When I was a little black girl I would secretly pray to God, the Father, to become sick. You see, when I was sick my non-domestic black mother would cuddle me and become the “ideal mother.” She would busy herself with medicinal concoctions and Vick’s rub. Yes, my mother thought and continues to think; Vick’s rub sees all things, cures all things. It is her personal on-call physician. Looking back, only when I was sick could my non-domesticated black mother let down her veneer of calm and her embodiment of “the eternal girl” to obsess about her daughter’s physical welfare.
And, because of this, I learned to play the role of the ailing downright contagious sick child. With one cough, I could produce bodily spasms. By holding my breath in 5 minute intervals, I could produce a mild fever. And, if these things did not work, I would simply say to my mother in my most sick, cough . . . cough . . . cough . . . woe is me, voice that I could not go to the school today because I felt quite ill . . . bubonic plague ill (I could say bubonic plague because we were studying it in history class). And, my mother would grant my request and tend to me as if I was her one and only love . . . her one and only obsession. When I was young, I thought being sick could bring my mother back to me. Make her stay. Keep her from wandering from man to man. But, it did not. Her presence was only momentary, there to wipe a nose, to rub a sore chest. Mind you, my mother did the best she could, but her sense of care and nurturing came fully alive when I was sick.