Gotta Start Somewhere

I haven’t been able to blog. Everything hurt.

I can go out for drinks. Great distraction. I can get a workout in. Keeps me busy. I can play with my kids. Necessary escape.

Writing is my way of unpacking. It’s my way of healing and dealing with things. If I wrote about my father’s death, it would be real. I wasn’t ready for that. This thing that came quick and took away someone with such a huge presence…it would be real.

Motivation

A friend said he was looking forward to seeing what I could creatively birth from this pain. I’ve played with novel ideas and posted some poems on Instagram. I just truly feel like I’m in someone else’s body most times. My Daddy was diagnosed with lung cancer and he was gone two months later. Some days I still almost text him, then I realize he’s gone. It was surreal for everyone. We don’t even talk about it amongst ourselves. My paternal side faithfully does zoom calls and I can’t even sign in because I know his face won’t be one of the boxes on the screen. My skin hurts. I’ve learned to just walk around with a part of me hurting. To say I miss him would be a gross understatement. I even miss our arguments.

Today I rose before the sun. Prayed FIRST. I kissed all my kids and got going! I did two loads of laundry including blankets.

My busy two year old

I took my two year old for a walk. I’ve been productive at work. I made it to my meeting on Teams on time. I ate my turkey egg and cheese on whole wheat. My bed is made. I cleared voicemails and paid some bills. I filled in my brows and put lip gloss on just to take my kids to school. I’m tackling potty training with my toddler again. I listened to a podcast on minimalism. I’m trying.

If I’m not giving up…then whether this was great writing or not, it still had to be posted. I have to write just to live. Just to get through this. I have to start somewhere. I’m going to miss my dad’s comments on my posts. He even printed a few and kept them in a folder near his desk. I’m going to miss that feeling of making him proud. Sleep. Xoxo

By Shaun Liriano

For the Rest of Your Life

RIP Nana Bea

My one year old runs her fingers over the tattoo on my arm.

I remember when the tattoo artist said, “It’s still professional. A long sleeve dress shirt will cover it.” I wasn’t concerned with that back then. That was a tattoo I got at a shop on Merrick Blvd in Jamaica Queens. It was shortly after my 23rd birthday. I was excited about it because I finally knew what I wanted to honor my grandmother with.

My Nana Bea was a wedding and party coordinator. She spent a lot of time in her balloon shop. My aunt Darlene was the assistant manager. We worked closely in that business, many days a week, side by side. My grandfather would often have my cousins Jason and Tyson do push ups in the back. He would “toughen them up.” All the while Nana would groom us young women for running a business. I had so many “cousins” as young black children often do. Family wasn’t designated by blood. There were friends of family, neighbors, and extended family who all worked alongside us. We turned bare rooms into magical wonder lands. We made dreams come true. We built memories.

You see, my grandmother wanted to be successful.  She wanted to be a staple in her community.  She wanted a legacy.  She loved her children and took great pride in the accomplishments of her grandchildren.  I used to listen to her brag to her clients and suppliers about articles and poems I wrote. She kept our pictures near her cash register. This was best way for us to spend time with her. We worked to learn and earn money but we also worked to be close to her.

We ate vanilla ice cream, Pepsi or ginger ale and plain potato chips on breaks. These were big treats to me because my parents kept healthier options in the house. Those were some of her favorite things. Sharing them with her added to its sustenance. They were items she could eat quickly, on the go, so she could get back to work.

As Easter approaches I remember Easter baskets with big mylar balloons with my name on them. Inside was always chocolate, bubble bath, lollipops, and a stuffed animal. She never missed an Easter or birthday. We always knew what the business meant to her but we knew even if she showed up at 9pm, she’d be there.

She’d come over in her white minivan with my grandfather at the wheel with goodies. She was warm. She was always smiling. As an adult sometimes things get fuzzy. My Nana Bea passed when I was 19 years old. She died right before Thanksgiving. I wish I’d asked her in all the time I had with her, what it was like to be a woman of color with her own business. I wish I asked her what sacrifices she had to make. I wish I knew what she’d do differently. I would love to see how’d she react to social media and how quickly information and advertisements travel now. I remember dressing the store front windows for the next holiday. It was an honor. If she picked you to help dress the store window or put up a new display it meant she trusted you artistically to make her look good. Recently someone asked me, “Who encouraged you growing up?” It was always my grandmothers. My paternal grandmother wanted us to be reaffirmed in our beauty and she called me Princess my whole time with her. My maternal grandmother wanted me to feel intellectually confident. She helped with school assignments, establishing routines, and life skills.

Those of us who have tattoos are often reminded we are wearing veritable choices. We will have these pieces of art inscribed on our bodies for all time. I love my balloons.  Everytime I see it I see the smiling face of Beatrice. I feel myself standing in that building with confetti and broken clips (that held the latex balloons in clusters) on the floor. I remember the taste of Tiger Pops. I hear the older girls telling stories about the young men they were dating.  I hear music. I hear arguing. I feel her curly hair. I smell her lotion. I remember rummaging for the sharpest scissor to curl the ribbon with. We would decorate baby shower chairs with toole and silk flowers. I can hear her yelp when she’d burn her finger on a glue gun and then keep going until the job is done. I see my faded balloon tattoo and I see love in all of its wholeness. Imperfect. Mine.

By:Shaun Liriano

Women’s History Month

A True Woman

 

I can make you laugh harder than the rain falls.

I can give you the kind of loving that makes you reject all of your calls

And be absent from work.

I’m not interested in your wallet

I want the will of your being and the substance from your very soul.

I want the honor of growing old.

I’ll tell you my age.

I’ll tell you the exact year and the precise time I was born.

Wisdom is my badge proudly worn.

I can fry up some good food and meander through your stomach to your heart.

I can order an auto part or change a tire and be on my way without waiting for AAA.

You can beat me to the mirror in the morning.

I know who I am and I know what I look like.

I am a woman not a “bitch.”

I’m not a part of some monolithic group suffering from “that time of the month.”

I only really shop if there is a need for it or if it fits “just right.”

Please don’t interrupt me while I’m watching the game or the fight.

I am not a harlot or the downfall of mankind because of “original sin.”

I was just being a leader, his rib, his backbone, aiding his decision.

Sometimes I cry but you do too.

That doesn’t make me weaker than you.

My strength is measured in resilience and my ability to absorb other people’s pain.

I am a woman

A true woman

I am not ashamed.

By:Shaun Nickens

*This was going to be an Art Saves Lives submission but the deadline was changed.