A 360 Degree Viewpoint

I had just leff from visiting my mom for the weekend. As our wonderful visit was nearing its end, we began to talk like schoolgirls in anticipation of our next visit, Mother’s Day weekend. Seems like it was just the other day when we were enjoying our Mother’s Day time last year…

I had recently performed my one-woman show, Timeless: My Journey; My Song (“TMJMS”) at an historically black college in Houston, Texas and was looking forward to celebrating Mother’s Day with Mom in the Chicago area. I had a few pressing matters to handle in my senior management role at work. My life had been busy those days given the fast-paced environments of both my music and law careers, and there was much planning to do on both fronts. Still, at the forefront of my mind were changes I had noticed in Mom.

I had often thought about these changes I’d seen in Mom. She seemed to have been unusually deep in thought and introspective lately. I knew she’d had a lot on her plate: vocal coach and spiritual advisor for TMJMS; care director for a sibling with recurring health issues, confidante to her grandchildren, pastor of a non-denominational church in Evanston, IL; CEO of a youth and family development non-profit organization, which she founded; and self-proclaimed worrier of each of her six grown children.

“What is it Ma’?” I had asked tenderly one day on one of our typical telephone calls. “What next?” Mom responded, wondering aloud. “Have I done enough? What is my legacy?” Here was a woman who had raised six college-educated children, each with their own gifts and talents. One who had mentored so many people; who had given so much hope to young children and who’d had such a rich and diverse life — from North Little Rock, Arkansas to Sacramento, California to the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois– as a national recording artist, minister and pastor. Now, this incredible woman whom I admired and cherished dearly my whole life was pondering what impact, if any, her life had left on her family and the world.

As I sat in my home office days later, I replayed this conversation with Mom. I could not conceive of how a woman who’d had such a huge impact on my life and the lives of her children, grandchildren, siblings, parishioners and community could not see the incredible legacy she had left in and through her children. I thought about how similar were our lives and thoughts, despite the thirty-two year age difference between us. I thought about how, when I look in the mirror or through my journey of a woman still evolving, I see my Mom’s eyes, her thoughts, her struggles.

As I looked back on my life, I remembered when I was a young girl who, “wise beyond her years,” knew how to articulate much more than she’d actually experienced. I thought about the successes and failures I’d had in my life’s journey and realized not that I was clever or lucky, but that it was Mommy’s seed growing stronger inside me every day. I thought about the wonderful gifts of voice and intuitiveness with which I have been blessed and about how Mom’s musical and emotional voices had inspired and mentored me. I thought about my love for education and learning and how that love was second nature to my being raised by a woman who honored and respected education, herself being raised by an educator. I thought about the Timeless Music Series, my own theme-based music volume of timeless music and how, like the music my Mom had written and produced, it tells a story that compels listeners to feel, to laugh, to love. I thought about TMJMS, the story of my inner woman evolving; the mirror of she who bore me. I thought about her legacy, the woman in the mirror and thought, “I am your legacy; I am because you are.”

I lunged at the telephone in my home office and soon heard that comforting singsong voice singing back at. “Hey Babe,” is what came through the telephone. “LET’S WRITE A BOOK!” is all I could immediately muster as I sat on the edge of my seat, smiling excitedly, staring at the receiver as if to see my mom — my mirror — smiling excitedly back at me.

“A book about us,” I continued both hopefully and excitedly. “About you and your legacy through me and the rest of your children. There are so many parallels between us, so very many.” Seeing the hope and longing in my eyes and, perhaps, seeking to encourage other mothers and daughters to share their legacies, she agreed to share this venture with me.

Sometimes when Mom would notice that a child (hers or another) or someone less experienced in a certain matter would try to instruct the more experienced person, she would say “That’s ‘Come Here’ telling ‘Been There.’” Now, as I think about this woman whom I have known so intimately for over four decades, and this journey of reverie on which we are about to embark, I am reminded of that wonderful expression and smile and it’s truth, relevance…and irony. From birth to young adulthood, she raised me and held me up. In womanhood, standing on the foundation that she placed under me, I endeavor to return the favor as she celebrates her golden years. And though our paths, which began in different decades, converged in some places and separated in others, our perspectives often met at the very beginning. So, whether it’s “Been There” telling “Come Here” or “Come Here” telling “Been There,” at the end of the day our journeys are one and the same–a three hundred and sixty-degree viewpoint. And boy am I enjoying the journey.

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