Friday, May 06, 2005

Been thinking about audacity -- and "speaking only in declarative sentences ...

and realizing that there is some need to re-state context here. There may be readers who haven't the foggiest notion that the voice being expressed here is that of a descendant of a slave great-grandmother -- the loving grandmother who raised my mother and whom I knew into my own adulthood. She, Leontine Breaux Allen, was born in 1846 and died in 1948 -- in her 102nd year. At the time of her death I was 27 years-old and the mother of 3 of what would become my family of 4 children. My mother, Lottie Allen Charbonnet, lived from 1894 until 1995, after celebrating her 101st birthday. I will celebrate my own active still productive 84 years on the planet in September of this year. We've, collectively, seen an awful lot of life. For me slavery, Jim Crow, blatant racism, are not abstractions -- but major influences in the life filled with the effects of this country's greatest unfulfilled promises. These pages may be a statement of what the costs to the spirit may have been, but I cannot be the judge of that. You must be.

But -- I do get to speak in declarative sentences!

I make no pretense at objectivity nor do I make any attempt at bending truth to serve some prescribed goals. There's no one left to impress. I've outlived all of the naysayers in my life and can speak freely without fear of retribution or loss of status in the family or in the greater society.

The experiences here have been highly colored by the events lived as a black woman in a world twisted by racism and political expediency. Having survived all of that through the powers of disassociation, I suppose, in these later years I find myself still sitting on a reservoir of justifiable anger, but with the ability to stand outside myself and witness my own process. That's come with age and no small amount of quiet self-confidence, fiercely fought for and eventually won. That's taken a long lifetime, some pain and, at times, tragic heartbreak. But as the song says, "I'm still here!"

Hopefully, there are lessons here to my progeny to add to those of our ancestors who've trodden these boards before I entered stage left in 1921. Having lived at a time bracketed by slavery, Jim Crow, the Great Depression, World War II, the smug Fifties and the turbulent Sixties of the Civil Rights revolution -- the assassinations of two Kennedys and one King, on into the Human Potential Movement of the 70-80s and beyond into the crossing into another century and the Information Age -- I get to leave my own roadmap through that wilderness into the now. I lived all of those periods as an open vessel; deeply and with passion.

No life has been identical to mine.

No other lives have been identical to anyone else's.

We're one-of-a-kind people, each with a story worth telling.

These writings are simply a record of time as I lived it, or, at least as read by the events that drew me in and shaped the world in which I move.

So saying ... she wrote on ... .

Photo: My mother, Lottie Allen Charbonnet, at the age of 95 dancing at a luau on a holiday in Hawaii. A few weeks after my father, Dorson Louis Charbonnet, died -- we sent her off-shore for the first time in her life to see the world. She'd spent many years caretaking and it was time. A niece, Victoria Balugo Jones, accompanied her on the great adventure. This was a far cry from Welcome Post Office, St. James Parish, Louisiana! She lived another 6 years. This is surely a fine example of the irrepressible Creole spirit.

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