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UNTITLED by Meka R. Brown
“Put your feelings on the bottom of your feet and walk on them.”
At sixteen I was working at a fast-food restaurant. A customer came in, an older lady. She was tall, dark-skinned with short silver hair. I was preparing her order. I believe it was a two-piece with mashed potatoes and gravy and a biscuit. The mashed potatoes were not ready, and she had been waiting longer than she expected. I was waiting for the mashed potatoes to be done and emptied into the silver pan on the front line. Suddenly I hear her yelling. I turned to see an irate face. The older lady was yelling at me.
I cannot remember what she said. I remember the pain of her words. I do not remember if I finished fixing her order. I remember leaving the front line and walking to the back of the restaurant, in the area where biscuits were made. I remember plopping down on a five-gallon bucket and crying. One of the other girls working with me followed me to the back. She told me it would be ok. After my shift was over and I returned home, I told my mom. Her words to me were, “Put your feelings on the bottom of your feet and walk on them.” She said that was something her mom, my grandma, told her.
I had never seen my mama cry. Even when my grandma died and my mom’s siblings were whooping and hollering and falling out on the floor at the funeral, I remember my mom. She was dressed in a cream-colored sweater dress, standing and looking at the clownery. She was stoic, the calm in the midst of a storm. Her face showed no emotion. I remember crying and watching my mama. Afterward, she said she did not have to cry or whoop or holler because she knew she did all she could for her mother. She said only those who did not assist with her mother’s care acted that way. She said there was no need for her to shed any tears.
I saw my mama as a strong woman. A mountain in the middle of chaos, steadfast and impenetrable. Her way showed me I needed to be strong at all times. Her way taught me tears were for the weak and the guilty. I strived to be like her. Shed no tears at no time, no matter how much it hurt.
As she grew older, I began to see the cracks in her armor. In her late sixties, she cried a lot I did not understand it. Here was this woman, who all my life never shed a tear and now would cry at the drop of a dime. I remember being disgusted at her tears. I could not believe this woman, this force in my life could be so easily broken down. She was not as strong as she claimed to be.
One day she told me it was ok to cry, just do not let your kids see you do it. She said when I was younger, she would go to the basement of our old house, after we were asleep, and yell and scream and cry. She said she just did not allow us to see her that way.
I do not think my mother has any idea how watching her bend in a tornado and not break, affected me. To this day it is hard for me to cry without feeling disgusted with my tears. To this day I prefer being an angry hurricane wreaking havoc on all those around me. To this day I swallow my pain and put my feelings on the bottom of my feet and walk on them. How do you unlearn something you have tried to emulate your entire life? I was mistaken about my mother.
Meka Brown is an emerging writer of creative nonfiction. She has a B.S. in General Studies from St. Louis University. She is a member of Monarch Writers and Shut and Write. She lives in St. Louis, MO with her two daughters. Her writing can be found on her blog, Life According to Meka at http://msmekarbrown.com
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