Several months ago, my mom asked me to buy her hair accessories similar to the ones that she once saw me wearing. I did.
When I got there I asked for the money it cost me. Showed her the receipt and everything. (No, I don’t know what I was thinking. I do think I lost my mind though.)
While visiting Mama, I went to buy some fried chicken from a popular place near her home. Before heading home, though my husband informed me that our son had cooked.
But now what was I going to do with all this chicken?
I sold the pieces to my mother.
(Yes, I am still very ashamed of my actions. Y’all stop looking at me like that.)
My mother “lets” this behavior go on for a bit. See, I forgot that when she does this she is merely gathering evidence to make her point.
She will give you all the rope that you need to play cowboy.
At some point, Mama got fed up.
When my Mama is fed up.
It is about to go down.
So I’m chatting on the phone one day. My Mama did a modern-day remix of that classic Shirley Ceaser gospel song “No Charge”.
OPTIONAL: Play this video and listen to the song
as you read the rest of the post
She told me about a recent time that she wanted to order a nice item from our favorite shopping channel on t.v.
But she couldn’t.
She will happily tell the whole world. Like to hear it, here it go:
Shopping Network on TV: “Do you know a Tonya G Prince?
SNTV: Well we have her on file as the most frequent user of the charge card. We can still make this purchase happen for you today. Do you know Tonya?
Mom: (through tight jaws now) Yes.
SNTV: Oh good! Perhaps you can call her and ask her for permission to use the charge card that we have on file. Or maybe she would be willing to call us back or go online and purchase it for you.
Now that is all that Mama told me.
But you see, me and my Mama were in our own mutual corners for brief bit. We do that every now and then.
So you know that my Mama was not even coming out of her corner to ask me anything until we settled whatever needed to be settled.
Then my Mama went low. She mocked how, I ask her for gifts.
Me: Mama, can I get this XYZ for my (fill in this blank with a holiday)?
Mama: Sure, Tonya when did you want it?
Me: Well, I was hoping now. You see it is on sale and….(Mama mocked my whole sales pitch which I didn’t realize needs updating.)
Mama: Okay Tonya
Me: Great! Should I use the last credit card that you gave me? I already have it right here. I am at the website, picked out the color, and size. I filled out all of the blanks………..
Raising my hand
Now y’all, in my defense.
We give freely to one another.
I give too.
Mama acknowledged my point, gave me that point, and thanked me kindly.
Still, I had to silently attend my mother’s long lesson within a lecture.
Okay, I got it.
You know as Mama was talking I heard that song come into my head.
The one that I heard growing up. “No Charge”.
It was then that I realized that I was being ungrateful.
I lost my beloved spirit of gratitude.
Gratitude in Survival
I tell this story on this platform because as a Survivor I struggled with bitterness and anger over what had occurred to me.
It wasn’t a bad thing that I did.
Anger is a human, normal and natural response to injustice/evil.
In fact, later, I learned that I was entitled to all of my anger.
However, there came a point in my journey when I realized that the only memories that I gave any time and attention to where the bad ones.
The good ones were so far in the back of my head, I couldn’t even recall them on the spot.
It was as if it would take me a bit to access them.
Yet, when I did, I smiled. I laughed out loud. I really did have some wonderful times woven into those dark days.
That was hard to acknowledge. Did that mean that people who did disgusting things were off the hook? Did that mean that those dark days weren’t really that bad? Did I over-exaggerate?
Well, that got me defensive and downright angry again. Those days were every bit of the hell that I said that they were. In fact, I was keeping some to myself for those who couldn’t deal with it.
But at some point I understood that both could be true.
When I was a little girl I used to watch some of the elders in our family make quilts. The quilts were patches of fabric from everywhere and anywhere.
My Granny was an expert tailor/seamstress and often the fabrics came from some of her former designs.
So maybe the fabric from a cousin’s wedding dress, who had since divorced the groom, would be on the quilt.
That piece might be right next a piece of fabric from an old ripped blouse that never did fit quite right.
The next piece could be from an itchy Easter dress that some precious child had worn in church on a day that seemed like it would never end. And all because of that doggone itchy dress.
No matter where the patch of fabric came from it could be put to good use. It was going to join the other fabrics and keep someone warm. My life is like that.
All of the pieces, come together and make a fine, one-of–a-kind, irreplaceable, human being. My work is like that. I meet people who have experienced similar tragedies. We come together to try to change the world for someone, anyone.
No Gratitude, No Quilt
BUT, you only get a fabulous quilt that all of the relatives fight over and cherish if you can still look at any piece of fabric and see the good in it. If you appreciate it and assign it value.
My Granny practiced this in her life. She told me a little bit about her childhood growing up in the early 1900s. I felt so honored. Granny rarely discussed her childhood.
She shared with me that when she was a young teen both of her parents died. As the oldest, she dropped out of school to care for her siblings. I don’t recall the exact number anymore of siblings that she had but I think the number was a large one, as was custom for that time.
In order to clothe her many siblings, she gathered the sacks that potatoes came in back then. People would throw those out.
My Granny, who was taught to sew by her mother, took those sacks and made each of her siblings clothing that other children ridiculed at first. Once Granny started putting some original style to those sacks, their wardrobe was envied by all.
And so, I was reminded by Mama. Listen, I don’t know what got into me. I am a giver, giver, giver.
But I forgot to be grateful. Without gratitude, you can’t make a quilt. You can’t BE a quilt.
On my healing journey, I am learning how to pull all of the pieces together and make my very own Tonya GJ Prince quilt.
I’ve learned that gratitude is essential to healing from trauma.
Even if sometimes all that you can be grateful for is that you are here another day. That is a miracle. Today can be the day that you make new memories to add to your quilt.
CAUTION: These words aren’t meant to justify continued suffering. Remember the patches of fabric were no longer a burden to the wearers.