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Archive for the ‘Defining Moments’ Category

Ms. Marion returns to Texas…

Saturday, September 10th, 2022

Defining Moments 25: Homage

All thanks go to Hurricane Kay for bringing some cooler air to us in No. California. While she may wreak havoc along the way, as hurricanes are wont to do, this old woman remains deeply grateful that through her magic our temperature has dropped 35 degrees from two days ago. We have complained and moaned our way through a record-breaking six-day heatwave of temps generally reserved for Death Valley. We are north of San Francisco, just 20 miles from the ocean so it is not normal for us to have blistering heatwaves. And yet we did. Most summers we get a couple 3-day hot spells, then the fog rolls in and we all can breathe again.

This was anything but normal. We all know someone somewhere who has too much water, too little water, too much heat, too much fire. There simply are no more ‘lovely days at the shore’ anymore. This is serious business. Climate change is real and it’s happening all around us.

We rode it out thanks to frozen dishtowels for the neck & head, pounds of takeout chicken and salads made ahead of time, frozen gel packs for the feet, gallons of water consumed, wearing only linen, and two big fans that we turned on in the evening, during the Flex alerts, when the interior temp reached 90. I ate no ice cream throughout the heatwave but did eat a lot of watermelon. My joints were so much happier without the sugar! We have no AC, as we have never needed it with our “just a few hot days a year.” That is about to change; the climate is changing and so are we. We are older and the excessive heat is not only dangerous but pure & simple torment.

Today’s cooling off was actually perfect timing, as Monday I need to ship work to Texas. And for that I needed to heat up the iron. I just finished prepping the work (ironing, rolling & securing it to ship) and also tackled cutting down the shipping box, which was 15″ too long for the work. (shipping companies charge extra for that oversize length) I managed with my arthritic hands to cut and tape the box end together, to insert the prepped work and stuff the bulk of the carton with recycled bubble wrap. Now it is ready to ship, on time. While I had the iron on, I pressed the two linen outfits I wore throughout the heat wave, so they remain ready for gasp! the next one. We simply would not want to be wrinkled when in seclusion at home!!!

This work I am shipping is Defining Moments 25: Homage which is a tribute to my dear friend and series collaborator, the late Marion Coleman. We had decided in 2014 to do a series together, each making our own work, based on our experiences and perspectives growing up as black and white children in mid-century America. We titled it Defining Moments: Stitched Perspectives on Becoming a Woman. We were to start with our childhoods and create autobiographical work up to our 70th birthdays.

We had become good friends and colleagues as adult women, when there was no commonality in our upbringing. She was raised in the Jim Crow era in west Texas and I was a child of white privilege in a suburb of San Francisco. It seemed we would have nothing in common and yet we shared many of the same traits and character. We decided to do 25 pieces each and worked in our own style. We met frequently for lunch or via Skype and talked about various aspects of the series, and about prospective venues where we would like to exhibit it. We talked at great length about piece #25 and decided we would make it a full collaboration, likely something 3-D, which we would construct together.

Life intervened and she was tragically taken by lung cancer in 2019, after completing 13 works in the series. At that time I was working on #23. I continued to work, determined to do 25 while simultaneously grieving the loss of another dear one to cancer. I kept coming back to #25 as a collaborative effort, which was no longer possible. And yet I felt it extremely important that there be a piece that tied this project all together. And that is how Homage came about. It includes text, photos and words all about Marion and what she meant to me. For me it was the ideal ending to our story.

The series enjoyed two wonderful exhibitions (Visions Art Museum in San Diego and LHUCA in Lubbock, TX) and was scheduled for a third which unfortunately was cancelled, when the pandemic struck. I continue to send proposals for this series, as I feel it is such an important and relevant body of work that needs to be seen.

Meanwhile, I was contacted earlier this year by the new curator of LHUCA (Louise Hopkins Underwood Center for the Arts) in Lubbock, TX about an invitational 25th anniversary exhibit he was working on. He was seeking work that had exhibited there in the past 25 years; and wanted to know if I would participate and if so, which work from the series would I suggest he include? I offered to send Homage… for many reasons.

Marion was a native of West Texas so in a sense it would be a homecoming for her. And because the work was about her yet made by me, it was as if both of us would be represented in the retrospective. I also wanted this predominantly white community in Texas to bear witness to my friend, the most generous artist I have ever known, a kind, gentle, fierce, courageous, smart and accomplished woman of color.

So Ms. Marion is returning to Texas for autumn! Hopefully it is cooler there.

 

 

heavy decisions…

Saturday, August 20th, 2022

hubs glorious garden

Coming out from under a month of making hard decisions, plus two new works about heavy-duty subjects; the clouds feel as if they are parting a bit. There is always a sense of OMG, what’s next when work is finished. It is not for lack of inspiration! I have several hand-work projects in utero. I have cloth downstairs awaiting paint. Yet I think I will cleanse my palette a bit with another piece of the Wisdom Gatherers series. I have finished three with three more to go. Two are of twin sisters and I would like to design them in tandem. Even though they are fraternal twins, there is something about having someone shadow throughout one’s life that encourages me to design them simultaneously.

This month I also had the unpleasant task of taking my husband’s car keys and selling his car. His Parkinson’s is advanced enough that I felt he should no longer be driving. Anyone who has had to stop an elder parent from driving, knows this option is no picnic. There is so much to consider, not the least of which is the driver’s independence, dignity and pride of over 60 years behind the wheel. Also factor in that he drove the crash truck on a major interstate for the last decade of his firefighter career. The man knows impaired driving all too well, but clearly did not see it in himself. We sold his car to his caregiver who badly needed one having lost hers in a wildfire a couple years ago. So it felt like a total win-win.

After researching drought tolerant landscapes in books, online and in field trips to nurseries, I interviewed two landscaping companies and hired one to re-landscape our spacious backyard to a drought tolerant oasis. That is currently underway and I anticipate fabulous color and texture coming our way. Hubs still works his front garden which is respondent in flowering pollinators this summer. He has nurtured all the gallardia from dead-heading last year’s abundance. He is now collecting seeds for next year’s crop.

I have also been asked to include 2 pieces from the Defining Moments series into two exhibits this fall. DM 25: Homage is returning to Lubbock, TX for the LHUCA 25th anniversary show.  And DM 21: Loss will be on display at Petaluma Art Center’s Dias de las Muertas autumn exhibit. In addition to the usual altars and luminarias, select member artists have been invited to include work about grief and loss. This piece addresses “Those whose absence from my life have defined my journey. Seven died, two left due to a difference of opinion and one has dementia”. This piece was made before Marion died.

I hope you are enjoying these dog days of summer!

summer exhibit at Petaluma Arts Center

Friday, June 10th, 2022

Common Threads postcardI was invited to show 5 pieces of my narrative work in the summer exhibit at the Petaluma Arts Center, June 11-July 23, 2022 . The Arts Center is located in the former baggage room of the Petaluma Train Station (now the SMART downtown station); 230 Lakeville Street, Petaluma, CA. Hours: Friday and Saturday, 12-4 pm.  Opening reception: Saturday, June 11, 5:30-7:30 pm.

Common Threads: Art & Fiber curated by Carole Barlas, Irma Vega Bijou and Llisa Demetrios, includes some of the early history of Ida Belle McNear and the nearby former silk mill; with examples of the range of plant and animal fibers locally available like cotton, flax and tencel to wool, silk, alpaca and angora. Also included are many of the spinning and weaving tools that take a fleece to garment; as well as art and wearables made from these fibers.

The curators statement: “As we spoke to the artists about their art works, there was a passion, joy and enthusiasm for what each could make with fibers. The possibilities were endless from functional to decorative, from practical to artistic, and from utilitarian to playful.  They are all very hands-on as they work. Some work by hand every step of the process of taking the fleece or fiber to the finished piece.  The artists would often iterate on an idea. There was a boundless, endless curiosity of each artist about what fibers could do.”

My works in this exhibit are Defining Moments 1: Maternal Grandparents,  Defining Moments 2: Paternal Grandparents Defining Moments 5: Handcraft Heritage (detail of which was used on the postcard, far right),  Defining Moments 18: Inner Growth, and  Wisdom Gatherers: Dorothy, 94  chronicling the life and wisdom of my own beloved elder.

It looks to be a dynamic show. Go see it if you can!

scraps as a metaphor…

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2021

piles of scraps sorted by color way

When I first became a quilter in 1999, after 25 years as a weaver, I joked that I chose the former as I discovered I could buy cloth already woven. What I really discovered was how taking a whole cloth and cutting it into pieces and then sewing it back together is really such a great metaphor for life.

A life well lived is chock full of bits, pieces, whole cloth and scraps tied together to create reality. So it only seems fitting as I was tooling along making lots of narrative art, never at a loss for ideas, that I would take a detour! As soon as I began the detour I fretted about losing my place with the muse; as apparently the muse can only be inspired by one direction? Instead I found a month or more of scraps, pieces, diversions, and other distractions.

It all started with a full to overflowing scrap drawer. Now I do not save every scrap, and in fact anything under 3″ I generally discard. But this particular drawer was chock full of leftover bits of batiks, screen-printed, hand-dyed treasure with some commercial cottons, silks, linen, thrown in as well. First I sorted the stacks by color ways and then I set out with some Netflix, to sew strips of scraps. Usually I do this when I am stuck and need to just start something. But I was not stuck, Instead I was motivated by the anti-clutter gene, and this project took me most of three weeks. This is the result.

scrap strips

How will I use these, one asks? Often I have used them as starting points in my work. In the early Defining Moments series I used scrap strips to delineate sections of the story, to represent my predecessors’ Christianity faith or more recently I have used them in the Wisdom Gatherers project pieces. Maybe they will just get rolled up and put into the stash cubbies, sorted by color ways. They will be used, no doubt.

Defining Moments: The Harried Years, Maternal Grandparents, Paternal Grandparents, on exhibit at Visions Art Museum, 2019

I had a LOT of brown scraps, so I grabbed a strip of those and made this 40″ x 40″ quilt for the Welcome Blanket project, which is welcoming migrant women to the US with a handcrafted blanket. They are supposed to be easy to care for and this quilt of all scraps may not be exacty that, but as Mom used to say, it is the thought that counts! So I am about to press that and ship it off; but first I need to write my own migrant tale, of which I have three. I come from a long line of migrants on both sides, and married the son of a migrant. They are us, all of us.

welcome blanket, of scraps

I also finished up this hemp linen bag. I bought the yarn in 2018 at a shop in Cambria while there on a road trip. They had a mesh shopping bag in the store as inspiration and I totally fell for it! I also bought the .pdf of the pattern. Well the pattern and I parted ways early into the project. How hard can this be? I pondered. It was not hard, I just did not work on it continuously, until recently. This knit-by the-seat-of-your-pants project worked plus I finished with just over a yard of leftover yarn!

hand-knit hemp net bag

Also in the past month I got a new hybrid car, for which I have been actually reading the manual and learning to use all the electronic bells and whistles. I am loving it so much, and was extremely overdue to replace my much loved but breaking down 17 year old SUV. I upgraded the wifi so hubs can watch his sports without interference from other networks, reprogrammed the solar communications because of new network, duked it out with the HMO endlessly for a tech error on their website, which continues, and learned first hand that customer service no longer exists ANYWHERE. Nearly everyday I have put out some conflagration or another. It seems people like me can never run out of problems to be solved. Perhaps instead of allocating studio time, I should allocate problem solving time and then make art the rest of the day.

Yet all this distraction is getting me fired up about new work again. Unfortunately there is just so much wrong in the world that I may never run out of inspiration. I just need to stay focused (squirrel), and remember it is my art that keeps me sane. It is not hours spent on hold with customer service or technical support that makes my heart sing.

Quite the contrary.

missing Marion…

Friday, April 23rd, 2021

Marion and I, 2018

Today I have been working on a powerpoint presentation I am making next month for the SAQA Board. Essentially it is about introducing diversity to the organization by relating how my friendship with Marion Coleman led me to self-educating about black history. I designed and tweaked most of the morning, and when hubs needed the computer to Zoom with his Parkinson’s group, I left to go pick up some groceries.

As I drove to the store, I suddenly burst into tears. Tomorrow is the 2nd anniversary of Marion’s death, and it hit me how serendipitous that I am working on this presentation about her impact on my life & art-making, on the very anniversary of her leaving.

I have a friend who says I am the most ‘woke’ person she knows. While I consider that a compliment I am well aware that I still have far to go. I continue to self-educate, by reading books, watching videos and every black film I can get my hands on. I even took an online course about the Civil Rights Movement, which I lived through, but had paid little attention to as it did not apply to me, in my white privileged world. I also catch myself and others, on their stuff all the time.

I owe all of this growth to my friend Marion. We were acquainted for 15 years and had talked about most everything. It was her question, near the end of her life, that prompted this growth in mine. How many black people do you know as well as you know me, she asked? I responded that maybe it was 5-6; to which she said, no I mean who you can talk to as comfortably as you speak to me?  Well that was the kick in the pants I needed to look out beyond the lily white meadow and learn something.

She might be surprised how far I have come from Pollyanna in just two years time. I am continually grateful to her for so much, not the least of which was pushing me out of my comfort zone. I miss her so much.

RIP girlfriend.

on a lasting marriage…

Friday, April 3rd, 2020

…just married (1971)

Forty nine years ago today I married a man I met on a blind date just the year before. My first thought this morning was I would do it again, in a heartbeat, because in those 49 years, I have learned so much. I learned so much about him, about myself, about tenacity, about strength, about courage, about wisdom, about endurance, about stubbornness, about love, about character and about commitment.

While I tend to think of myself as level-headed, easy-going, flexible; I truly am complex. I am an artist after all! I really don’t think being married to me has been a picnic. Yet the stoic Swede has been steady Eddy for all of these 49 years. And how blessed have I been to have his calming force in my life.

Everything about our lives together has been yin and yang. He grew up as an only child in San Francisco, the son of an immigrant carpenter, whose parents argued constantly and loudly. He left home as soon as he could, joined the Army, went to Germany during Vietnam era, came back and joined the Daly City Fire Department, where he worked for 33 years.

I was raised in an affluent suburb of San Francisco, the eldest of three daughters, of a corporate executive. My parents never argued in front of the children, but often slung sarcastic biting comments at each other. They were not pleased when I became engaged to this stranger from another world, this blue collar person. Sadly, for them, they never took the time to know him, to comprehend his character, his kind & generous heart; instead directing their attention to the husbands of my sisters, both Mr. Flash and Dash. Neither of those marriages lasted.

So coming from such diverse backgrounds, and having such opposite personalities, it has been an interesting ride. We both had to learn good communication styles; his calmer, mine more direct.  I’ve had a lifetime of grandiose ideas. He has always been the voice of reason, the ballast to my sails. Had I not met him I would probably be living in my car! We have accomplished more than anyone on my side thought possible. We bought a home, raised a child, were good worker bees, traveled the world, retired early & securely. Yea… a real disappointment!

stitched photo of walk down aisle

I, of the grandiose ideas have been plotting course for the potential of our 50th anniversary. Yet this year I have been dealt another dose of reality as my rock is crumbling. His body wracked with Parkinson’s is failing him. I don’t know if he will be able to travel a year from now. He often reminds me that we have seen more of the world than most people. We have seen 46 of the 50 states, and 14 countries for me, 12 for him. (I went solo to Japan and Hong Kong in 2002). Recently I’ve thought we might just do something low-key to commemorate 50, unlike the big parties my grandparents had to celebrate theirs, when we were just newlyweds. We are going to practice for 50 by celebrating our 49th with a takeout dinner, in lockdown due to the coronavirus!

The images are of Defining Moments 16: Marriage. I dismantled my wedding dress, which my mother had made. It was exquisitely and intricately sewn of heavy cotton pique, lined with heavy flannel. I could have gotten married in January in the Yukon in that dress, it was that sturdy! In honor of my maternal heritage we had a Russian theme, thus the headscarves.

Some thought it sacrilege that I would take apart my wedding dress! GASP!  I made a screen from the vows in our wedding book, screen-printed those to the cloth and then layered it with my headscarf, the hand-crocheted headscarf of my Russian great-grandmother, and a bridesmaid’s dress. Yes, they did wear red/white/blue paisley dresses with go-go boots. It was the 70’s after all.

Defining Moments 16: Marriage

Yes, marrying the stoic Swede was definitely one of my better defining moments.

 

 

 

 

the Visions opening…

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2019

The Storyteller

As you know, I was ambivalent about the opening of our new exhibit Defining Moments in San Diego at Visions Art Museum. I was torn between anticipation and dread. I was very worried that my grief over Marion’s death would lay a cloud of darkness over the entire event. I was worried I would be tongue-tied if asked to speak, and yet totally resisted planning anything to say, deciding instead to rely on spontaneity. Apparently I aced it!

I kept my focus on being in the moment throughout the entire trip, which kept worry and grief at bay. I had been to an opening at Visions last fall when my work was in a juried exhibit, so I knew the location and the wonderful staff & volunteers, so all was good there.

the outer and inner tallgirl

Hubs and I arrived at the museum at 3 pm for an appointment to talk for an audio tour of the exhibit. It will be available to museum-goers on their cellphone.

audio tour QR code

Then I walked around and took it all in, before the galleries filled with people. Then I got it! It filled me up, from my toes to my nose! What an incredible accomplishment this body of work was! How important this work is! How sad so much of our shared history is still so relevant today. How people need to see these stories in art. And what an incredible friendship and working relationship I had with Marion. I just felt immense gratitude with not a shred of ego. It was exhilarating!

Gratitude that she asked me to create this project with her. Gratitude that she taught me our stories are important, that it is the job of the elders to tell the stories. And that we are the elders now…

The Harried Years, Maternal Grandparents, Paternal Grandparents by Larson

When I first began my Tall Girl Series, which was my first body of narrative art; someone told me no one wants to see this. No one wants to see your dirty laundry she said. Well it turns out that was one person’s opinion! People do want to see this work. People do want to talk about it. People do want to ask a myriad of process questions. It is all good.

The gifts I received from attending this reception were many. I had the wonderful opportunity to meet both of Marion’s sisters who have been entrusted with her quilt legacy. They asked me to please continue the exhibitions of Defining Moments beyond Lubbock in 2020; that Marion would want these exhibitions to continue. I could not agree more and was thrilled to hear those words. Another Defining Moment!

Tall Girlfriends by Coleman. I LOVE this quilt, and the artist who made it!

 

Most of all I felt gratification that I am on the right track. When I began this gig as a professional artist 12 years ago, more than anything I wanted to be seen. I often felt unseen in my highly educated family of overachievers, and my goal through my art was to be seen by them. Now who cares?! What matters to me most now is that my work is seen!

And I don’t mean that my work hangs in a gallery or museum and people pass by without pause. I mean people stand in front of it, look through the layers, read the story, think about their own story and how they might communicate that; and feel impacted by what they have seen. That is my greatest reward. I am on the right track. And inspired, finally, to begin again…

Immense thanks to Visions Art Museum and all who make it function so well for shining a light on our Defining Moments! This exhibit is open until October 6. Go see it, if you can!

to Ireland and back…

Saturday, June 22nd, 2019

through a bathroom window…

As part of my research for the Defining Moments series, I poked through my ancestry online. My DNA revealed all those Irish & Welsh ancestors added up to 67%, while the expected Russian came in at less than 25% (explain that to the 100% Russian great-grandparents!) So it seemed only fitting to make one more trek o’er the pond to see this glorious land from which they emigrated.

We booked our Ireland adventure last summer and decided on a Road Scholar program since we have had so many interesting trips with them stateside and in Canada. We booked Ireland at a Slower Pace, which several days in, became apparent was a misnomer! We walked nearly 42 miles in 14 days, in London and Ireland.

history through a window…

The timing could not have been more perfect. The spring death of my Defining Moments project partner, Marion Coleman, preceded by the 15 months battle for her life had left me exhausted, defeated, and grieving with a wounded muse. So many said to me, and I agreed, that there could not have been better timing for a change of scenery.

for that windblown look, visit Gougane Barra

the rock walls in Ireland just dazzled me…except really hard to sit on!

The trip was fantastic in every way. Great people, great hotels, fabulous food, interesting programs and texture galore. (some of which you see here). The first few days Marion stayed on my mind, but slowly I began to enjoy being in the moment. I came back physically exhausted, but rejuvenated by the change of scenery and pace; and a renewed connection to my ancestors.

i loved all the bright colored buildings!

Before I left I noted on my calendar to begin preparation of my Defining Moments quilts to ship to Visions Art Museum in San Diego for its inaugural exhibit. I did not want to attempt it until I felt my brain had arrived back in California. So yesterday I hauled all the quilts out and today began preparation, pressing, rolling, packaging, etc.

All of a sudden, I felt a HUGE rush of excitement for this upcoming show, with a big sense of accomplishment; that all my efforts these past five years are at last coming to fruition. Such joy, and then BAM, immediate sorrow.

Listening to music, tears welled up in me as my grief returned. How sad that Marion is not here to celebrate our exhibition together. I soon realized that this opening, could be for me a really sad event. My job for the coming month, to get myself to a place where I can celebrate my own sense of accomplishment as well as celebrate who she was, as she lives on through her work. She would not want it any other way.

The trip to Ireland was exactly what I needed, but also a reminder that grieving cannot be tamped down. It may be set aside temporarily, but the healthy thing is to ride it out. So my buddy, the muse and I are doing just that.

Footnote: I posted a lot of images on Instagram, rather than FB while traveling. You may see them (with permission!) here.

 

 

 

 

catching up…

Saturday, May 11th, 2019

detail, Weathered Wood

I have lost all inspiration to make new work since Marion died…well actually before then. The muse slowed down earlier this year. Immediately after her death I was occupied with returning files and quilts to her family, and then started in on my own to-do list, which had grown to mammoth proportions.

I received the shipment of catalogs for our exhibit Defining Moments: Stitched Perspectives on Becoming A Woman, and put that up on my website. The 48 pg catalog will also be available at exhibit venues.

Earlier in the year I had finished and blocked two hand-stitched pieces, so I bought gallery-wrap canvas and mounted those to the frame. I have gotten quite skilled at using the electric stapler and the Phillips screwdriver. What I found most frustrating is the available sizes of wrapped canvas.

Reflections of the Seine

The local art supply store had a generous 16″ x 16″, but no 14″ x 14″ which I really wanted for my stitched pieces of morning walks. So I went to the big box chain and they had neither 14″ nor 16″ squares but they had lots of 11″ x 14″ rectangles. So I came home and googled it and basically learned that 14″ x 14″ does not exist but if I want to custom order it, I can do so for a mere $85 each.

catalog cover, Defining Moments: Stitched Perspectives on Becoming A Woman

I suppose I could make my own, but I am at that age where time is far more important than money; but not so much so that I am going to pay $85 for a canvas gallery wrap! As if framing hand-stitched work is not straying far enough from my usual work, making frames for such is pushing it just too far, as far as I am concerned. I am trying to use up my supplies, not add a whole lot more. Just like I decided not to ferment my own veggies, I don’t need another hobby.

So I got these done, documented and up on my website. I have finished 5-6 entries for upcoming exhibits, need to prep a piece to ship this week, and continue to whittle down the list.

Then perhaps… I will be so moved (or not) as to actually start the new series, which has been researched and waiting in the wings for a year now.

 

so many stories…

Friday, April 26th, 2019

Marion Coleman, and her fabulous hair

The last time I saw Marion was on February 6. After much negotiating there finally came a day that she felt well enough for me to see her. I was also there to pick up her quilts for our Defining Moments exhibit. That had been a very tough conversation to have, asking her to loan me her work for our exhibit. I finally just summoned up the courage and asked. She agreed that I should take responsibility for the work so I would not have to bother her family after she was gone. So that was the day I picked up her work.

She greeted me from the seat of her rolling office chair. She had already discovered that the medical grade wheelchair was not as mobile as her office chair. So she scooted around in that. She showed me the “mess” that was her studio, which to me looked like a genius resided there.

We looked at the quilts as she told me the story of each one. She said she needed me to photograph two pieces, as she had not had the energy to get them over to Sibila Savage, who had photographed her other work. We talked shop about our exhibit, potential venues I had not yet applied to, questions she needed to ask Dr. Mazloomi, the catalog etc. She even gave me a check to cover my expenses. The epitome of class, that one.

We talked for about an hour, holding hands, both well aware it was the last time we would meet. Finally, she said she needed to return to her bed, which I knew was my cue to go. I stood up to hug her goodbye, one last time and damn if I did not catch my earring in her hair! My very first thought was don’t touch the hair!

Early on in my friendship with Marion, I touched her hair. She didn’t say anything at the time, but I learned a few years later, you NEVER touch an African American woman’s hair! EVER. When I heard that I equated it to the tallgirl stuff.

I knew all too well about the intrusion of people telling me I am tall. Newsflash, I already know that!  Marion and I used to joke so much about that, how we as tallgirls were often seen just for our stature; and how so many clueless people think they need to tell us! We had heard it all. We came to own it, to refer to ourselves as strong, proud, aging, tallgirls. It was our right to do so. It is not anyone else’s, unless we give permission! So I came to see the caucasian’s persistent need to touch a black woman’s hair as a similar intrusive ritual. Just don’t… touch the hair!

So here I was entangled in her luxurious & soft mane. How fitting for our final dance! I had to remove my earring while bent over, trying not to drop my weight farther onto her frail body. Then I had to disentangle the earring from her hair. We both laughed through it. What a beautiful and quirky finale to our wonderful friendship!

Some months ago she asked me how many African American women I knew as well as I knew her? I said maybe 4-5. She said, no, I mean as well as you know me; who you can talk to just like you do me? She continued that she thought she knew far more white women than I knew black women. She was right, I agreed with that and it really made me feel sad. It’s not like I was closed off to meeting people of other races. I just maybe had not taken the time.

Going forward, I plan to make the time to learn other people’s stories. And I promise I won’t touch your hair, especially if you don’t tell me I am tall. I already know.