When I arrived at work yesterday I felt great. The excitement and joy of my weekend carried over into the workweek. I clocked in with a smile on my face. When I’m in such a good mood I know that it’s going to be an Old School jams kind of day. So I headed to YouTube and quickly compiled a list of hits by Earth, Wind and Fire, the SOS Band, Klymaxx, Shalimar and others. I listen to many genres of music, but Old School R& B and Funk music has a special place in my heart. I adore the musicianship and lyrics of the genre, but that’s just one part of my appreciation. Old School R & B returns my Mama’s spirit to me. It inspires memories that are stronger than death and reminds me that love reaches beyond the grave.
My Mama was born in 1958; I arrived in 1980. With a Mama who came of age in a golden era of Black music, my childhood was filled with the thumping bass lines and smooth sounds of her generation. Mama blasted her music all the time. So at four years old I was stepping to “Give Me The Night” in our living room in Guam as my Mama set out snacks for her house party. When I was five old I innocently sang along to the SOS Band’s “Take Your Time”, having no idea what the ‘it’ they were referring to was but enraptured by the instruments all the same. In 1986 I smiled watching my Mom clean and dance through the house to the beat of ‘Rock Steady’ by The Whispers. When I hear those songs now I begin to tear up but end up smiling. Mama’s music takes me away from the last week of July 2005, from sitting on her sofa listening to Jay-Z rap “this can’t be life”, the emptiness of his voice matching the one filling my heart. Mama’s music takes me away and deposits me in the time before…
Before the plague of crack cocaine descended on my family and others throughout the ‘hood.
Before the words dishonorable discharge meant anything to me.
Before we left San Diego, the place where it never rained, for Seattle-the city where it always does.
Before my Mama’s childhood asthma returned with a vengeance.
Before I sat at her side on my 25th birthday, bitterly reflecting that her life was draining out of her on the same day she’d labored to bring me into the world.
I listen to Lenny Williams and The O’Jays, and suddenly things are brighter. I don’t see my Mama as she was that day-limp, withered and cool in a room at Harborview Medical Center. No, when her favorite artists serenade me I see her as she was in my childhood: vivacious, chatty, and gorgeous. Arms thrown above her head, her curvaceous frame swaying from side to side, she dances in my head. She smiles at me with the same eyes that greet me when I look in the mirror every morning. Until the day I die she’ll be dancing in my head.