Chapter 1 - Etched
A Time For Everything
Gina Pearl Fields
“Everything got its time.” That was my Aunt Bess’ favorite saying. It didn’t matter what life threw her way, she always said, “Everything got its time.” It didn’t make sense to ask her when that time was ‘cause all she would say was, “God’s time. His time is not ours. Have faith.”It was all about faith for her; faith and Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. If you ever appeared to question God and His timing, she would snatch her bible, which was always within arm’s reach, turn to the page and point. No one ever read where she was silently pointing. We knew what it said. Those verses described the women in our family. We’d lived every line.
A time to be born (Giving birth is what started most of the women in this family down one rough road or another).
And a time to die (When the women of this family died, they took your heart and soul with them, leaving you to re-evaluate living).
A time to plant (We were gardens always ready to be planted. None of us ever refused a baby seed. It was one of these baby seeds that was responsible for bringing the curse on us).
And a time to pluck up what is planted (I was the only one ever to be plucked up and sent away from Promise Land. Before that, every female in this family grew into her own right there. The curse was there. They all knew about it. Was told about it yet none escaped it.
Every woman did her fighting and struggling, trying to break the curse right there in Promise Land. How could they not; the place was called Promise Land after all. To hear my Aunt Bess tell it, the place, at times was their Canaan as well as their wilderness).
A time to kill (God kept His hands on us. If it wasn’t for Him, a few men, and some women too, would have met Him through us).
And a time to heal (Since everything had its time, we knew that eventually the hurt would heal, but until then we licked our wounds, nursed our pain, and prayed the H-U-R-T prayer. Help Us Run This race. We prayed our H-U-R-T prayer ‘till healing showed up).
A time to break down (The breaking down started with my daughter; after that it hung in the air waiting for the next one whose hurt ran deep and for whom escape seemed impossible).
And a time to build up (Aware of the “break-down” hovering over us, we stayed strong ‘cause we knew the journey back was rough).
A time to weep (We wept so often, I’m sure there’s a river in heaven called “The Mighty Greenwood”).
And a time to laugh (We laughed to stay one step ahead of the “break-down”).
A time to mourn (Mourning is never easy. Once you get pass the first one, it gets a little easier; never easy, just easier).
And a time to dance (We danced; it kept us from mourning too, too long).
A time to throw away stones (My mother treated me like a dirty stone. She didn’t have a glass house so she didn’t worry, nor look when or where she threw me).
And a time to gather stones together (I was never gathered back. I promised myself after that no daughter of Promise Land would ever know what it feels like not to be gathered back home).
A time to embrace (We embraced and how).
And a time to refrain from embracing (Some of us, because of those hard life lessons, learned quickly about refraining from embracing, but others…).
A time to seek (And did we seek. Not all the seeking was done by us, sometimes people sought us out).
And a time to lose (Those losses made us thankful for our gathering place).
A time to keep (Some of us failed to recognize when something was a keeper).
And a time to throw away (Not all of us got ‘A time to keep’ right so we often kept what should have been thrown away).
A time to tear (Sometimes we, the daughters of Greenwood, did this and it wasn’t always strangers we tore up).
And a time to sew (Love of family is the best thread to use to repair tears of any kind).
A time to keep silence (If we’d gotten this right, our journey to peace would have been much quicker and quieter, a lot less kicking and screaming).
And a time to speak (Because we never learned when the right time to be silent was; tearing, temper, and temperance kept us talking even when we should have been quiet).
A time to love (We lived to love even though it sometimes caused us agonizing pain. That’s where that H.U.R.T prayer came in handy).
And a time to hate (No one in particular taught us to hate. However, living, loving, and losing did. Losing and weeping kept it around).
A time for war (Mine started with my mother finding, gathering, and clinging to a husband and tossing me to the wind so she could get her “Happy Ever After”. She and I never battled, but the pain of that rending stayed with me forever).
And a time for peace (There’s no moment like when you realize that you’ve found it. It’s like walking in warm summer rain).
Chapter 1 of Rend
Torn - Andrea Matti Hirsh Greenwood
The dance was over and with a child in my hand, I was trying to figure out what I’d fallen into. It was the ravine created the day my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Milkweed cried her heart out before she stepped back into her cabin because she knew the step she would take before she took it. After having cried her eyes out, she took her foot and drew a line in the sand when she decided to give up her chances at following freedom to follow love instead. Had she not felt so tied to him and had simply kept her promise to her mother, I wouldn’t be trying to dig myself out of some un-nameable hole as I braced myself for an unenviable climb up the side of this blasted, ragged, rugged mountain called hard life with a child tethered to me. A child that even though right now is quiet, not asleep, just quiet, I can feel isn’t going to make one step of this journey easy for me.
As much as I didn’t want to, I had to remember that just like me and all Greenwood women, she had his blood and because of that, the curse was still hanging over our heads waiting for a woman with that Fields blood coursing through her veins to break it. His blood brought it in and his blood must take it out.
As I stood at the banks of this tear-filled ravine surrounding the mountain, I heard a song in my head. It wasn’t the freedom song heard by Milkweed, nor was it a collective symphony of excited voices exiting the hated and horrible conditions of slavery. The music I was hearing was erratic. It sounded like something only the devil and his henchmen—minus or actually it might be plus one, named Hamilton, could play and dance to. It was similar to the music I’d heard the day of my labor, which was intense and as it reached a feverish crescendo, I’d pushed out a baby that was proving that not all babies have faces that even if no one else loved, they could be assured of their mother’s.
My baby had taken the hope of every ugly baby and dashed it to the ground. I was having difficulty that couldn’t even be explained to find the place where I could see me lovingly caressing and caring for that face. As I looked at the slivers and fragments of my now-shattered dream of a bright and carefree future scattered all around her, I shuddered. Where did this ugly baby come from? Surely not from me? No sooner had I asked the questions than I knew the source of her ugliness. She was making gushing and cooing sounds at my baby; Mrs. Trindle. By giving her weak, hateful son Hamilton her ugly-gorilla genes, he had, with all his hate and insecurities, pushed this baby into me.
I heard a faint cry. I opened my eyes. I wasn’t in my room. Daddy and Mrs. Trindle were still sitting on the couch and in their midst was the little gorilla-child that had fought me every inch of the way to be born. She was crying a demanding cry and the more she cried, the more I realized that Cornbread’s dream had to be realized. A woman in this family must enter somebody’s college and walk out with the fulfillment of dream: an education.
I watched as Daddy and Mrs. Trindle sat with her and, succumbing to the blindness of love, sunk deeper and deeper into their state of blissful denial about the true ugliness of my baby. As I looked at them, I wondered what would become of my life with a baby that I had to prepare myself to defend when I didn’t know how to defend myself. This wasn’t what life was supposed to be like for me. I was supposed to be on the threshold of fulfilling the dream of a slave who was willing to sacrifice everything for book learning.
The deeper Daddy and Mrs. Trindle sunk into their murky abyss of grandparent-hood, the more my hatred for Hamilton grew. At the very thought of him, a searing pain of anger and resentment shot through me. This baby, his child, would stand as a constant reminder that he, with one cruel, hate-filled act, had snatched me from the path of my destined joy-filled journey and placed me at the tail-end of time. I determined in my heart, and with the same tenacity of this child that had struggled against me to be born, that I would find a way to get back to the place where I would break this generational curse that had derailed the dreams of every woman of this lineage.
There was a way back. I had to find it even if it meant searching on my hands and knees with this child strapped to my back. Either way, come hell or high water, I was finding it. I had to. A lot of people, including this mirror of Hamilton and his mother, were depending on me. I closed my eyes and prayed. Even after I was done praying, I kept them closed for a long time. I was hoping that when I opened them again, I would be in my room the day before I tried to make Hamilton happy.