It’s February 12th and I’ve made my one hundred and first circle around the sun. I was hoping, when I opened my eyes this morning, to be in the bosom of Abraham or to be trying to possess the body of a newborn baby, or at least be sunbathing in a flowery field in another dimension; but I’m still here on earth celebrating another birthday. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful. I am able-bodied and in my right mind. I can still dance when I hear a song that takes me back to times when the winding of my hips could hypnotize any onlooker into a helpless trance. Now the winding of my hips sounds like a twentieth-century watch being wound. My lined face is but a shadow of the woman I used to be. The mirror lies; showing me crow’s feet and laugh lines as deep as canyons; muddy eyes and a turkey neck. When I close my eyes, I see taut skin, gypsy eyes, voluptuous lips, and a neck like a swan’s. I am still that woman inside.
My health is good. Well, most of the time anyway. My blood pressure gets a bit high when I eat too many potato chips or take a week off from walking. My knee gets a little stiff at times and occasionally low energy levels force my bedtime to start with the evening news.
I could do the average old lady thing and offer a list of my ailments, but I won’t because for the most part, I’m healthy and happy. I’m surrounded by my family, who loves me. I live in a cozy home that I share with my eldest granddaughter, Saige, and her family. Saige and her husband Kevin have been good to me. Life is pleasant.
Sadness creeps upon me from time to time because my heart still yearns for my husband. It has been ten years since Josiah transitioned. According to him, he’s probably in a new body trying to learn the lessons he missed his last lifetime. I never believed much in reincarnation, but he did, and I am sure that he lives on somewhere in the world. Josiah had a knack for being right or so he claimed. My luck, he’s right about reincarnation and I’ll have to come back to this godforsaken planet. Not that I do not love living, but I have been on this earth a long time and I am ready to be gathered to my people. The ancestors are calling me. Their beckoning plays in my ears like a song stuck on repeat, fluttering in the distance but growing louder each day. I can hear them calling my name; a melodic whisper that never stops humming day or night.
“Ma Lily!” my ten-year-old great grandchild yells from the other side of the door.
Violet is a loud one. Her voiceis deep and full sounding like a chorus harmonizing every note. It would be perfect for the voice of God in a movie.
“Ma Lily, can I come in?” she asks as she taps the door like her finger is vibrating. I see the shadow of her toes dancing underneath the door.
I tell her to come in and Violet pushes open the door like she is trying to test her strength; causing it to fly open like a tornado is spinning in the hallway. Every time I see her, which is every single day, I laugh inside. She brings me delight in the richest form. Violet looks the most like me out of all my great grandchildren, light brown with freckles. A cloud of thick black hair sits on the top of her head like a beach ball which is held in place by a giant purple ribbon tied into a perfect bow with its ends framing the sides of her face. She has the most intoxicating smile on this side of the world. She is radical, nonconforming, fearless and ostentatious like a ten-year-old should be.
“Whatchadoin’?” Violet asks plopping down in my rocking chair as I push myself up into a sitting position. I pull the covers off my legs and toss my legs off the side of the bed. I look down at my ashy feet as my toenails scrape the floor. My toenails look like talons. One day, I will take the time to clip them. Maybe I was turning into a wild thing like a creature in one of Violet’s story books. I voice activate the lamp and instruct Violet to open the curtains by pushing a button on the nightstand.
Sunlight changes the entire energy of the room. It instantly renews every cell in my body. Suddenly, a new birthday didn’t seem so annoying.
“Just waking up,” I answer looking at the digital holographic clock hovering over my nightstand. It was 7:59 a.m. “Why are you up so early?” I ask her as she rocks back and forth swinging her legs like she is on a playground swing. The chair groans like an old man. “It’s Wednesday. Why aren’t you in school?”
“Because it’s your birthday!” Violet exclaims. “Mama says that turning one hundred and one is a big deal. Aunt Cleo once told me that one hundred and one was the angel number for happiness and prosperity. Do you believe that?”
“Could be. Anything is possible,” I reply with a yawn.
“She also said that today we’re gonna party like it’s 1999!” Violet says scratching her head confused about what that meant. That song is nearly a century old. I am surprised her mother knew the lyrics, but then again, Prince is and will always be my favorite musical artist of all time. My children grew up on his music and when my grandchildren and great grandchildren visit me, they too became familiar with his ear-piercing falsetto and his sacrosanct sexuality. I love everything about that little musical mastermind. If I had any musical ability, Prince is who I would channel. For a moment, I consider placing my music microchip into my ear and playing Prince’s greatest hits, but I’m sure Violet will not let me listen in peace. Per her request, I would have to blast it loud through the ceiling speakers and frankly, it is way too early in the morning for that kind of noise. Way too early for any type.
“What does your mama have planned?” I ask, a little anxious about Saige’s plans.
Saige always went over and beyond what was humanly necessary to do. She is a perfectionist in the worst way and habitually slunk away from gratification like it was the plague. Watching her frown and fret over every single detail was torture. Saige could make a person feel guilty about having a birthday because of all the trouble that celebrating it would cause her. I’m glad I won’t be around to see her plans for my funeral.
When I turned one hundred, she made a movie about my life consisting of old videos and photographs. It was a nice sentiment until she rented out a local theater to show it and invited everyone in town. I had to wait in line for thirty minutes to see my own movie and she stressed herself out over cold popcorn and incorrect digital tickets until she fainted and had to be fanned back to consciousness.
“I can’t tell you,” Violet says as she hops off the rocking chair onto my bed.
The bounce nearly catapults me across the room. I grip the mattress to balance myself and exhale.
“Can I do your hair?” she asksas she twists my silver dreadlocks into loops and pin them to the top of my head. I lift myself so she can pullthe ones free that I am sitting on, and I sit back on the bed.
“Looks like you’re already doing it,” I retort while yawning. I sit as still as I can as my great granddaughter styles my hair. My dreadlocks are floor length. It amazes me how she effortlessly gathers my big blue-gray ropes of hair and turns them into flower petals. She pulls the last bobby pin from her pocket and places it in my hair.
“Done!” she exclaims and bolts back over to the rocking chair.
I stand up and walk over to the cherry wood vanity that sits in the corner of my room, pull the emerald cushioned seat out and sit down. I look in the mirror and smile. Violet does exquisite hair just like her grandmother, my daughter, Chloe.
“Thank you, baby,” I reply as I put on a thin coat of pink lip gloss and give myself an air kiss in the mirror. I swear the lip gloss and hairstyle takes twenty years off my face. I don’t look a day over eighty.
“You’re welcome Ma Lily,” Violet replies as she rocks like a mad woman in the chair.
“Bring me my owls,” I instruct while admiring my hair in the mirror.
Violet hops off the chair and crosses the room and opens the top drawer of my jewelry armoire. She pulls out two sterling silver necklaces, both with large owls hanging from them, and a matching pair of earrings. After she hands them to me, I put on both necklaces, one owl hanging lower than the other and put on the dangling earrings.
I look at myself once again in the mirror and smile, extremely pleased with Violet’s handy work. I feel beautiful.
A shadow moves on the opposite side of the room, its dark reflection appearing like a man made of smoke. My chest constricts as I gasp aloud. I spin around. Nothing is there.
The room falls silent. The screeching rocker squeals no more. Violet sits in the rocking chair as if time has stopped; her small face flushes red and her back is as stiff as a board.
“You okay baby?” I ask her as a shiny tear makes its way down her cheek.
“Did you see it?” she whimpers.
“I saw it,” I confess. I want to deny it, but it is no use. Violet and I both were born with a veil; born with two crowns on our heads like the ancestors used to say. It was one of the things that helped us forge such an intimate relationship. Her mother cannot see, but her grandmother Chloe can and so can Violet’s older brother Uriah.
“It’s coming to get you Ma Lily. I saw it,” Violet whines. “I don’t want you to go.”
I stand up and walk over to my great grandchild. I instruct her to stand up so I can sit down. My knee is hurting a little. Rain must be coming. Violet sits on my good knee. She feels heavier than she did yesterday.
“There is a season for everything under heaven,” I reply. “A time to laugh and a time to cry. A time to live and a time to die.”