We lived in a small town adjacent to Pasadena and enjoyed all the perks the community offered. Doors were left open while running errands, Miya explored the neighborhood with her new friends and making new acquaintances. I was determined to give her a well-rounded artistically developed life, California was filled with weekend discoveries and my used automobiles got us there with prayers and crossed fingers. Sometimes, our cars would steam, run out of gas, leak air from the tires, and have broken windshield wipers (I carried a white potato to remedy rainy days.). The day was planned precisely, weatherman – check, gas and oil – check, snacks and frozen water – check. We set off to an unknown destination with excitement and curiosity.
Every day was an adventure, it seemed. Being the only woman of color in our neighborhood and raising a daughter single-handedly, required a prideful erect posture from prying eyes, while we shopped for necessities. My daughter was such a beautiful imaginative child, with so much curiosity. At eight, she emptied a closet and began to build a library from books we purchased at local resale shops. Many hours spent reading and being inquisitive. Often, I didn’t have all of the answers. Something plausible would suffice until the correct answer revealed itself. I enjoyed reading books on art, physics, philosophy and old allegories, while we made our way to a free Polish polka event found in the local reader.
We danced to Motown while waxing floors, did weekly laundry, cut coupons and prepared grocery lists for the coming week. Miya headed out on adventures after Saturday cartoons and chores while I created a space to design sea shell earrings we delivered to local shops. California introduced us to tacos, so we lived on Mexican food and Sunday dinners consisting of meats, gravies, and vegetables, with a dessert awaiting after washed dishes. We listened to jazz and giggled while eating strawberry shortcake.
Bedtime nearing, bath water running with Mr. Bubble or dish soap depending on the weeks budget; but there were always bubbles. My treat – a warm peppermint shower with a Shaklee shower head designed to spew water and liquid soap from the local Trader Joe’s. A Trader Joe’s visit would ensure a bag of bagels and strawberry cream cheese for breakfast. Sometimes, I’d let Miya stick her fingers in the tub of cream cheese and run off to bed giggling, swinging her braids in Wonder Woman pajamas. Nighttime stories ended with the most beautiful smiling angelic face, softening the memory of her breaking my Egyptian sculpture earlier that day… All was well.
Waking to a morning chill, I remembered the cable knit sweater I proudly scored at the resale. While in line, I noticed a colorful stuffed button jar, and I discovered seven red heart shaped buttons. Quickly, sewing red hearts along the neckline, pressing the red plaid pleated shirt, I grabbed the red ribbons for her hair and realized that I hadn’t washed the red socks. After a quick sprinkle of water in the sink I placed the socks on the old griddle that always seemed to be a bit warm from the pilot light.
The morning went like clockwork and Miya knew the bagels and strawberry cream cheese was awaiting. Happy with her homework assignment and surprise sweater, we headed out in our white 1969 Plymouth Valiant. Remembering – unchecked mail for a few days, I stopped at the end of the driveway and pulled open the vintage mailbox. I grabbed mail, turned on the radio and started our journey to school. The car parked, Miya leaped from her seat. Running and calling out for Katy, and in haste she left the car door ajar.
Taking the moment to read what appeared to be important mail – a red stripe peeked from the envelope window, indicating disconnection. Quickly opening it, I confirmed a disconnection notice from the electric company for that very day. I called once I arrived to work, but no luck – the motion was already in order. The lights would be off when we arrived home.
After a long day, I retrieved Miya from the neighbor’s house. I had to come up with something quick, I didn’t want to frighten Miya, once she realized the electrical service was disconnected. Quickly, I created a beautiful story filled with candlelit dinners and bubble baths and her favorite stories being read by candlelight. She was so excited, once home, and I searched for candles as the sun began to set. As the coach house drew darkness, we lit each candle as if we were queens and princesses dining with kings on high. We set the table with folded napkins, I sliced lemons for the water, served dinner, discussed the day with left hands and paper napkins on our laps.
After dining and finger puppets created from candlelit bathroom walls, Miya splashed Mr. Bubble as I put in a few drops of lavender to ensure an early sleep. We laughed until the water chilled. Once out, Miya was fast asleep before I could finish the goodnight book. I thanked God for the day and realized, there’s always LIGHT at the end of every tunnel.
– Takara Beathea Gudell, Style Editor
The owner/operator of Takara, a women’s clothing store in Oak Park, IL. “After 30+ years of experience, it is my passion to design simply delicious clothing that inspire women to walk in their power.”