NYU Black Renaissance Noire Spring 2015 - Page 54

Who Killed Her? My father led me to believe Pam Grier on our TV was my mother at work, so I grew to expect more out of life than I got. My mother was actually a diabetic; she slipped away while I was not too far from her vagina. 52 That’s the story her sister, who attended my birth, let me in on. Thanks, Auntie. I was her only child, the “high-risk pregnancy” she wasn’t supposed to have. I figured it out, eventually, once I started to tell my teachers about mom’s job or my friends’ mothers about my own. The friends’ mothers got the story when they dropped me off at home or when my father — only my father, all the time — came to get me. My aunts just shook their heads. They all let me carry on, though. But pictures of Pam’s cinnamon face were all around our home: a torn-off Ebony magazine cover in a tarnished bronze frame just above the record player, a black-and-white close-up of her doe-eyes tacked near the telephone book, a yellowed and scratched Polaroid picture of her arms around my father and her huge afro just grazing his cheek as they smile. He told me he paid for a fancy gala just to see her. He sang “Happy Five Birthday” off-pitch and out of tune, just the two of us. BRN-SPRING-2015.indb 52 She sat in the kitchen with us as well: her face smiled at me from the Jet magazine cover on the table, near my pink and white cake. And once in a blue moon, this mother appeared from the television to show me how to shoot a gun and how to kick a man and how to hide money between my breasts. And I waited for her to get home. And I waited. I waited. I waited. I waited. She never came. To compensate for the vacancy in conversation, plans, school visits and just the regular and irregular life I could have been living if my mother had actually been Pam Grier — on horseback, counting money, in the kitchen, shooting bad men, at my spelling bee — I invented my mom’s murder and her murderers. I would tell the unfortunate student whose surname started with ‘G’ or ‘I’ — to place him or her adjacent to my ‘H’ for ‘Holland’ — that my mom was driven off the end of a cliff by a drunk driver who sped on. Another one of By KALISHA BUCKHANON the lies: as the school nurse took my temperature she heard my mom was carjacked, raped and bludgeoned while I was a baby in my car seat. When National Breast Cancer Awareness Month rolled around every October, along with the start of hunting season in the Midwest, I told some my mother was a valiant warrior who lost the fight with breast cancer. Others heard a redneck had accidentally sniped her. On Mother’s Days, I claimed she slipped down in the shower while getting ready to go out for dinner with my father. As time went on, my tales grew more anxious and elaborate — until I had invented my very own serial killers to kill my mom. Some were white and some were black. Some were old and some were young. Some held knives and some held guns. Some were caught and some got away. None of them ever had a name. All of them who heard had different reactions, no two faces alike. My father heard everyone’s treatment ideas, includi ng those to do with sending LaDonna to live with any relatives who favored her mom and taming LaDonna’s imagination with pills to perk her into the truth more. Nothing happened. He reminded the naysayers and skeptics how clean I kept not only my own room — but our entire brown-carpeted, two-bedroom apartment in a gated community, with our talkative neighbors dotting the parking lot and a summer-season pool at its center. He discussed my exceptional grades. He smiled at the lies, when someone indicated I had told one. He called me “creative” and “imaginative” and “ a storyteller.” He never punished me for it. 3/29/15 11:41 AM