A Seat at the Table

Music is one of the few things that can liven up a living room, bring a crowd to the dance floor and set the mood for any event. Some may have never stepped foot in a juke joint but if the DJ played ‘Hole in the Wall’ by Mel Waiters or ‘Let’s Stay Together’ by Al Green, I’m sure one would easily catch the beat with a head bob, finger snap or foot tap. When I would visit the parentals, Baytown’s own Rhythm and Blues singer, Buddy Ace, stayed in heavy rotation on the speakers. Whether we were lounging at the house, heading to the corner store or needing a shoulder to cry on, his tunes took us on a journey of memories and good times. As much as music has expanded in today’s times, sometimes we can’t help but go back to those deep-rooted songs that touches the soul every now and again. It’s like music has a special key to your innermost feels and each time a song or artist plays, you rekindle those special memories and you’re reminded of its significance each time the notes are hummed or piano keys are played. In the same manner, there are special people who enter our lives leaving their special mark on us forever and a day. You think of the memories, “the good ‘ol days”, life’s lessons, the good times.

My daddy transitioned 12/2/2020 and the weeks after I questioned how to make sense of it all. I felt sad, anxious, hurt and angry all in one. Places we had yet to go and photographic moments that a father/daughter will no longer get to share. 2 months later and I’m still wrapping my head around it all while slowly coming to the realization that my daddy is really gone. My mama had the idea of taking a few shelves and creating a shrine, a set-up with a collection of memories. I thought, what a great idea! I decided to turn one of my glass end tables in the living room to his own shrine, featuring sympathy cards, the piece I wrote and shared at his service titled, ‘Daddy Knows Best’, a candle with his picture, a bundle of yellow flowers to aid in sunshine and a 5×7 picture showcasing his classic stature, style and smile. Some days I’ll take a seat nearby just to gaze, write and reflect. And when the tears fall, I simply let them flow. I miss him daily. I step outside the box and imagine how a wife feels through this process, children/grands having to fill in other roles, friends who were closer than a brother, loved ones who miss his shit talking and just his presence. Through this journey I’ve leaned on friends even more and take it one day at a time. Some days are up, other days are blah but having that support system makes it easier. You’re reminded to remain grateful for the experiences, life lessons, recipes and photos to share a laugh or two.

One day I was at the table eating and burst into laughter as I was reminded how every now and again I’d receive a random phone call from him about what letter came in the mail with my name on it and could he open it. “Uhh, no!” I would think to myself, “the nosey nerve of him!” Or the times he’d visit my many apartments and as soon as he walked in the door he’d start looking in closets or head straight to the kitchen just to leave with a plate of food or snacks from the pantry. The amount of preparation he put into seasoning a slab of ribs (or anything he did) and the little things to take care of home were notable. The rude awakening of knowing life can be here one day, gone the next and no one is exempt. 2020 was on its last leg and tougher times were ahead so one of my goals for 2021 was to brush up on my craft of writing and storytelling and preparing for my 1st book release! *screams* No title yet, though.

After being off work for about 1½ months, the transition back became a silent struggle trying to find the balance while keeping myself afloat. Shortly after, life came knocking again and exactly 2 months after my daddy’s passing, my God-daddy transitioned on 2/2/2021. The amount of tears that poured my cheeks between the 2 months left me in a daze. Growing up from baby steps to lady steps, my parents and God-parents have always been neighbors and it’s been a beautiful blessing to watch their friendship blossom over the years. My daddy and God-daddy were both Virgo men, they were different yet so much alike: intelligent, hardworking, reliable and honest with a nosey sense of humor. The women, my mama and God-mama, were nicknamed Laverne and Shirley resembled after the 1970’s comedic sitcom. If one called, the other came and they stuck together. Overtime we all became family and my God-parents became part of my village. If I had gotten in trouble at school or did something I shouldn’t have, I knew an hour-long lecture was coming from my God-parents about what I did, why I did it and how that decision could impact the next. Some days I was over all that talking but I knew I couldn’t avoid the discussion and taking a seat at the table. After all, they lived across the street and never hesitated to *knock knock knock*, walk right in to borrow some rice or sugar, squeeze a laugh in with the parentals then head back across the street.

During the summer months before I started freshman year of high school, I had to decide between staying in band or playing sports. I played the clarinet throughout Jr. High, learned to read sheet music, made the Honors Band and participated in a few school competitions so it was a no-brainer to continue my craft in high school. On the 1st day of band practice, all the incoming and returning band members had to meet in the grass in front the school. The weather was in the high 90’s and we were there to practice songs and learn step formations. I’ve always been chocolate so it wasn’t hard to know that I melt in the heat. 😏 After a few hours, I refused to march up and down the field everyday sweating while still having to breathe the notes out my clarinet, memorize songs, take 2 steps up and 3 steps to the right. My Lord, I was an hour in and was over it! My little clarinet didn’t compare to the bass drums or leather straps the percussion team had to wear but I was hot and they wouldn’t be getting another day out of me because I had quit!

Word didn’t take long to spread in my family and before I knew it, I was getting called across the street to my God-parents’ house to take a seat at their table and get lectured. In my 14-year old mind, I didn’t see the big deal: quit something you don’t like and move on until you find what you do like. Simple. My decision was made and I wasn’t going back to march on nobody’s hot drum line. Well, I had to endure the lecture on giving band a fair chance, possibly regretting my decision later, what this experience teaches me about pushing through the challenges of life, etc., etc. My decision was still made and by this point my hand was scrunched up on my face, neck tilted in pain and was on my way to sleep but I continued to listen. My God-daddy always listened first and gave his final disposition last. He didn’t say many words but he spoke volumes in the words he chose. Whenever he didn’t agree with my decision he never shied away from letting me know why but always said the decision is ultimately mine. I later joined the volleyball and track and field teams and was glad to receive the same amount of support from the side lines.

I was asked to speak at my God-daddy’s service and wrote a piece titled, ‘A Seat at the Table’. When you sit at a table, a certain level of organization and structure takes place. No specific type of table but when you think of any table, it’s a place everyone gathers for a common purpose of eating dinner, playing dominoes, working on a project or having a business meeting. In the piece I shared stories of events that would take place when I visited my God-parent’s home and the times we gathered at the table. Some days I’d pop in, notebook in hand, for a simple breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, a piece of toast with a few slaps of jelly and a glass of milk. Other days we’d eat whatever sugar-free candy that was on the table and talk about school, work, my love life or what the Houston Texans did that week. It was an honor to pay tribute to him and share what A Seat at the Table meant to me then and how those teachings still apply today.

He said once, it’s not what you say but how you say it and explained certain discussions are hard to hear because it’s the truth and we don’t always like to listen. He explained, when you love somebody, whether a spouse or friend, you tell them the truth anyway and let it come from a place of love. They may not receive it the first time around but if it’s coming from a genuine place, they’ll come back around.

Happy Black History Month,

Corrita