Poetry and personal blog – Spilling my guts to strangers

Posts tagged ‘childhood’

Oh, Very Young (Redux)


One day, I looked out into sea.
The waves were tossing
As if they were being blown by an almighty wind,
And the sand pulled away from the
Edge of the water as if in fear
Of being swallowed and drowned
By the powerful current.
As I watched, I thought how silly
It was for the sand to run like that
And how foolish the sea was to
Be so angry. I said, “Stop.
Why are you so angry, sea,
And sand, what have you to be
So afraid of? You were
Put here for some glorious
Purpose, to live together as one.
True peace lies in knowing that
You are free and total freedom
Comes from being at peace
With yourself and living in
Harmony with others.”
And the sand, a little embarrassed
by its cowardice, stopped running
And stood still, and waited for the
Sea’s reply, and the sea, realizing
Its folly, stopped its tumultuous
Movement and instead rushed up to the
Shore to embrace the sand.

~ Adriene, 1979

Oh, Very Young

© Sweepy Jean and Sweepy Jean Explores the (Webby) World, 2013

Blood Cousins

(for Geo)

Our mothers, sisters,
bled together in a hospital room
concerning our births, days apart.
Practically twins, we were brothers
in soul, though I was a girl
trying to run as fast as you
and soar with your thoughts flying.
You, the prescient one,
taught me that words are clay
while riding our bikes in the sunshine.
And when we pricked our fingers
with a straight pin from Grandma’s notions,
we pressed them to each other
as if our blood could get any closer.

© Sweepy Jean and Sweepy Jean Explores the (Webby) World, 2013

Ghosts of Thanksgivings Past

Childhood memories are powerful things.

Every Thanksgiving, I can’t help but think of my childhood. As far back as I can remember, my mother, sister, and I spent Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas at my grandmother’s house, but the Thanksgiving celebrations were the most spirited.

My mother and her two sisters (their brother had died before I could meet him) would help Grandma in the kitchen while more than a dozen of us grandchildren caught up with each other and cut up–laughing, playing, and comparing notes from the last time we were all together.

We grouped ourselves by age range as there was a span of 15, maybe 18 years between the youngest and the oldest of us.  I remember my days sitting at the “kids” table. My group would complain about the indignity but in reality we were glad we didn’t have to sit with the grownups. We were in our own world talking, or yelling, about serious and silly matters, our etiquette careless, slovenly, and uncriticized.

I remember the food: collard greens, cornbread, turkey, ham, macaroni and cheese, candied yams, biscuits,  apple cider, cranberry sauce, and sweet potato pie. There was nothing else beyond this and our family that day.

There was one year when my age mates were about 9, 10, 11 years old that we met a “new” cousin for the first time. He was our age, born from a complicated union slightly outside of our circle, blood kin to some of us but not all of us. But we decided to consider him our cousin anyway, a dubious honor. He was nice and did his best to fit in even though he hardly knew us and didn’t speak our insider’s language. We saw him maybe one other time after that and I haven’t seen him since.

Soon, the older cousins started having children and the gatherings got even bigger and louder.  The age groups continued to set themselves apart from each other. Although we were no longer the youngest, my group never graduated to the grown up table. Too cool for school, we teenagers always chose to eat somewhere off on our own.

The years went by and one Thanksgiving I brought  my soon-to-be husband to the fray for dinner and scrutiny. But ultimately, as was our way, he was welcomed, as family to one of us was family to us all.

Not long after, my grandmother became too frail to host these holiday dinners. She became an invalid and the family rallied around caring for her in her home. When she died, the glue that held us together lost its strength. The entire family is rarely in the same place together any more. We celebrate holidays, or not, within our immediate families. Sometimes we all get together at weddings, and increasingly over the years, at funerals.

My daughter has moved out of state, so I’ll cook Thanksgiving dinner with my son and my mom. As I fuss over the turkey,  I will think of my grandmother.

Childhood memories are powerful things, always the last to go.

© Sweepy Jean and Sweepy Jean Explores the (Webby) World, 2012

Mother’s Day

About as far back as I can remember, my mom  read to me, and the first thing I remember her reading was a book of children’s poetry. Included were the commonplace nursery rhymes many of us know but others featured the lives of assorted other kings and commoners alike, some who lived in exotic locations such as China (as did Dahling Dahlinka Dinah). The illustrations were large and colorful, and the rhythm and rhymes were fun to listen to. Most of all, I remember the enthusiasm and sheer joy in my mom’s voice and facial expressions as she shared these gems with me.

Over time, my mom promoted me to the big leagues and when I was about eight years old she subjected me to (more…)

Thankful for Our Veterans

I’ve said before and still believe that, for the most part, holidays are annual reminders of things we should be mindful of every day. This upcoming Thanksgiving holiday is one such occasion and Veterans Day, which was a few weeks ago, is another.

I recently watched an HBO documentary called “Wartorn 1861-2010.” It’s about posttraumatic stress among people in the armed forces, particularly those who have witnessed the violence of active duty. It features firsthand accounts of veterans and their families over the years through letters and interviews, providing insight into the despair, the nightmares, the suicides, the self loathing, and the fear. The stories of young recruits coming back home after discharge scarred and changed forever, not to mention the graphic examples of some of the atrocities they witnessed, affected me quite deeply. It reminded me of someone I hadn’t thought of in a long time.

When I was growing up, there was a man in my neighborhood, I’ll call him Mr. Smith, who my mother told me was (more…)

Poems: Passover, From Faith to Faith

( In the following guest post, writer Debra El-Ramey** graces us with her beautiful poetry.** Show her some love and leave a comment!)


Summers, Aunt Kathleen traveled south
to Bible Belt Land with Uncle Jim in effort
to save our souls from the burning hell
we born-again Baptists believed in.

Mother said the couple had once been
kissing cousins, married in the Christian
faith. A shame, she said – a crying shame
what they became: Jehovah’s Witnesses

of all things. Going door to door. Refusing
war, politics, blood transfusions, and even
Christmas. Icons, idols, images, the Easter
bunny, and hunts for colored eggs on the (more…)

The Language of Childhood

The writing style which is most natural for you is bound to echo the speech you heard when a child. – Kurt Vonnegut

What speech patterns did you grow up with as a child?

My mother’s family migrated from North Carolina when she was young, and from then until the time I met her, she had eliminated everything from her speech that would betray her roots.

Not so my grandmother.

My grandparents were born in the 1890s. Just to put that in context, the Emancipation Proclamation was issued in 1863. My grandfather’s father was nicknamed Pen but his full name was Independence–so named, I think, to celebrate his birth outside of the institution of slavery.

My grandmother was a fairly typical of black women of her day. She had raised her brothers and sisters when their parents died youngish. She herself was a young widow who eventually married again, to my grandfather. She was not overly educated, at least not formally, but she was wise in the ways of life, witty, and quick on her feet.  When my own parents separated when I was 7, (more…)

Freedom Ringing

The day Martin Luther King was assassinated was the first time I had ever heard his name.

On April 4, 1968, I was just shy of eight years old, and it was another in a series of confusing events that occurred during the past year: the riots in Newark, my parents’ separation, moving, changing schools. It was a violent year.

If I remember correctly, the announcement was broadcast during the evening news. We lived in a large house with my grandparents, my aunt and uncle, and cousins ranging in age from newborn to late teens. Pandemonium broke out (more…)

A Christmas Carol From the Recalcitrant

Many people are stressed during the Christmas holiday, which can range from being overextended to feeling depressed.

Even for those of us who don’t celebrate Christmas, there is no getting around it.

From television to radio and in my case, to most of the people I know, Christmas is the overriding topic of interest. Sure, it’s a free country and people like me can do what they want, but as someone who has been known to veer from the “mainstream,” I can tell you that sometimes it feels like I’m in the wilderness talking to the wind.

Holiday parties at the job are (more…)


I’ll be turning 50 in a couple of months. I’ve gotten a lot better over the years but at times I am excruciatingly concerned about what people think of me.

Where does this come from? Have you heard of the tv show Flash Forward? Well, here’s a

Flash Backward

When I was 7, I remember my mom gathering things up and packing boxes. “Whatcha doin’?” I asked. “Oh, we’re moving,” she said. On further questioning it was revealed that Dad was not coming with us, I would be going to a different school in the fall, and we were going to live with my grandmother. (more…)

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