One of the ways that I try to control my anxiety is by limiting my exposure to the news. I am a J-school grad so I can't just bury my head in the sand and avoid all news, even though I'd probably be way more calm if I could. But I haven't watched any TV news in at least four years, and I have limited, once again, the NPR that I listen to in the car, opting instead for podcasts or books on tape. I've been getting most of my news from social media, which isn't ideal either, because I often have to limit Twitter and Facebook when the anxiety attacks, but I can keep up with the headlines that way and not have to be tortured by the details or unnecessary commentary.
Here's some headlines I read today that reminded me of some of my own stories.
The first comes from Lin-Manuel Miranda, playwright, Tony award-winner and Pulitzer Prize recipient. Get ready for him to knock your socks off with this BREAKING NEWS.
I realize that there are those among you who will roll your eyes at me posting this as "news" but I've been following Lin on Twitter since he won the Tony for In the Heights in 2006.
After I saw Hamilton on Broadway the first time - my first, ever Broadway experience - I blogged about it and shared it on Twitter. I used the headline "Yay, Hamlet!" which was an inside joke** for people who had been following along since he was writing Hamilton. He tweeted back to me "Yay, Kalisa!"
We're practically family.
But that's not my story. My story is about losing the first tooth.
My son Elijah lost his first tooth at Kindergarten. His teacher dutifully wrapped it up in a tissue and sent it home with him. She was a good egg.
After I picked him up at school, we went to Pancho's at Highland and Poplar (in Memphis) to meet his dad for dinner, as per our norm. When our son was young, we routinely spent more money every year eating out than we did on our mortgage. Meal delivery boxes came too late in the game for us; we would've ordered the hell outta those things. But with both parents working, getting home at 6p.m. was just too late to start cooking dinner. We were ready to sit down and eat. So we ate out. A lot.
So anyway, we're in a booth at Pancho's and Elijah is super excited to tell his dad about losing a tooth, which he pulled out and unwrapped and displayed like a trophy. Like Sebastian in Lin's post.
You can probably see where this is going.
Mom of the Year LEFT THE TOOTH IN A TISSUE ON THE TABLE. We rushed back for it but naturally the table had already been bussed. The first tooth was gone.
We assured E that the Tooth Fairy would still come and surely be very generous since she already knew he'd lost the tooth. He was okay with it, but the sentimentalist in me lists this auspicious moment on the top of my Regrets list.
The second headline is less melancholy, more disturbing. ICE whistleblower: Nurse alleges 'hysterectomies on immigrant women in US.'
Well. As if that's not bad enough on it's own, I sadly have a story for this one, too.
It requires that I share a little family history.
My mother was born in Tennessee in 1941. My grandmother divorced Mother's biological father and ended up (I'm a little blurry on the details, but I have the important facts) married to the man I call my grandfather, William Crawford, in the impossibly small town of Coushatta, Louisiana. He was the Registrar of Voters in Red River Parish and everyone who knew him called him "Judge" because someone once said he was "honest as a judge." Our grandpa name for him was "Judgie."
My grandmother ("Grammy"), who already had two children from her first marriage, had four more children with Judgie. She worked in a local department store and had a full-time housekeeper-slash-nanny, although that's probably not what you called your black help in the 1950s American south. Ophelia Hall was her given name, but she was called "Too-Niney" because she was so small when she was born, her father said she was "too tiny" to live. She lived, but nicknames stick in the south.
Too-Niney became Grammy's best friend - Grammy even named her second daughter "Melissa," after Too-Niney's middle name - and my mother and her siblings loved Too-Niney as the woman who raised them. One by one, as they had children - and then grandchildren - they were brought to Too-Niney for her to feed and love. It didn't even matter how far you had to travel. Too-Niney got to cuddle all those babies.
Elijah was born in Memphis and when he was 4 months old, we drove with him to New Orleans. My mother, who lived in Jackson, had driven her only other grandchild, my niece Belle, to the airport in NOLA to return her to my sister. Mother offered to stay the night in town and kept baby E while Chip and I went to a Saints game. In case you were wondering if our fandom is a recent occurrence.
The next day, we drove home up through Louisiana's country highways, stopping in Coushatta to take Too-Niney to lunch. We had, of course, asked Too-Niney to choose the restaurant, as Coushatta was her town. She selected a cafe that would allow her - an elderly African-American woman, to eat at the same table as our white family of three. It was December 1993.
Too-Niney ordered a hamburger steak with onions, but insisted on holding and feeding baby E and took her entire lunch in a to-go box.
I can't find my photo of Too-Niney holding baby Elijah that day, but luckily my sister is better organized. Here's a picture of her daughter Eryn with Too-Niney and my cousin Heather's son, at a family wedding in 1995.
So that's the full backstory on Too-Niney and how much she meant to our family.
Here's how it relates to today's news:
My mom once asked Too-Niney, who clearly loved babies so, so much, why she never had any babies of her own.
You can probably see where this is going. Again.
Too-Niney never had her own children because she was forcibly sterilized without her consent in Louisiana in the 40s, when she was married and lost her first baby. Too-Niney went into the hospital for a D&C, and was put under general anesthesia for the procedure. When she woke up, the (white [supremacist]) doctors told her that she was unable to have any more children.
So let Too-Niney be the face of those brown-skinned women who are being forcibly sterilized without consent.
My niece Belle and Too-Niney on Too-Niney's front porch, Coushatta, La., 1988
** - When Hamilton had just opened on Broadway, Lin tweeted that he was walking somewhere in NYC one day and a lady stopped at a red light recognized him. "You're the guy who wrote Hamlet! Yay, Hamlet!!" He was all, Lady I WISH I wrote Hamlet! There, now you're on the inside.