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The Blessing…

Tears streamed down my cheeks and left their long, streaked finger prints in my makeup as I viewed the program cover. My finger tips, now moist with perspiration, stroked and smeared the title print staring back at me from the paper. But the picture, I could not touch. Smiling at me from the printed pages was the image of three generations of women. I saw the grandmother and mother holding a baby daughter. She was their future. She held all the faith, joy, and even the pains of past generations. But there was something more. Both of the mother and grandmother looked with hope at this precious baby girl. Clouds and doves surrounded their beauty, making them resemble an angelic trio, standing in heaven’s presence.

The speech I planned seemed perfect. I would see tears, hear sighs, see mothers and daughters, and fathers and sons reach for one another. I knew that the message on mothers and daughters would especially pull some heartstrings, including my own because at that time my mother and I clashed.

For most of my life, all I wanted was to please her. All I wanted was to hear those sweet words, “I’m proud of you, Gail.” Those words did come once in a card but in her presence, I longed to hear my mother could utter sweet words to four of her five daughters.

Yes, there was the fifth daughter. Her favorite. Every family has one. You remember the story of Joseph from the Bible and all the confusion and heartache it caused? Well, our family was no different, except we did not cast my sister into a pit and sell her into slavery. All we wanted to know was why. Why was she so favored? Why did our mother protect and cover for her the way that she did. Why was our biggest heartache.

 For over three decades, this favorite situation ate at many of us like a ravenous cancer. Some of us lived with anger. Some went into mental institutions to lick wounds. Some tried to commit suicide, but the favorite situation never changed. It stared back at us without emotion or excuse. Pain did not change it. Hoping did not change it. Even with prayer, it appeared unchanged. It left its mark on all of us. But tonight, I decided that I would pull the cover off the situation and let parents know that when they decide to “play favorites” it rips their children and families apart. I decided to expose my family in public.

I entered the banquet hall, walking with resolve. What I did not know on this night was that love had an unexpected surprise for me.

As I approached my table, I jolted to an abrupt halt and nearly choked on my breath as it tried to escape from my throat. There was nothing that could have prepared for this moment. There was no warning. All I could do was stop and stand speechless. I had an unexpected guest. As I looked into her face, my eyes filled with a gentle mist of silent tears. Without my permission, the icy hardness of my heart began to thaw in heat of her presence. I saw my profile in the curve of her face. I heard the familiar sound of my own voice as she spoke. I observed her movements, knowing that they too were my own.  Even her manner of dress called my name. Her sequin sweater with a fox collar and pearl accessories shouted to everyone that this lady and I had much in common. This beautiful woman whose presence shocked me and held all within her sphere of influence in wonder was… my mother.

I nearly collapsed from joy mixed with fear. She had never surprised me like this before. In the past, when I told her about my speaking engagements, she usually appeared to be uninterested. But this evening, her presence caused a wave of childlike excitement in me. It caused me reach deep within my personal reserve for a new speaking subject. I knew that the public vengeance that I prepared was not going to happen, for I was no longer in control of the evening’s events. Love was fighting and appeared to be winning this battle.

During the keynote address, I spoke openly of my life experiences. As I shared my feelings, love helped me bring to life, glimpses of childhood pain without placing blame. I then began to speak on a subject in which I was unfamiliar. I opened my big mouth and began to share the impact of the parental blessing.

As I stood before the crowd that evening, flashes of my childhood danced in my memory. Love pulled from my memory bank, things I had long forgotten. The evening transported me back to the early 1960’s. I stood with my two sisters and mother at the bus stop on Sunday mornings. The bus stopped near our home filled with children. The only adult on the bus was the driver. My sisters and I got on the bus and did not wave good-bye to our mother like the other children.  Mom was a Sunday school teacher and did not drive so she rode with us on the bus.  Continued…

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