The Calm and The Storm

I grew up on Huntingdon Street, an average-sized block off of 22nd and Lehigh Avenue in North Philadelphia. It was in a working class Black neighborhood with a playground, recreation center, swimming pool and quite a few Black-owned businesses. A staple was Mr. Herman’s – or Boogie Herm’s – as us kids called it.

Mr. Herman owned a corner store, and rumor had it that he picked his nose. But for a mere dollar you could get the best frozen burger in the neighborhood. I’m still not sure how true that rumor was, but it never hindered his burger sales. The grill was always clean so that was good enough for us. (No judging. LOL!) There were two video games that we were allowed to play each morning until 8:00 sharp. At 7:55 he gave a last call; at 8:00, he yanked the plug from the wall. If you had a quarter in the machine because you were up next, that was your lost. Then, we weren’t allowed back in until after 3:00.

For us, penny candy actually cost a penny, and instead of petty brawls ending in death, they were often the beginning of long friendships. We were part of a community where we were watched over, prayed over, reprimanded (hard when needed), and loved. Although, many of us have since moved away, life and Facebook have kept us connected.

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Lorraine, or Peaches as we call her, is part of that experience. She’s just a few years older and lived around the corner and two blocks up on 22nd Street. You often saw her with her mother, Ms. Lena, a kind and dignified woman, or her constants to this day – Jackie, Tiffany and Dawn.

Time passed and a simple Facebook request connected us again. In a space that can feel overwhelmingly angry and depressing, Peaches’ page of warm posts is like sifting through a family album. At a time when many women wear their independence like a Purple Heart, she revels in a life that many thought only existed for our grandparents. She’s married to a man whom she adores even all these years later. Three cooked meals a day is her proud norm, and she’s delighted to have her children and grandchildren with or near her.  Even as she journeyed through school earning all A’s, or when she put in full days in a career that that she thoroughly enjoyed, nothing was, or is, as precious to her as her family and friends. She never claims nor tries to present perfection, but she boldly radiates happiness, thankfulness and love. She’s genuine, and that energy is infectious.

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 In March, Peaches revealed it to me. With the precision of a veteran oncologist speaking with a new patient, she explained the symptoms that lead to the diagnoses of a disease suffered by far too many. Treatment would begin almost immediately, and it wouldn’t be easy. “It’s a hard pill to swallow and it’s going to take some time to process,” she had said, “but I’m going to fight!” She’s been true to her word.

At a time when most would have cocooned into their most intimate circle and bid Facebook farewell (and rightfully so), Peaches let others in. She declared her strength – I am the storm – and committed to transparency. Since then, we’ve witnessed her shoulder length locs vanish, less pictures of her proud home-cooked meals, the effects of grueling treatments, and her truth about harsh moments. But what always follows is: But I’m still fighting or I’m standing strong or I’m not complaining.

Nothing has altered Peaches’ beauty or her heart. Her page still reads and feels like a cozy family album, now with a little more extended family added. She’s thankful for prayers and small reminders of how brave and amazing she is. She beams delightfully when someone surprises her with her favorite candy, or a card, cute pajamas or a head wrap. And when she posts her picture, her smile is never absent. Through it all she has remained grateful and full of love.

Peaches is my reminder of the beauty of creating the life that you sincerely want. She’s an echo of the value of committed love and human connection. She’s proof that while you can’t control life, it’s in your power to choose how you respond to it. And everyday, she reminds me that the simple things are amazingly beautiful and that they matter just as much.

Peaches is the storm, and I’m honored to be in her path.

So long for now.  Until the next time, live each day to your fullest!

Truly yours,

Mo~

P.S.: Peaches, thanks for sharing your journey with me. And, yes, fuck cancer!

You can reach me via Facebook@Monique Danielle; Twitter @MoDanielle_08; Instagram @Mo_Danielle8; and email @ modanielle8@gmail.com.

Hello, It’s Been A While…

It’s been a while since I’ve last written, and much has transpired both as a nation and personally. I could rehash the atrocities plaguing the United States and even some of those of other countries. But you’re well aware of those things, and you’re probably more interested in viable solutions – solutions, to me, that are as varied and multilayered as each and every human. Collective and creative solutions, that frankly, I don’t have to offer you.

In my personal life, I’ve had some hard conversations and have made some uncomfortable decisions. At the pinnacle of a career that spans over two decades and in a firm that offered me “home”, I gracefully walked away. To a city that has served me well, taught me that fine line and small space between love and war, a city that offered my grandparents and immigrant father hope and opportunity, a city that educated me from elementary through grad school, a city that allowed me to sit at tables and help positively impact communities – I’m saying farewell. Thank you, Philadelphia; I appreciate your care. But, it’s time for me to go now.

Talk about uncomfortable. I’m 47, have earned my accolades, paid my dues, and could nestle in this life. And, I wait until now to bow out? Yes, because the truth is I’ve created a hell of a life that I merely settled for and into, and while I am eternally grateful, I want to do more.

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For years, I’ve had the honor of instructing adults in a training program. These are adults who after decades have stepped back into the classroom. Adults that – through their fears, doubts, insecurities and other lies they may have bought into – return Saturday after Saturday for 11 weeks and stay for as long as six hours. Honorable, committed, courageous adults.  I truly admire them.

During one class, we discussed the difficulty of change and the ease of settling. It occurred to me that just as the fear of the unknown often keeps us complacent, so too have the zigzags of our journeys. It’s impossible to forget the triumphs and defeats, the love and tears, the one win followed by two losses, and the repetition of it all in no particular order. Just when we’ve gotten to the point that we have it all managed and all under some sort of perceived control, we realize that while the space is safe, it’s far from great. Then, if we muster up the heart to reimagine the possibilities, we look back, remember, and think, who wants to endure that shit all over again?

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For those who find themselves at a crossroad frozen and agonizing on whether to nestle in or to bow out, there is no right or wrong answer. There is only your answer, your choice, your life to live out. I chose what was right for me. In the middle of my life, I now know what to expect: a journey that will be unpredictable yet exhilarating filled with hopes and disappointments. That’s fine though. I’ve been there before, and I’m willing to live it out again.

I’ll be writing you more often. Until the next time, live each day to your fullest! Feel free to leave a comment!

Truly yours,

Mo~

P.S.:  You can reach me on Facebook @ Monique Danielle; Twitter@MoDanielle_8; Instagram@Mo_Danielle8, and via email @ modanielle8@gmail.com.