There are several passages in “A Reason For Being” where my sister makes her appearance. During that time in 2011, she wasn’t able to attend the funeral because as Registered Nurse, it was more difficult to find the time off, and also she (along with her husband) was running around after their young children. So instead, she became my guidance via our texts.
As I navigated my way around the events of my aunt’s funeral, Jackie and I were able to talk shit about the things that were happening, and no one around me knew any better. My Aunt Vicky did because she paid attention to my facial expressions. In fact, I type this, Jackie and I are texting one another about eyelash extensions and how some women pile them on so much that it makes them look as though they have cockroach legs for eyelashes.
When I workshopped pieces of “A Reason For Being”–my fellow colleagues often noted on Jackie’s presence, and how she was at the events, but not really there–and it was through her texts that they were able to distinguish her character and voice from all the others. In one particular scene between my mom and I, Jackie’s voice was first made known:
“I opened my hotel door and the sight before me made me gasp. Standing with her luggage was my mother. I had the urge to wrap a robe around her. She had shaved her head and the new growth showed stubs of gray hair. Her face, round as a Chinese Moon cake, and her almond shaped eyes, could have made her pass for a Buddhist monk. As I stood looking at her, iPhone in hand, I automatically began texting my sister Jackie, without losing sight of my mother. Shit. Mom shaved head. Looks like a monk.”
“Frozen, I stood and watched her unpack—ignoring Jackie’s text: Aww hell to the naw. Love you and all. Ain’t gonna shave my head for yo ass.”
“Jackie, who is a registered nurse, once told me that we shouldn’t rely on our mother for any organ transplants should any one of us needed one, because our mother had absolutely none to give, ‘that woman has lost about every organ humanly possible! How the hell can one person do that? Well, our mother did!'”
Jackie is my check and balance, and she is also my Storytexter. What I mean by this centers on the idea of memory, and how such memories are different for each person. When we were growing up, the stories my Grandmother told us evolved throughout time. In fact, they evolved each night when my grandmother told us these stories. Jackie reminded me that when my grandmother wanted to imply a moral code, she would embed such morality into her storytelling.
An example of this is that Jackie remembered a different ending to the Virgin Mary story. Jackie texted that the daughter, “turned into a waterfall when she stepped foot outside the house to remind the mother of her selfishness!” and “so every time the mother would see the waterfall, she was reminded that she was selfish for keeping her daughter hostage and that she would cry next to the waterfall! Because the waterfall was a symbol of her daughter’s tears of loneliness being cooped up in the house!” I remembered that the ending was the mother and father died, while the daughter lived having to remember her selfishness and choosing a boy over her parents.
Another story that the Storytexter remembered made both of us laugh. The story was about “a vain woman who was attracted to a handsome men who were broke AF (that’s Jackie insertion of ‘as fuck’–my grandmother would never say such things, but in this day and age, that is exactly what our grandmother meant),” –at this point, I texted back ‘LMFAO,’—“and one day she met a man who wasn’t the most attractive. His face was lopsided and his eyes were crooked. But he was nice and ambitious… and he wasn’t broke. She realized that she couldn’t live with a mean handsome unemployed loser (again, Jackie’s modern description) so she started talking to the ugly man. They fell in love and lived happily ever after…. and Lola Fe said, ‘I don’t care if he has one eye and it’s on his chin, if he’s nice and has money, marry him!’ and she gestured on her chin where his eye was at! and then she said, ‘I don’t care if his eye is here or there or here!'” and Jackie went on to text “And, I was like…. glad it’s not next to that mole of hers!” My grandma had a mole on her chin, and when we were little, we loved to play and poke at it. Now, I wonder if we had hurt it and her.
As we continued to text, we began to realize that the storytelling time that my grandmother spent with us were always filled with moral codes, and they were prescriptive with wisdom of a wise woman hoping that her grandchildren will make choices in life that would make them happy.
Jackie and I also realized that, perhaps, those stories were often targeted not at her grandchildren, but anyone around us who was listening. It was another way our grandmother would express her disapproval or approval for whatever situation that was going on around us, and as children, we never quite understood the moral of the story.
But, Jackie and I are both sure that whoever was the recipient of our grandmother’s message must have realized the true intention behind her stories.
And, I imagine that the recipient slowly, and ever so quietly walked out of the room unnoticed.