The Divine Matriarchal Trinity
Bessie, Ruby and Lucille are three Black women I cannot and will not forget.
I had three grandmothers but only deeply AND lovingly connected with one. They were all forces to be reckoned with and I admired this the most about all three.
My father’s biological mother never got married, even though I was told from her own mouth that it wasn’t because men didn’t want to marry her. I remember her telling me that men always tried to change who she was and she didn’t want no man always telling her what she had to do. She had 5 children; 4 girls and 1 boy (my father). She took care of her children as best she could and I never knew her to be a person to easily bend to the will of others… probably another reason why she never married.
I remember her always having some shady ass comment to make about my weight. She’d often attach it to my mother (“you gone be big just like yo mama”) while laughing and it would always confuse me because… even though she wasn’t even 5 feet tall, she was a big woman all my life. Why would any woman say some shit like this to their grandchild? Beats me but she said it so much, I never latched on to her like her other grandkids. I chose to keep my distance.
My father’s other mother was mean as all hell. My grandfather used to go back and forth (arguing) with her and I still remember every “SHUT UP, MELVIN!” I heard come out of her mouth. Was that shit rude as all hell? Yes and while knowing there’s a better way to talk to people, I also knew my grandfather deserved a “shut up” or 500. I never saw her afraid of anything or anyone. She was sharp as a tack and tough as nails. Despite her Wicked Witch of the West behavior, she could also be sweet as pie. She personified duality, to me.
She was a bit of a tyrant. If you didn’t do shit her anal ass way, you and everyone else would hear about it in the most unkindest of ways. I don’t remember her being compassionate or empathetic to me and she allowed very little room for tears or sadness. Other people have different recollections of her that differ but this is solely what I remember experiencing. I HATED spending the night at her house because she’d make me wear my (clean) panties on my head, like a bonnet, at night and she rarely smiled. She had a permanent scowl on her face. You’d have thought she invented Resting Bitch Face. She didn’t but because of her demeanor, she was the first adult I ever wanted to call a bitch. I remember when she found out I was having a baby and her words to me were, “you out here having all these kids with these niggas. being fast just like yo sister.” Me AND my sister only have 1 child, a piece. Her son turned 22 this year and my daughter will be 10. She had her son at 19 and I had my daughter at 29. Our children were not conceived due to us being “fast.” So imagine my surprise when 3–4 years after having my daughter, she tells me how proud she is of me because I’m raising such a beautiful child. Right before she died was the first time she said, “I love you” and that was the only time it felt sincere. She defined the essence of being a tough old bird.
My favorite grandmother was sugar, spice, sometimes nice and always aware as fuck. Much like the other two, there wasn’t much of anything you could sneak by her and she’d effortlessly make it clear. I lived with her for 3 years and I got to see a woman live however the fuck she wanted AND do whatever she wanted in her own time. She’d been married before but divorced. She had 4 children; 1 boy and 3 girls (one being my mother).
I watched her the closest because she welcomed me into her life, unlike my other grandmothers. As I write this I acknowledge that I loved her so much because she never said or did anything I could perceive as unloving towards me. She protected me from some very real monsters in my life. She made sense more often than not. She’d ask me everyday how I was doing and every “I love you” felt like I know love should feel. I could ask her anything and she’d always have an answer that was an indisputable truth. She encouraged me to do whatever I wanted to do but to also remember there’s consequences for breaking rules… if you’re caught. She enjoyed the little things in life like getting her newspaper and lottery tickets everyday and also eating the same thing for breakfast, even on the weekend . She read a lot too and had books all over her house. She had a king size bed and slept in the same place every night with food crumbs, newspapers, and books taking up the side of her bed that didn’t have the indent of her body. She taught me to look out for other girls because sometimes us girls are all we gone have… and that has followed me throughout my journey of womanhood. She taught me shit even when she was doing nothing more than minding her own business. She taught me self-care before it became some trendy thing used to disguise selfishness; by her caring for herself first, it enabled her to consistently pour into others. She embodied what I saw to be a whole ass human being and this ain’t me saying my granny was perfect. She wasn’t… however, the world we existed in together was never one where her “bad” outweighed her “good.”
She was the type of woman I strove to be like and she did this by showing me versus telling me how/what to be. She made it clear that I had choices, without implying that they should be made to conform to others will and/or to compromise myself. I can honestly say, all three of those matriarchs would show people better than they could tell them anything. It played a huge part in why I respected them but also why closeness was reserved for only one of them. I saw glimpses of their relationships with their other grandchildren and the feeling of jealousy didn’t take root in my soul. I saw they could and did love those who connected with them and that’s the thing about human connection, regardless of us all being connected, it doesn’t and won’t always feel like it.
As I stand in the reality of being a statistical Black woman, I also realize that me and all my grannies (even though none of them are part of this living realm) share that same space. Not necessarily because of our shared traits of stubbornness, independence, and determination…. but because of our need to be and remain true to self. All three of those women taught me, BY THEIR EXAMPLE, not to take no shit from no one and that compromise is a personal choice not something anyone can come into your life and demand. I won’t lay no claim to how this developed in them because I never received complete personal narratives from them; they shared bits and pieces. I don’t know if at one time they did take some shit and eventually said fuck this, enough is enough, and committed to a life devoted to themselves. I don’t know if there’s always been this element to them since birth.
I do know that they were strong Black women who had no problem making up their minds and then doing what needed to be done to make sure shit got and stayed done. That’s what I can hold on to from each of them, regardless of them lovingly lending this knowledge to me or me just being aware enough to observe this about them. I remind myself of these three women on the not so easy days of being a Black woman, a Black mother and being a Morgan, Dangerfield and Walker.
Bessie, Ruby and Lucille are three Black women I cannot and will not forget. I’m grateful for the lessons learned. I honor them by being a consistent example of strength to my own daughter and any other Black girls and women I touch beyond the simple fact of being part of the human race together. These are the ancestors I can fully honor and name because they set the bar for me. I never saw that bar on the floor so even on my low days, I can remember it’s not where I have to stay. They are women who lived beyond just surviving and that remains the life I continue to work towards.