This I Believe

Denise - New York, New York
Entered on March 19, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50

My Kind of Rich

My kind of rich is being nurtured, being significant, being proud, being strong and being at the apex of a significant other’s concern. Rich can also mean discipline, a sort of discipline that in today’s world is sometimes looked upon as being politically incorrect. My brand of discipline is the kind that is meant to straighten and facilitate one’s journey along the proper path to an enriched and honorable life. This is the kind of rich I believe in.

I realize my life has contained the riches I have mentioned and many more. I remember living and growing up on 215 West 116th street. My family lived smack dab in the bosom of Civil Rights Mecca. I needed only to go a few blocks to see the mosque that Brother Malcolm frequented. My mother was a regular customer at the Shabazz Bakeries. The Shabazz bakeries were famous around the neighborhood for their delectable and soulful bean pies.

The smell or the spices and extracts beckoned and preached of a promise that was bold, defiant, and strong at the root. This food for the soul was a promise that was reflective of the best that a southern grandma could offer. The taste tantalized your mouth with the down home flavors of carefully simmered beans, brown sugar and hidden spices that were only revealed to her closest kin upon grandma’s departure to her pie in the sky after-life. My block regularly pulsated with the music of Marvin Gaye, The Supremes, Isaac Hayes, James Brown, Curtis Mayfield, and Earth Wind and Fire, and the musical poets of that time, that space, that era. My kind of rich includes food for the mind as well as food for the soul. I lived a rich life.

My mother nurtured six of us. She was and still is a miracle worker. I remember my brothers and sisters planning the night before to meet our friends bright and early the next morning to ride bikes “Just around the block,” as our mother had cautioned. We often came to her asking for money to help cool the heat of the summer’s day. Mom always found a way to come up with just what we needed.

Upon our return from our outings, mom would insist that we stay in viewing distance. Like an African village, our neighborhood believed in the watchful eye of the extended family which included your neighbors. Ms. Bula held a self designated position as 24 hour security watch on the neighborhood. As a close friend of my mom’s, she kept special surveillance on us from her living room window. She always had a pillow propped on the window ledge. Home Land Security had nothing on this lady.

The time I spent with my friends, and family was of paramount importance to me. On Friday nights, we kids were kept in suspense as we anxiously awaited the turn of my father’s key in the front door. Like Spike’s dad in Crooklyn, my dad would often come home with some sort of tasty treat. For the most part, our Friday evenings were spent playing a family game of Pokino. We played Pokino for pennies, but whoever won was seen as the big spender of the house for that week because of all of the penny candies he or she could buy. During this family time, we often discussed other things that happened to us during the week. As children, we were never allowed to discuss or inquire about what transpired between adults because such a topic was categorized under Grown Folks Business. Everything had its time and its place. This is a rich life.

Looking back, my life was guided by discipline. My mother demanded that we be home from our outings by six o’clock sharp. We always gave her the respect that she commanded and made it home on time. My dad was a strict southern disciplinarian, and he kept his instrument of discipline hanging on a nail in our living room. Just in case anyone ever needed reminding of who was the head of the household. Roles were clearly defined and respectful boundaries were never crossed. In our current society, we have allowed the silk richness of our fabric to decay. The intertwining of every thread is what made us strong in the past, and unfortunately many valuable threads that made up that quilt have been cut away. The thread of the grandmother who was at its foundation, the strength of the father at its head, the ever present mother gave it its brilliance, and the protective neighbor ensured its security. These are necessary threads that comprise the rich quilt of our lives and without their presence and support we a poorer and weaker. Rich is the quality of the thread that is interwoven in the guilt of life that has made us uniquely who we are. This is my Kind of Rich. This is my belief.