Wednesday, August 31, 2011


I hate that word, effing baggage. Hated it most in the months nearing Valentine's days, anniversaries with (now) exes, in conversations with friends as we scoured the bony remains of an ex-to-be. "that [expletive + adjective + noun] had baggage..."

I certainly had baggage. And so, I'd hold my nose up sheepishly. Pretend whomever we were ranting about really wasn't shit. A hater, even. Guffaw.

I'd cringe hearing the phrase when given my "it's not you, it's me speech" by whatever long-legged wave cap wearer I was in love with at any given moment, explaining how my clingyness was the sole contributor of our demise. Most times it wasn't. Most times however, they were right, at least, about my baggage; my clingyness.

Baggage pretty much sucks. It inhibits relationships to come; professional, personal, and if these relationships ever occur at all. Sometimes they scare love away. Sometimes it ain't the love you needed it to be anyway. Sometimes though, a love that could have been. A love that should have been.

In the height of Mummi's illness (1987, or thereabouts), she had this thing going on about race, ethnicity and separation. I listened as she explained what sounded like the creation story. She wanted me to get that I belonged in a certain place, with certain people. She wanted me to earn discernment, community. Kind of. She wanted me to understand placehood, a genre of being. Kind of. She interpreted hierarchy in race, class and wanted to put me in a safe place. Perhaps that was it mostly.

She also had a theory on relationships. I'll spare this story simply to say: it would have been a dangerous path if I stayed at home, spent my adolescence as a prophet of this kind of reality. I was made for more.

Reminder: Mummi wasn't on meds. She was again in a heightened state. Some All of her analogies were off. Confusing. And I was young. Small. Struggling. I accepted what she had to say as a type of truth. The best she could muster. It involved self-loathe of blackness, self-loathe of mixedness, self-loathe of bilingualism. And a promotion of all three at once. I accepted it in that way that a small child accepts the words of his/her mother.

I gauged that perhaps every third word of her relationship theory could have been right, maybe. I sheared her story of it's violence, it's sexual shame, its fearfulness. I extracted what seemed to be the most approachable of her analogy as truth. Clingyness seemed ok enough. Maybe that was how a woman should be.

I accepted her other truths, the ones about race and class, embarrassedly. I deferred to others who were "blacker", "more mixed", more functionally bi/trilingual. There was nearly no room for me to be enough of much. This feeling of not-enough-ed-ness evolved into fear of those who were enough. I moved away from Mummi and to a more homogenous environment that was nearly entirely black. I went to a school that was nearly entirely white. I was so uncool in both places I became self concious about clapping off-beat and speaking grammatically incorrect, depending upon where I was, with whom, when. No one wants to be an oreo.

Race became my baggage until it became my obsession/fascination. Relationships remained a curious thing. They still are. Even as I've grown up and into myself.

My arms get tired, all this damn baggage. I accept that I'm still working through what I learned en route.

And it aint Mummi's fault. It kind of can't be. But its my baggage. Mine.

And someday I hope I get it right. Drop it off, and move the hell on.