In My Write Mind
Carol Anne St. Louis--the prettiest girl in my 7th grade class back at Intermediate School 59 in Queens. The way she walked, the beautiful notes that came out of her flute, the way she flatly rejected my cleverly conceived note asking her to be my girlfriend, hitting a low note by returning it with an added "way, Jose" after the "No" box she boldly checked; all of that history came rushing upon me when I stumbled upon her at Reagan International Airport that Saturday afternoon in DC.
Of course she wouldn't remember me. I mean, really, why would she? I was but another prepubescent lad who was a mere puddle that surrounded her, left to be mixed up with the rest of the flute spittle that lay at her feet. So as I approached her, giddy and as nervous as I was the weekend before while meeting Jill Scott at the Grammy's, not really understanding why, I paused, thought more of the history—the pain that her harshly handwritten dismissal caused a bespectacled and scrawny, yet sincere and love-bitten boy--and I stopped. Dead in my tracks. Suddenly, the ten or so feet that stood between me and my childhood crush that actually crushed me, the object of my rejection, felt Grand Canyon-like. And I wasn't willing to board the flight to "Rejectionville" all over again.
It's amazing what history teaches us.
Learning from it can keep you free and clear from injury, agony, pain and suffering. Repeating it can--at its zenith, as the world continues to find out --lead you into war. Learning from that Carol Anne experience served me well, made me recoil at the thought of another rebuff, made me realize why I've never liked anything St. Louis (the Rams, Cardinals, Nelly...nothing), made me prepare myself for my immediate future. And when you think about it, isn't that history's role in our lives?
We are surrounded daily by situations that teach us history lessons, whether it be something as simple as avoiding another bounced check or getting a brain freeze from drinking another Slurpee too fast, or something as major as avoiding cigarettes or that crazy person that seems nice but acts just like your ex. The history that's stored in our brains, which is filled with years and years worth of misstep and circumstance, gives us pause while at the same time providing us with choices.
This month, Black History Month, is yet another chance for us to observe the foundations laid by strong black men and women, as well as those who were not so strong. Depending on which we choose to follow, we can either build future "houses of accomplishment" or, conversely, "shacks of failure."
It was singer Pearl Bailey (shaddup X...hehehe) who opined that "there is no way to look at the past. Don't hide from it. It will not catch you if you don't repeat it." Historian John Hope Franklin put it even more succinctly when he compared history to the building of a house, stating that "if a house is to be set in order, one cannot begin with the present; he must begin with the past."
Indeed, those choices have a way of catching up to us. Will we like what we see when it faces us head on? That's a question I so badly wanted to ask Carol Anne, but thought better of it. I mean, she was already suffering according to my mind, painfully living with the fact that one bold stroke of "No" caused her to miss out on a lifetime of signing her checks Mrs. Carol Anne St. Louis-Dawson.
I truly hope she learned her lesson.
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scribbled by Will at 2/01/2005 05:01:00 AM
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I write entirely to find out what I'm thinking, what I'm looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear. (Joan Didion)
The Write One
Will. Lefty. Since Summer 1971. Over the next six months, I'll be saying some hellos, some goodbyes. Living, laughing, growing. Don't.miss.a.word.
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