Jamie Mayes, AOE

Motherhood & Gardening: For Mother’s Day

In Culture, life, motherhood, parenting, Uncategorized on May 13, 2017 at 3:35 am

 

easterA seed was planted

I nurtured it

Started off nervously

Unsure of the process

Worried about the results

Hoping I was doing everything the right way

 

Plenty of water

Plenty of sunlight

Plenty of love

Plenty of time

Plenty of faith

Plenty of patience

 

I prune you continuously

Cutting back the excess

Cultivating your roots

For full, bountiful, abundant

Stems that reach far out and up to the sky

And bask in the sunlight

 

The pure joy of seeing my seed blossom

Of seeing the fruit of my harvest

The blessing to share you with others

Who are so happy to see you grow

Who pluck not your fruit

And break not your stems

 

What a wonder you are

Bringing beauty to my life

Giving me joy once undiscovered

Good for my heart and my soul

Before my very eyes you grow

Fruitfully, wonderfully, perfectly made

 

©Copyright 2017 by Jamie Mayes

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My Ancestors’ Garden

In Uncategorized on March 17, 2017 at 6:27 am

This year I made the decision to take my garden from a pot to a yard gardening experience. For the past few days, I have been spending the evenings working vigorously to remove eight deep-rooted tree stumps with deep roots in front of my house. Yes, this is an odd place to plant vegetables, but I think it will be a beautiful little spot of color right next to the front door. Besides, my backyard boasts three large trees that limit sunlight, so the front yard is the best place. It seems strange, but I trust that it will be a beautiful site in a few weeks. I had imagined the root-digging to be a difficult task, so much so that I had initially asked a man with a small excavator to remove the roots. Yet, a year later the roots were still bulging from the ground and I needed to prepare my area. The rain had softened the ground and I knew the soggy soil would be much easier to navigate, so I took advantage of it. The mud was easy to dig and sling around, but the roots proved to be just as challenging as I suspected. I had determination, though, so I fought through one root at a time, using the tip of my shovel to break and smash through roots.

After attacking the second root and about thirty minutes into my project, a surge of pain began moving through my back. I struggled to bend over, but I was determined not to let pain stop my progress. I continued to try to break the roots, using my hand from time to time to pull chunks of dirt, grass and roots up. After a few minutes longer, I needed a break. I went to the trunk of my car, got a bottle of water and leaned on the hood. I guzzled it down like the chilly afternoon was a scorching hot summer day. I looked at my project in dismay; my progress was small in comparison to what seemed like a lot of work and effort put into the project.

How did they do it? I thought to myself. How could my ancestors have possibly tilled, dug, shoveled and planted hundreds of acres by hand whether it was hot, cold, rainy or snowing outside. I had been at my task for a little less than an hour and my body was already in excruciating pain. My ancestors, on the other hand, worked at least twelve and up to twenty hours per day during harvesting season. This was hard, back-breaking work for which I cannot imagine fair compensation. And my ancestors had done this for free for hundreds of years on plantations across the world.

I stared at the ground again and anger and disappointment ran through me. How could America not celebrate the culture and honor the people who not only fed the people of this land, but built this country brick by brick? How dare this country reduce our more than 400 years of American history to three pages in a textbook! It is difficult imagine how Black History is not truly seen and respected as American History. Look what they had endured for the sake of this country! As pain continued to flow my body, so did anger. I could see images of black women with newborns strapped to their backs tilling and planting endless acres of land. I could see the sun beaming on the lash-beaten backs of old black men who were stooped over picking cotton with huge burlap bags dragging behind. I could see them on a tattered porch eating biscuits and pig’s feet with greens from a dog’s pan. Scenario after scenario played in my mind; all I could think about was how hard it must’ve been for my ancestors to just survive. But they did.

There had to be something greater that pushed them each day, because this type of body-deteriorating work was enough to make any man succumb to natural death. They didn’t just survive slavery; they survived being beaten, being fed scraps of food, being berated, belittled, raped and help captive. They survived hell, still believing that better days were ahead. Though they had nothing, they did not give up.  It stirred my spirit to imagine my ancestors who were born into slavery, lived in slavery, and died still in slavery; yet, America still holds tBackyard Vegetable Garden Design Plansheir stories captive. They won’t let our tongues tell the world of the burdens black people bore for this country. They deny us the privilege of a history that is respected like the Holocaust and held with high regard like the words of the U.S. Constitution.

However, after this experience, I am even more determined to not be quiet. I will study every book, I will listen to every story, and I will teach every child about the real American History. I will teach my son that he is blessed to be black and that survival comes to him naturally because it is a part of the black American bloodline. Lastly, I will till this garden with no complaints, and I will use its harvest to nourish my family and friend’s bodies. I will make no complaints about the work, for what I do by choice each day, my ancestor did for centuries with no options. I have accepted that America will never respect my ancestor’s story, which is exactly why I always will.

What My Toddler Taught Me about Love and Reciprocity

In Uncategorized on February 20, 2017 at 6:58 am

A few weeks ago, Lee3 and I arrived home after I had spent the day on the highway, and he had spent the day with his grandmother. It had been a tough few weeks for both of us. He was battling the misery of strep throat. I was trying to maintain work and travel while fretting over whether I made the right decision to go on my television interview while my son was still ill. My sleep was deprived, my body was teetering on exhaustion, and this night was no different from others. While I tried to pretend that work and woes were not getting the best of me, it seemed that my son could still tell his mama was tired. I dragged our things from the car, sat them on the floor in the living room, and then came to my bedroom. My son followed, saying very little as his little steps alternated with mine on the tile throughout the house. I sat on the side of the bed and reached for him. He came over to give me a hug and then got down from my lap, went to my small night stand, got my pajamas, laid them on the bed and said “There, Mama.”

“Aw, thank you baby,” I said and leaned down to kiss his cheek.

I sat a few moments longer trying to decide what our next steps would be and how take care of the night’s tasks as quickly as possible. On the night stand next to the bed were the small nail clippers I had used to trim his fingers and toes the night before. Lee3 reached for the clippers and examined them for a minute. I started to grab them from him, but decided there was no harm in letting him play for a minute. Besides, they were closed and I was sure he could not do anything with them. However, his little chubby fingers knew exactly how to open the clippers. I was intrigued, so I watched him. He grabbed my feet and started trying to clip my toe nails, as he had seen me do his so many times. I watched for a minute and then started laughing as his little fingers tickled the base of my feet. After a few minutes, I told him thank you and took the clippers away. He smiled and leaned in for some sugar. (A kiss.)

As I lay in bed later that night, I replayed that sweet moment in my head. My baby wanted to help his mama just as she helps him. He has watched my actions so closely that he knew I was sleepy, so I needed my pajamas. He saw the clippers and remembered that I had clipped his nails, so he wanted to do the same for me. My smile and kiss were the only approval he desired. My toddler son’s genuine act taught me a quick lesson about love and reciprocity.

So often, we spend our time and energy doing for and giving to others who do not give the same to us. We give our best because we love them, not because we expect anything in return. Yet, when we get nothing in return from those we love, we become frustrated and disappointed, questioning their love and loyalty. However, there comes a time when we must verbalize our expectations and require reciprocity. I thought about how young my son is, and how his desire was to do for me what I have done for him. He has seen the things I do for him, and as often as possible, he tries to do these same things for me- carry bags, help with dishes, help take out the trash, anything! If my two-year old can understand the art of giving and receiving, I had to ask myself why I often allow people to get away with not returning the same love I show them. Reciprocity does not mean that one is expecting others to give more than what is given to them; it is the expectation to at least give the same. This accounts for friendships, family-ships and romantic relationships.

This is not to imply that we should not invest in or bless others with no expectations. This is to suggest that we are to expect qualities like loyalty, commitment, honesty, truthfulness and sisterhood to be a two-way street, not a dead-end road. Therefore, when we seek to build relationships, we should seek relationships that require individuals to give and take, not give and give or take and take. In the end, the expectation of love and reciprocity is not about just about holding the ones we love accountable; it is also about maintaining self-balance through the reciprocal cycle of love. To remain emotionally and mentally healthy, we must always replenish what we put out with what we take in.

Yes, what seemed like a simple moment of sweetness between mother and son, became a deep moment of reflection, and subsequently, an opportunity to grow. I gave my son my love and he showed me his appreciation through reciprocity. If a two-year old gets it, can’t we get it, too?

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