As the days of 2020 melt into one another, Erykah Badu’s song “On & On” replays in my head. The song was released in 1997, the year my eldest son was born, and I hadn’t listened to it (or the album Baduizm) in a long time. Listening now, in what seems like a warped version of the movie Groundhog Day, I’m transported back into the rented brick house where I walked in circles with an infant in my arms.
I had no idea what I was doing. The matriarchs in my family lived far away, and I had no close friends who were also mothers. For perspective, I thought about all the pregnant women and new mothers throughout history. Women who trusted their bodies and instincts instead of books and Lamaze classes. They had elders too, and eventually midwives. But when I saw myself as one bead on the string of mothers throughout history, I gained a new inner strength. I believed I could be a good mother.
Around the same time, I decided to–one day–tell my story of the car crash. My goal was to influence others not to drive under the influence, or help them through the aftermath of making the same (or similar) mistake. There was a long road ahead–I had barely started the work toward healing–but I held the seed of an idea.
Seeds and Trees
I’m pretty good at not giving myself credit where credit is due. There’s many reasons for this, but one has to do with the shame I felt after the crash. While I wanted to turn my trauma into something that helped others, I equally felt I didn’t deserve any good in my life. My emotions and my intellect were at odds with one another (and would remain that way for years). So, I compromised, and threw my seed into the wind.
Twenty-three years later, in the midst of a pandemic, I watch that seed branch out in ways I never anticipated. As I sit here, my instinct is to say, “I’m glad I sent those emails last January.” The truth is: “I’m glad I decided in 1997 to one day tell my story and help others.” If I could go back in time, I would reassure my younger self to believe in the tree before she ever saw the first sprout.
My eldest son is now on his own artistic path. His younger brothers are experiencing the first remote-learning school year in history. I’m doing what I’ve been doing since 1997: juggling kids, writing, and a career. But my long ago planted seed is now a tree. And as 2020 turns toward fall, I continue my juggling act with Badu singing in the background, “The world keeps turnin’ / Oh, what a day / What a day, what a day.”
Quote and photo by author. All rights reserved.