Grannies, Aunties, Cousins, & Other Mamas

In the Black community, there are women who aren’t mothers because technically they didn’t give birth to the children they mothered but are revered because of the guidance, wisdom, and unconditional love that they bestowed upon generations of Black children. This is my tribute to those women. My ladies in particular whom I loved with all my heart and soul.

The lady in the picture above is my maternal grandmother. She was born in Alabama in 1900 and she became an ancestor in 1984. Although I only had her in my life for a short time , she was one of my greatest influences.

She was my babysitter from ages 2 until I was 8 years old when she moved out the state to live with one of her daughters. She was the one who taught me how to read and write, my colors and all that good stuff. So when I learned earlier this year that she only had a second grade education, I was beyond shocked. Because to me, she was a genius and she played a major part in my cognitive development as a child. She was also a great griot and told me slave folktales about skeletons who spoke and and horses who scolded naughty children. She was loved and revered by all who knew her and was considered the backbone of the family.

Aunt Mary

The lady above is my Aunt Mary. She was born in 1933 and became an ancestor in 1982. Her and my mother was only a year apart so they were very close and as result of their closeness, I spent a lot of time with her. She was a Scorpio like me and we got along like cake and ice cream. When she died from ovarian cancer, I was so shellshocked by her death, I couldn’t cry and didn’t cry until a few years later. She was a gem, a feisty woman of fire who is still missed and I wished she had the opportunity to meet my children.

Uncle Al and Aunt Rosie

My Aunt Rosie is in the picture above and she was an integral part of my life. If I’m not mistaken, she was born in 1922 and she became an ancestor in 1995. I spent a lot of time with her as a child and I loved her dearly. When I wanted to get my hair done and needed some money, she gave it to me with a little fussing but she gave it to me. With love.

I would go over to her house to pick it up and she would feed me, tell me tales of growing up into young womanhood and when it was time for me to leave, she would put the money in a handkerchief and pin it in my bra. I used to have a picture of myself when I was about 6 months old and I was sitting between Aunt Rosie and Aunt Mary and they were looking at me with such love and joy. I’m tearing up now thinking about it.

Cousin Cleo and Friends

And the lady above with the thick juicy thighs is my cousin Cleo and she was a combination of cousin, big sister, aunt, and towards the end of her life, a mother figure to me. She was born in 1942 and she crossed over into glory in 2018.

When I was a little girl, I would follow her everywhere because wherever she was, it was good times. My mother was a working woman and couldn’t take me places at times due to her work schedule so Cleo would take me and the rest of the cousins to museums, zoos, the beach, movies everywhere during hot summers in Chicago.

When I gave birth to my two eldest children, she was the one who picked me up from the hospital. She was always there for me with a kind word, a hug and most importantly, love. When I was a young adult and would be hanging out in the old neighborhood she still lived in, when it got too late for public transportation, she would let me spend the night. She didn’t have to be bothered with me but she chose to. My goodness when I think about the love I received from her, I cry.

On the day of her funeral, I deliberately took the longest route to the funeral home because I didn’t want to be there but I had to. Walking down the hall to where her funeral was being held was the longest walk of my life. It’s been four years since she became an ancestor and in some ways, her death was harder on me than my mother’s death because childishly, I really believed that she would live forever.

Sitting Between My Ladies
Rosemary the Diva

Monday I received a phone call from my cousin Mark and he told me that his big sister, Rosemary had died. I was speechless for several minutes because my brain had stopped. Not Rosemary. Not my Rosemary. Eventually I was able to speak and was able to give him my condolences while crying incoherently. I heard the pain and the tears in his voice as we mourned deeply over the phone and I told him to get some rest and that I loved him. I put down the phone and let out a primal scream that brought my daughter running into my room.

She said “Mama what’s wrong!” And I screamed “Rosemary is dead boo. She’s gone.” And another chapter in my life ended. My mother didn’t have any daughters besides me but my cousin Rosemary was my big sister and I loved her.

Rosemary was the eldest daughter of my Aunt Carrie and she was a year older than my brother Randy who was born in 1960. She was the ultimate diva, always fly, hair whipped, smelling good and I wanted to be like her when I grew up. She was my inspiration for going into the clerical field because she was a legal secretary making big bank and power moves during the 80s.

She was one of most generous, kind, and funny souls I had the privilege of knowing and I was blessed to have her in my life. She was 63 years old when she left for the ancestral world on Monday and she will be missed because she was a hell of a woman.

The above ladies were my blood kin and my other mamas. They loved and nurtured me and I miss them fiercely. But I’m not the only person in the Black community who has or had other mamas who impacted their lives and we need to give these ladies their flowers for being such a huge part of the Black experience.

The Black community would have ceased to exist centuries ago if wasn’t for the contributions of these loving, kind, selfless women who loved hard but didn’t a have a problem with busting an irate fool upside the head if necessary. Bow down to the queens in your life. Because I do every day for my ladies who are no longer here but will live forever in my heart.