The older I get and more I meet people whose parents never saw fit to impart life skills upon them, the more I realize how many invaluable lessons I was taught growing up. A lot of things that I took for granted (making an egg, using a glass bottle to crack garlic skin) are things many people never learned.
In an effort to both express more gratitude and pass on tidbits others may identify with or find useful, I’m going to share these things in a regular feature I’m calling “Mom Monday”. I wrote the following January 19, 2012 in response to Whitney Houston’s passing. It was originally shared with just close friends, bt I decided to share it here.
It’s basically me recounting how Whitney’s music helped bond my mom and me, how I learned what a musical cover was and why I associate “I’m Every Woman” with my mom.
It’s exactly a week after the Grammys. I DVR’d it. I want to watch Jennifer Hudson’s tribute to Whitney Houston, but I haven’t been able to bring myself to watch it, yet.
When MJ died, I didn’t think the feeling of losing a major part of the soundtrack to my childhood could get as bad. It did when I found out Whitney had passed. I fully expected Whitney to overcome her previous battles, which I believe she had kicked, even if she had relapsed the night of her death. The toxicology report hasn’t come out, so her death could have have been accidental (prescriptions and a drink?). However she died, if she relapsed, I don’t think it had been long before she died. I expected Whitney to make a Million Dollar Bill + comeback. I’ve been having a tough time dealing with her passing. When MJ died, I avoided it so hardcore. I only listened to his music (partially) in award show tributes for a good couple years. This time around, I’m listening to Whitney. I don’t cry when I listen to TLC or Aaliyah, Rick James, but I’m crying now. I don’t know if it was the immediacy of finding out unexpectedly on Twitter that has kept me from avoiding Whitney’s death but I’m listening, and feeling. I’ve realized that for both MJ and Whitney, apart from being part of my childhood soundtrack, they’re a part of the soundtrack to my relationship with my mom.
When I was little, and I heard “I’m Every Woman,” something clicked. Just hearing the words “I’m every woman” was the first feminist flicker of my life. While my mom cooked dinner, we would listen to pop a lot. I listened to a lot of Janet and Whitney during those times. (The weekend was oldies and soca time.) I used to love watching my Mom sing while she cooked. When she would really get into a part, she would click her teeth together. It was funny, but she just looked so cool when she was enjoying herself. The first time I can remember listening to “I’m Every Woman” was with my mom. My mom to me was unequivocally a superhero back then. She knew so much about the music we listened to. When I heard Whitney say “Chaka Khan,” I was like, “Mom, what’s a Chaka Khan?”
“Who’s Chaka Khan?!” She looked at me incredulously, and proceeded to school me on how Chaka was the bomb, and this was her song. The strength of Whitney’s voice resonated with me, and I loved loved loved listening to Whitney with my mom for that reason. In my family, we had secrets. Over time when I heard Whitney so confidently singing those words, I would wonder to myself if everyone knew how strong my mom was. I felt like that was also some kind of secret. I wondered if everyone else knew my mom was a superhero. Even though, the song can be interpreted as a woman singing to her man as his subordinate, that wasn’t the way I understood it.
Whatever you want/Whatever you need/Anything you want done baby/I’ll do it naturally.
My mom’s cooking is and was SO good. She’s a natural at cooking. Whatever she made tasted fantastic, and it was like she did it effortlessly to my young self. “It’s all in me. It was like she held the secrets of cooking–anything.
I can cast a spell/Of secrets you can tell/Mix a special brew/Put fire inside of you.
What my mom, the superhero did with food was magic.
Anytime you feel danger or fear/Instantly I will appear, cause/I’m every woman.
Mom was a superhero. I knew stuff that went on in my family that my brother (and later on my sister) didn’t know. It was stuff my mom and I knew. My mom says that I used to be on eggshells around my dad (even though I was also a daddy’s girl). Even when things felt volatile, and I felt confused about what was going on, I Mom was there. Even if I didn’t always come to her, she was there. She was stoic, and I didn’t want to burden her with my worries about our family, but I knew she was there, being strong for us.
I ain’t braggin’/Cause I’m the one.
I never knew my mom to be a braggart, even though she did so much: cooked awesome food for us, kept us clothed, and paid the bills. Mostly on her own, as my dad was too consumed with his own extramarital, extracurricular and creative endeavors to keep his jobs.
On top of that, he ruled the family with an iron fist. That my mom was always on top of her game (and fashionable to boot) was amazing to me, yet she didn’t brag.
Just ask me/Oh,and it shall be done/And don’t bother to compare/I got it.
My mom had it. She had us. She had us together, without making a show of it. Even more so, after my parents broke up. My mom was, and still is every woman. Whitney’s passing has reminded me of that, and made me think of my childhood so much. With listening to her music has come the feelings from my childhood, and feelings about my mom.
My mom was a huge Mike fan, but when he passed, it was more of a me thing. With Whitney’s passing, it’s a we thing. Not worse, just different. I think it’s the gross icing on my 6th birthday cake I didn’t like much (because I’ve never liked cake much). I didn’t care for the cake or icing in equal measures. Either way I ate it (okay, I went to the bathroom and spit out the icing), and was fine. And with Whitney’s death I’ll be fine (not okay about it, but fine).