The Lesson I Learned on Self Love
The winter cards were made from scratch and attached to each one were M&M candy canes. It was a year ago, right after we bought our first home, my daughter and I had forgone our warm home to meet our new neighbors. As the first-African American family in the neighborhood, I wanted to make sure we made a great first impression. Before we had even completed our half-slide down the driveway my daughter was already reaching for the bag of treats. I put the bag in my other hand and told her we were giving these to the neighbors.
Half way through our trek, my daughter noticed the treats decreasing and instinctively grabbed one and held on tight. We marched on greeting each neighbor or leaving goodies on the doorknob disregarding the cold weather chill. As we got to the tenth and final house, I tried to get the treat out of my daughter’s hand before the neighbors could see, but the Dad was just walking out to his car. I handed it to him. As my daughter looked at me perplexed, my heart began to nudge that I had made a mistake. As we got to our door and my daughter reached for our door knob and said “candy”, I knew I had officially mom-blundered. What was I teaching my daughter?
Growing up as a minority in a predominately white neighborhood I remember my Dad going house to house greeting each neighbor. I remember my mom always making sure the kids who visited were well taken care of. In their time, their actions had kept us safe and prepared me well for corporate America. But here I was 25 years later, freezing my fingers for neighbors who couldn’t pronounce my last name. Why had my daughter not cried out when the treats were taken away? What was I teaching my daughter?
So, this holiday, change of plans. The neighbors are going to have a hard time finding us all December. On their morning walk, they’ll take a quick glance inside our window to make sure we have not succumbed to a life of crime and be pleasantly surprised with what they see: A large Christmas tree will be meticulously decorated with ornaments made from scratch and a large glass bowl will sit in the center of the formal table filled to the brim with M&M’s. Recalling the deliciousness from last year, they’ll knock on the door and casually mention the sweet treats. The daughter will start to head for the bowl, but the mother will stand in her way, and direct the neighbor to the deli up the street with lots of M&Ms. She will say “no, these are for us,” and close the door. The mom will grab the giant bowl of M&Ms and head for the couch, her daughter will follow imitating her mom’s new word, “no”. The mother will sit her daughter down and tell her the truth; the extra M&M’s in this world are not reserved for us brown girls. The mother will take the treats she bought with her own money and eat more M&Ms than she has had in her entire life. The daughter will trade perplexed for joyful as she joins in the feast.
Many years from now, the daughter will be walking to class at Harvard in the dead of winter and her fingers will start to freeze. She will instinctively stop and grab some M&Ms and the warm memories will come back to her; the crackling fire… her and her mother sprawled out on the couch…pajamas at noon…giggling at the doorbell rings…smirking at one another…the large empty glass bowl. As the daughter treks across campus, she will pop the first few M&Ms into her mouth that she bought with her own money and remember her mother’s prayerful words: …”eat every last one, baby girl, eat every last one”.