I have a friend, Phelicia. I call her Phe.
Phe and I grew up in neighboring towns. We were both taught by our single mothers to be strong, independent women. We went to the same university, for the same degree program, and we went to work for the same big four accounting firm in Houston after we graduated. We also both moved back home.
We both married awesome husbands. Mine is an electrician. Hers is an electrical engineer. We even became pregnant with our boys at the same time. We met online in ’07 in a forum for moms, because despite our similarities, our paths never crossed in real life due to our age difference. Imagine our surprise when we learned we went to the same OB practice.
We ended up giving birth to our boys in the same hospital only a few days apart. It’s a small world.
There is one major difference between Phe and myself. I am white. She is black.
Phe had a precious baby girl at the end of April after going through numerous infertility treatments and deciding to adopt, which is another similarity we share. I went to visit her the other day on my lunch hour to get my requisite fill of baby snuggles and see how she was adapting to being a mom of two.
We chatted about babies, jobs, and how we can’t believe our sweet boys will be starting kindergarten in the fall. At one point I reached over to give her a hug, and Miles mischievously snickered, “Are you two getting married?”
I laughed and told him that of course we were. Then we could all live in one big house together and all be a family. “Wouldn’t that be awesome?” I asked.
He shot me a side eye and replied, “Um, how about we just be neighbors?” I think that would be pretty awesome as well.
When it was time for me to go, he ran to the door shouting, “huggies and kissies!” I gave him the requested hugs and kisses, and I promised to set up a play date for him and James soon.
Sunday morning I sat on my couch reading my Facebook stream until I could no longer stand the pain pressing against my chest. I closed myself in the bathroom. I thought of Trayvon Martin. I thought of “huggies and kissies”. I cried.
I wanted to write this post then. I wanted to pour my pain and heartache out through my words, but then I second I guessed myself. I thought, “What right do I have to feel this way? Who am I? What do I know? What can I do?” So I did nothing.
I was talking with a gay friend yesterday about DOMA and about the post I wrote last year regarding equality, and she thanked me. She told me that it was important to have straight allies stand beside them with the same message. She said, “when we say these things it can be brushed off as ‘oh, it’s just those gays,’ but when you stand beside us people listen. We need your support. We need your voice.” I had never thought of that.
I don’t know what it is like to be black. I don’t know the fear of raising a son in a world where he can be justifiably shot, at least according to Florida law, for standing up for himself. I don’t know the pain of losing a son.
But I see these women, my friends, who are wonderful mothers raising awesome boys that will grow into fine young men. Amanda with her number one on the cusp of teen-hood already starting to look like a man. Arnebya with her little one and his funny stores. Phe with Miles who is obsessed with trains and asks for huggies and kissies.
I see their spines, ramrod straight. I see their stoic expressions as they place themselves between the world and their sons. I see their fight.
I see these women, these mothers that I love and admire, and knowing that I will never know what it is like to be them, I ask myself, “Who am I? What do I know? What can I do?”
I think of huggies and kissies. I think of my heart full of love and pain pressing into my chest, and I say, I can lend you my voice. I can stand beside you and hold your hand. I can be your support.