We are no strangers to stumbling. We Brown women, we world-weary grande dames, we know the impact of a fall. Falls slow us, but rarely cripple. They hurt us, but seldom maim.
I can see, in the way you cry, in the way you strike out at faces and necks and scratch at the hands that hold you: in this life, you will trip, but you will not be pushed. You may fall, but not without first fighting to regain your balance.
You are already protesting injustices: the scarcity of milk or the slowness of its delivery; being repositioned in a lap or on a chest without your expressed consent. You know an infant’s rights; you will not stand for their violation.
It’s inspiring, your tenacity. You contend for the things you desire, and you already have such keen understanding of what those things are.
If you were older and someone other than my child, I might envy this in you—especially now, when it’s so difficult to discern not only what I want, but what will be best for both of us. You are direct and unafraid to be disruptive, unencumbered by the ballast of decorum.
These are values critical to writers—and were I the writer I set out to be as a child—the career kind, whose work yielded all the income necessary to live—I could afford to embrace such values.
But years ago, I fell. Into routine, into the maze of middle-class trappings, into the minutiae of an artless kind of world. I decided to hedge my bets. I’d write, sure, because I’d always wanted to, but in case it didn’t pay or I never got published, I’d seek out a sound profession. I’d teach, I told myself, for stability—and writing would fill all the excess spaces.
I did not contend for my deepest desire. And for many years, I watched compatriots succeed where I’d settled and publish via channels I’d passed up.
Even after I realized I’d always be better at writing than explaining how to write, I didn’t contend. I didn’t rail against practicality. I didn’t bristle at stability. I didn’t innovate or abandon convention.
I got older. I acquired the accouterments of independent living: an apartment, a car, and disposable income—and regardless of how little I loved my day job, I couldn’t bring myself to give it up in favor of unemployment, rejection letters and a room in a home that belonged to someone else.
And then you were born, bringing with you myriad ironies, this one being chief among them: the dream I deferred before I had a child to support is the dream I’ll need to pursue in order to support my child.
Unbeknown to you, we are at a crossroad. I can no longer afford to teach. The “stable” career I selected is among the most precarious of all.
Suddenly, I must reclaim what I’ve long suppressed, the part of myself I’m so proud of in you.