Today I honor the memory of my great-great grandmother, Mary Roth Rhodes, who was born on this day in 1863 in Würtemberg, Germany, the daughter of Dora + Gottlieb Roth.
14 years ago, in July 2003, she became a beacon, a catalyst and a guide for me on a pathway of reclamation, transformation and healing. Not only from the trauma of living in Brooklyn through 9/11 and numbing out in the aftermath. But for examining, understanding, compiling, and righting/re-writing a family’s history where men don’t survive and women carry on, in spite of profound loss and because of profound love for those left behind. For seeing clearly generational patterns that created heart aches and breaks, too many what-ifs and if-onlys. For parsing hope, bravery, fortitude and tenderness from this seemingly meager inheritance. For committing to build a new legacy upon her foundation of mother-wisdom.
With help from my sister Tamara, who followed the leads I’d dug up in NYC libraries and picked up those threads in the National Archives in D.C., we learned of her journey from her native country to NYC, with a friend, at the age of 17 and eventually on to Hamilton, Ontario where she would marry my great-great grandfather Wesley, a former slave and Civil War veteran.
Because of her, I decided to leave New York after 9 years. My only vision: to begin anew as she had the courage to do, to live simply and to be engaged in community. Because of her, I returned home. Because of her, I eventually decided to stay. (Not necessarily an easy or simple choice after living away from home since the age of 14.) Because of her, I recognized that the true gift and power of researching our past was in the opportunity to rebuild and nurture connections bolstered by this new understanding of all the stuff we were made of — in blood and spirit.
he wakes whistling, thrilled by the zipping wind
he conjures and reshapes into sharps and flats
snaps a crisp unpatterned rhythm
with supple-skinned thumb and middle finger
(wiped dry between refrains)
flickering his wrist for triumphant emphasis
mutters a play-by-play commentary
to an imagined audience of rapt gamers
punctuated with shrieks, chides, wails and groans
jigs an exuberant popiscle-sugared dance
wagging his pineapple-cherry coated tongue
scuttling erratically to a giggle-inflected beat
oh! mustn’t leave out the slapping bum finale and encore
drills up and down 14 stairs,
thunderous heel-stomping laps
and cushioned drop-and-rolls,
parkouring over and around the furniture
a streak of joy unleashed
bumps and bangs precede whimpers and squealed tears
beckoning empathetic triage,
strokes of comfort and mild caution to remember,
in all this play, that his body is growing and does not yet know
the new dimensions marking where it ends and external objects begin
hides, hushed and stockstill in a closet
awkwardly wedged behind the vacuum and laundry basket
clamping back unruly titters, lodged between throat and strained cheeks
crackling with anticipation to jumpscare an absent parent now returned
tucks into the curve of torso reserved
for bedtime storytelling and goodnight prayer songs
mommy-kissed lids and curled lashes
shelter sleep-craved eyes,
burning from the effort to see through
one minute more of the darkening day
a puff of minted air,
humming ‘love you too’
before sliding into blessed dreams
i’m celebrating my 40th year today — reflecting on the journey of the past decade and more recent season of discernment that have beckoned me to live into the deep and urgent call to be an instrument of love and reconciliation.
as many of you land on my site today, i invite you to amplify the good and spread love wherever you see/feel its lack in your circle of connections.
birthday wish: for those near and far — support my efforts to cultivate and abide in the energy of compassion, skillful understanding, and connection by following, sharing, and joining the 3 Jewels Yoga community.