By "The Eldest Daughter of Deborah W. Brown"
"Simile: A figure of speech in which two essentially unlike things are compared, often in a phrase introduced by like or as. " -- Merriam-Webster Dictionary
Stevie Wonder's "As" – it's like a quasi ode to the simile. It's also the song where Stevie tracks the infinite nature of his love by painting a picture of what "always" looks like. "Always" is coterminous with events like "the day that 8x8x8 is 4" and "the day that you are me and I am you." It is that last line in particular that reminds me of my mother.
The day when I am like my mother.
I was a relatively outgoing, eighties-ninties girl, who strived to keep up with the times, had long and straight relaxed hair, loved hip-hop, R&B, and McDonalds, read books about Nancy Drew, and was of course, always up on the latest fashion trends. I was really smart, but unlike my mother, I was cool. I was an apple.
She was an orange. With her shyness and quiet demeanor my mother does not fit the typical "strong black woman" image. In fact, if you tried to apply it to her, it would consume her size two, overly sweet, chocolate frame. To the teenaged me, she was a nerdy woman, who was way too good at math, science, and computers, worried way too much about my sister and me, told ridiculously corny jokes ( e.g. last month she reminded her friends that it was brown pig month . . . don't ask), read these really "weird" books on religion and black history, always wanted to eat healthy food like whole wheat bread and brown rice, who played Beethoven and Bach on the piano; a woman whose hair went from Jherri curl to afro, and who never quite grasped the concept that green, purple, red and sky blue should never make an appearance on one's body at the same time.
So I would cringe at any comparison of myself to . . . her. My fear: even the most innocent of comparisons might open the door for other, more insidious comparisons – if we looked alike, then next thing you know, folks will say that we dress alike. (The horror!) Or that we have the same sense of humor (The insult!). And the more they said it, the more likely I might actually become like her. As her…
As I type this up, running my hair through my fro, with my Nancy Drew books long packed away, and my Betty Crocker Healthy Food cook book on the shelf next to my book, "A Case for Faith", a computer science and engineering degrees under my belt, about a decade older than my teenage self, I wish I could remember the moment – if there is in fact only one – in which I realized who I was becoming like. As. Who my mother was. Is. . . . Behind the mismatched colors and shy disposition is a strong black woman. Strong because with her taste for both Beethoven and naptural hair, she defies typicality. And strong because she is comfortable being a unique version of strong. And strong because she insisted on loving me when I was too cool to want to be anything like her.
But she is. A woman who I want to be like. A woman who I want to be as. She is "the certainty of the earth's path around the sun" as I am "loving her always." [FN1] Thanks, Stevie.