohorts ensured that I was rid of that complex by referring to me as a nigger for me and the others around me to hear … I've often been told that I'm "different" from the others … ever since I first heard that, I've known that ultimately, I'm no different … I am a black woman—whatever that means …
Used to be in love with the idea of being in love … then He broke my heart … yearned for attention I now know I deserved … learned that attention from somewhere was better than nothing … that got tiring, though … I am a recovering people-pleaser and a cynical romantic… My mind never has less than a thousand things racing through it at any given time … I carry notebooks everywhere I go to keep track of myself … used to be ashamed of my skittish nature … breathing in the music all around me, my creativity is infused … I am prolific …
I voice my opinions often and believe that those who speak without something poignant to say waste breath … I converse about topics that range from shoes to self-awareness, pet peeves back to shoes again … hypocrite is a dirty word … I've been hypocritical … there, I admit it …
I am soiled but not dirty, tainted but not ruined … there are lots of things I don't know … facets of myself I've yet to explore … adventures I haven't tackled await so I will not chose fear as a friend … standing 5'10", nowhere near model thin …
I am Natalie A. Collier … whoever that is …
- Natalie A. Collier
I'm so honored to be included with this group! :)
I always enjoy reading the Jackson Free Press and thoroughly enjoyed the "chick-dom" stories. I hope to read more articles by these talented ladies.
- Franklin W
Woot! Look. It's me. Also, Natalie, I LOVE this piece and may use the style as a writing exercise soon, for my blog. *grins*
Hate to hear we are losing Hanson. She is almost like a mother figure to me. Talked to her a few days ago and I think she is with her sons now visiting. Won't be the same without her.
- c a webb
No, it won't be the same without Lynette, C.A. One of the tough things about my business is that these amazing dynamos pass through and grace us with their presence for a while, but then must go on new adventures. We are in mourning over Lynette missing.
:-( losing Lynette...sad. she's awesome.