Today is my 26th birthday – I hope you haven’t forgotten – and this birthday is not like any before it. I sit here today the same age as you when we first locked eyes and began our unconditional love affair. I want to first and foremost thank you for being my mom. Thank you for not only accepting my quirks, but applauding them, even when you thought they were completely odd. I thank you for putting the fear of God in me when I said “I can’t” and always being my parent instead of my friend, especially during those awkward hormonally high teen years.
When I think about our current lives, I can’t help but recognize the extreme differences. By your 26th birthday, you had graduated from college, married your high school sweetheart, and were 5 months pregnant. Here I am with no marriage proposal in the near future, happily sharing a residence with a 10 pound puppy and drinking out of the juice carton because I have no one to domestically consider. As you decided between a career in law and education, I have no interest in either and hope to rule my realm with one article and controversial tweet at a time.
Somehow, with all of the stereotypically female responsibilities such as family chef extraordinaire and house decoration curator, coupled with your career, you embody all the characteristics of a strong and beautiful feminist – too modern for your early adulthood.
I now appreciate more than ever that you never allowed me to be anything that I was not and you fought for my freedom to express my opinions outwardly. Even when others – many of the them family members – thought it was not “appropriate” for a “young woman” to be as outspoken as I was, and continue to be.
My childhood was full of blunt conversations where you never tried to water down the truth of your past because you wanted me to be better, to do better. You guided and supported me as I experienced opportunities that you never received, due to financial restrictions and societal constraints. As a black girl attending a newly desegregated private school, you spent many nights aware of your social position within school functions because the mental and psychological segregation thrived in the all white hallways of your school. You were taught to be thankful for your blessings and to fight inequalities with silence and good grades. Your rights were stripped because others were too scared to stand up to the verbal abuse you faced in classrooms and bus rides.
However, you refused for that to be my burden. You expected greatness even when I could not see my own talents and pushed me to speak even when I was scared to stand out. My voice, my opinions, my freedom would not be where it is today, if it were not for that 26 year old woman who promised that my presence as a woman of color would be born into a different future than that of her own.
I can never forget the profound impact that Dad had on my understanding of female power as well. You chose to marry a man who supported your voice and the development of my own. Dad always applauded my rebelliousness and stood by you as my strong will was fed with books, knowledge, and non diluted stories of our ancestry. Because of the relationship between you both, I know that my voice is not only worthy but deserves to be loved, not by everyone, but the right person that finds it stimulating – on multiple levels – and thought provoking. My future partner will never stop my verses, but push me to make them louder.
So to the 26 year old Darcell, who became a mother to a laughing baby rebel in the winter of 1988, I am so proud of you. I am so proud of the woman that you could not be as a young lady and the woman you became despite all of the societal pressures swirling around you. I am more than proud to be the daughter that you, sometimes forcefully, vowed would be a stronger and louder fighter.
Mom, I have failed at so many things in my life but I will I never let my voice be silenced. There are not enough thank you’s in the world to prove my appreciation for all of the lectures, the encouragement, and the high expectations that you set for my academic and professional future.
Your sacrifices will never be forgotten or ignored.
PS- “I love you forever, I like you for always, for ever and always, my Mama you will be” – Robert Munsch