I was born in the city of angels, and I believe in wonder. When I was three, John F. Kennedy was assassinated; as my granddaughter is three, Barack Obama is the President of the United States. When I was a child, we had Tang, like the astronauts, Ron Karenga inspired my South Central Los Angeles neighbors, and during the summer nights, we would watch the fire falls at Yosemite National Park or Tinkerbell fly across the Disneyland sky, to Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. I did not know that some would say Ron Karenga was a thug, that the fire falls were unhealthy for the environment, that Tang was some artificial chemical. I did not know that Tinkerbell was likely a 40 plus year old woman acrobat with a wig and costumed heavy wings, who sickened of being tethered to cable night after night, high above the happiest (most contrived) place on earth.
For six days during the summer that I was four, neighboring Watts exploded, burned, and then smoldered. It still sits– a defeated city with a decayed spirit. Through most of my childhood, LAPD helicopters intermittently spun, above my Third Avenue house, the moving spotlight trailing from the black machines at night, like a waterfall of bright white light. As the beam of bright light bounced from one back yard to another, I imagined some guardian angel on the front lawn, shooing away the burglars, murderers, rapists, or other general bad guys, that must be lurking on my block.
Once a gigantic (through the lens of a small child) dog kidnapped my favorite baby doll (we only had white ones then, blond hair, blue eyes—different from my Creole brown skin, my dark brown eyes and red hair). I cried under the rubber tree on my front steps, as I remembered the doll in his mouth, dripping with saliva. I could not save her. Could I save myself?
I grew up, somehow, the daughter of a bi-polar mother and co-dependent father, and was left an adult orphan when they left this plane. And I was once married to a crack addict, and learned that a broken heart can be lighter, without the weight or effort of holding it together.
With that, I began to know, and began to believe. I eventually had to let go of all of the ideas that I had about family, reality, success and even love– but I believe in the resiliency of tenacious spirit and the buoyancy that counters the defeatism of the world. If allowed, the desperation clings to our maturing jaded awareness, like light soot, visible only once it has settled, and claimed its resting place.
I note the ecstatic awe in my granddaughter’s eyes, and the way she wonders about the iris bulbs that we plant in the front yard. And If I choose to remember, I realize we are no different. And this I believe, as I watch the world, with an innocent, fantastic, pure wonder of my own.