I went again, but this time I took somebody with me.
It was a little odd, going back to the plantation. Willingly returning to the very place from which a whole bunch of slaves probably tried to escape. But I went back. It was me and my sister (again), two first cousins, one second cousin, a third cousin, and my daughter. All women. All descendants of Robbert Lenoir (born abt 1833), a man who worked as a slave on the Lenoir Plantation.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
We started planning this excursion in April of 2018. See, what had happened was, my aunt died. My aunt was my mom–that is, after my mom died when I was seven, my aunt, TT, took over and became my mom. She was everybody’s TT, so her leaving this place was rough on us all. And as is the way with funerals and repasts and what-to-do-when-all-the-laughter- and-wine-run-out, we made promises that we knew damn well we weren’t going to keep.
Y’all know the one: Let’s not just get together when somebody dies. We were going to do better. Keep up with each other. Stay in touch. Plan a girls’ trip. Text “at least once a week.” We told a bunch-a-lies, we did. At least most of us did. We ain’t do no betta than we been doing. At least most of us didn’t do betta.
But there were 7 of us. After the GroupMe I set up to keep all the Lenoir Ladies in touch with one another. After I reached out to daddies to get in touch with their daughters so we could all visit the plantation and take pictures in white. After 15 of us were dropping pictures of inspiration for our white outfits we were going to wear, there were only 7 of us, two of whom weren’t even part of the original 15 (cause they were too young to be on the GroupMe to hear us talking sh*t). So really, there were five who actually went through with the commitment. Five grown women.
To break up the text real quick, I’mma drop the video right here. Take this 3-minute break, but keep reading. I got more stuff to say.
I’m not mad about who didn’t make it; I need to say that, cause some of my sister-cousins may read this post and think I’m hi-key, lo-key, big-little mad about the situation. I’m not. So much happened between April of 2018 and June 14, 2019. Folks had children graduating; folks had toddlers to run behind; folks got sick; folks lost jobs; folks moved ‘cross country; folks ain’t have no money. Folks were just being folks, doing what folks do. So, for real, I’m not mad. I’m just happy some of us made it. And the ones that made it, were glad they did.
I’m sure you’re ready for another image. This is a cute one, but don’t get caught up; you gotta finish reading.
I was curious about my tears, the ones that wouldn’t come the first time I visited the place. I thought that once all of our hormones got dumped into the SUV together, there would be salt-water soup. Not fully the case. There was a thickness in the air; it would violate the intimacy of the visit to say who said what. I’m sorry, the tea won’t be served on this post. It’s disrespectful, and little bit too fresh. This is not to say there is no tea. Too soon; too fresh.
But there was this: anger, awe, heaviness, and weight. There were mouths hung open. There were moments when the other five would call either my name or my sister’s name and then say nothing after that. Like this:
There were also snacks. Liz (I don’t know why I insist on calling that lady Liz. She did NOT give me permission to shorten her name) made refreshments and set them out in nice glass dishes with tiers, hunti. Sausage balls, fruit, cinnamon rolls, and orange juice in cute little glasses that I begged her to put up before my daughter broke one by mistake. Had it not been for her trying to feed us, I wouldn’t have known she was there in her own house. She stayed so far out of the way I had to ask her if she was okay.
“Liz? You good?” I walked over to her and looked down at her cute little round face. I put my arm around her. “You good?”
“Oh yeahhh,” she whined out. “I just want y’all to do whatever needs to be done. Whatever you need.” She meant it. And we did. We took pictures all over that house like it was ours. I checked with Liz every now and then, when I could find her. We also had with us my best friend, Kathy, who I brought to keep us organized, on task, fed, and not looking greasy on the forehead. She brought us water and took a lot of behind the scenes footage. She was amazing.
The tears. Yeah… no, I still don’t have any. A couple of the ladies did. They brought up things I had shielded from my mind the first time. Like the fact that the plantation had a lot of trees on it, with sturdy roots, and big, wide, strong branches–stretching limbs. Nope, I chose not to think about if and how many folks swung from those branches. The heat that wasn’t even that hot beamed down and penetrated the pretty white clothes we’d had tailored and specially made from a vendor on ETSY or some other place. It was hot, but some of my cousins’ comments made me rethink the heat, took me back in time. That kind of stuff brought my girls to tears. And it’s understandable. The visit is and will always be a moving experience, I imagine it will be that way no matter how many times I go back. The folks you bring with you bring a fresh perspective, and that deepened my appreciation for the opportunity.
But redemption tho. That thing happened when we took pictures on the staircase, each one of us taking a turn, standing tall at the bottom, not smiling but using our faces to give a big ole “eff you,” to the spirit of those who thought they could kill our lineage by pushing a violated 12-year-old slave girl down those stairs. We live for that girl, cause we are she and she couldn’t live for herself.
There is more, but as the gospel song says, “I just can’t tell it all…” Not now anyway. I’ll let you know when I’m ready. Until then, get to the bottom of your staircase, and when you do, bring somebody with you so they can see what you don’t see.