To describe my mother would be to write about a hurricane in its perfect power.
My mother drove a pink and black Pontiac Bonneville, a long cool drink of a car that was first introduced by General Motors in 1957. Slightly reclined in its sofa of a front seat, she, often alone, would glide along the streets of Washington, DC. She liked to drive with her window down, her sparkling brown eyes straight ahead and her hair—dark and cooperative in a sophisticated swirl with her trademark, frosted streak—daring any breeze to undo a hairdo that only she could do.
She wore gloves and silken scarves that spoke of her ease with elegance. Her makeup, on a face that was as soft and pleasingly warm as a ripe morning sun, was always just so. Okay, she was a little over the top, and I loved her for it.
This was the late 1950s. It was a time in much of the United States, even in the North, when most black people had so little to show for their hard work, and those who did tended to display it only to their own. This was a time when Jim Crow laws sharpened the unforgiving edges of black life. Black dreams tended to be meager, close to the ground, or were so big and up in the clouds many of its dreamers had a tough time imagining stairways to reach their visions. Remember, back then we were only a handful of generations out of slavery. This was a time when the civil rights movement was still young and Martin Luther King Jr. was a boyish-faced ...