Monday, May 08, 2006

Easy Going Evening/My Mama's Song

This weekend the Nightshift Chronicles will celebrate two very special days: the first is the birthday of Steveland Hardaway Judkins, a.k.a Stevie Wonder, which falls on May 13th. And second is Mother's Day, which is being honored on Sunday May 14, 2006. Since the stars have perfectly aligned these two holidays on our calendars, I thought I should do my best to make sure that are acknowledged to the utmost degree. Therefore, I’m proud to announce the first annual Nightshift Chronicles Mama's Week.

In honor of Mamas Week, I am asking the good folks out there reading to submit a testimonial about the Stevie Wonder song that best speaks to your relationship with/reflections on/memories of/feelings for your mama or mamas (since many of us have women and in some cases men in our lives who have played that role). Over the course of the week, I will turn over the front page of The Nightshift Chronicles to your testimonials about Mama written in the key of Stevie. Feel free to email pictures that compliment your testimonial as well, and of course, don't forget to tell mama.

Easy Going Evening

by The Nightshift Chronicler

My mom cooks like Stevie Wonder makes music. She channels the spirits of our ancestors via her recipes that are scrawled on a worn composition notebook; the pages that were once white now range from onion yellow to potato brown around some edges. Her meals nourish my family. Mama's white rice and with navy bean sauce avec lambi et plus banane peze ease away dad's hunger pangs for days long gone in his native Haiti. Her fried chicken with collared greens, mashed potatoes and gravy were at times the best stewards that my brother had as we sought to fit in with our African-American classmates. Whenever she made that meal, which she learned to make in the states, my brother and I had something to talk about with the other kids at school the next day; for once our mama cooked something they could understand—something many of them also loved.

Yes, my mama's cooking is like Stevie's music. Her pots are her tableau for conjuring up the bouillon of expressions that we have come to refer to black as black music...Stevie's music...

When she cooks she likes to carry out her own tunes out loud. Sometimes she sings. Sometimes she hums. It’s the humming which I enjoy most and which reminds me of Stevie’s “Easy Going Evening.” I love it when Mama hums because it always appears as if she is trailing off somewhere else. At times I imagine her drifting off to Haiti, thinking about to when she and dad were teenagers and they’d spend their Saturday afternoons at the “cinema,” or maybe she’s journeying off to a space at I don’t know about. One of the many spaces that women learn to keep from their kids and husbands so as to not give all of themselves away in trying to make other people happy.

During these moments she’d hum in a falsetto about an octave higher than the chords coming out of the harmonica on “Easy Going Evening.” As she plucked one carrot after another out of the pot to peel it, the discarded layers dropping into a bowl initiating a brown-orange hail storm inside the kitchen sink. In perfect time with the strokes she was leveling on the carrot she’d hum a medley of her favorite songs. One song that almost always made it into this medley was “Amazing Grace,” a song that she picked up by watching Ray Charles perform on tv. Where there normally vocals in the song Mama inserted her trademark movements; she’d cock her head back; she’d wipe her brow with her forearm, and my favorite—and this is the only time she’d was guaranteed to leave her spell to say something—she’d pivot to the left and then lean back on her right leg, place her right wrist on her hip and look in my direction, suck her teeth and say “if I had a daughter she could be peeling these carrots for me so that I get started with the rest of the meal.” This was my cue to drop what I was doing: reading/watching television/doing another chore to relieve her of the peeling so that she could tend to the rest of the meal.

And as I started with the peeling, taking over the reigns of the hale-storm, Mama would go back to humming—go back to that place that she only knew existed—go back to her song.


Anonymous said...

Nice colors. Keep up the good work. thnx!

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