as i’m reflecting on my age and the age i live in, this picture always comes to mind. it’s me, my mom, my grandma, my great grandma, and my great-great grandma. these women sacrificed and lived with secrets, lies, and shames so i could exist. they gave me a sense of unconditional love that it’s taken me until recently to understand isn’t universal. we weren’t rich but they gave me a richness in character that comes from a pride that they didn’t always have. they also gave me hangups that i can now see were necessary for their existance that aren’t necessary for mine. but i needed them to know what i don’t want. they instilled in me a love and respect for education, but not just the book sense, for learning about the world and a belief that anything and everything is possible. they were proud of me but let me know that my excellence wasn’t an anomoly, it was what was expected of me. to whom much is given much is required. this from women who picked cotton. who came north for better lives and carved them out. who loved men who, while not always physical faithful, were fiercely loyal and loved them implicitly. and they were not victims. they were these fierce creatures who loved hard, drank hard, smoked, fought and raised a strange crop of progeny.