This post is sponsored by Hallmark and its Mahogany greeting cards.
My mother had a tight clique of girlfriends who made her happy: they laughed together, cried together, fellowshipped together, bowled together, cooked together, sat in the deaconess pews together and, above all else, prayed together. Their friendship sustained them. Propelled them. Gave these mothers, wives, lovers… air.
And in the midst of their loving one another, each of my mother’s friends—my aunties—loved me unconditionally. I have vivid memories of riding my tricycle on the concrete pathway ringing Sarah’s house, dressed in matching outfits she sewed for her daughter, Sonya, and me, and sitting, too, between Sarah’s legs as she weaved intricate cornrow styles into my hair. Her long fingernails would click together as she braided, much like they did when she played the organ early Sunday morning at St. John’s Baptist Church, where she led the choirs in hosannas to the heavens.
I remember, too, saving up my pennies and nickels and dimes with the hope that Mommy would let me in on the Saturday night Pokeno action at Miss Tina’s, who, if all went well during bowling league that afternoon, would often invite the whole crew of us over to her place for game night. The win wasn’t necessarily the haul one could get from a successful Pokeno run, though; the draw of the night was over on her kitchen counter, perched under an elegant etched glass cake dish that housed her lemon pound cake—dense, spongy, tart, sweet and unforgettably delicious.
If we weren’t at Miss Tina’s, you could usually find my mom and aunties at George Ragland’s house. They affectionately called her “Rags.” She made a point of sending the kids to the basement to listen to Stevie Wonder and Johnny Gill while the grown folk were left to their business. But she’d call us to the top of the stairs, though, when the chitlins and greens were finished—our bowls steaming and fresh, with extra hot sauce, thank you.
Miss Annette’s house was the summer hangout spot: we kept her pool full and her grill hot, and she reveled in every splash, in every full stomach, in every giggle. Cynthia, the youngest of the crew, helped bridge the road between girlhood and young womanhood; from her, I could always count on an endless amount of support, particularly when my mother was sick, plus a shoulder to lean on and a sound listening ear. Cynthia’s sister, Mrs. Lewis, was sweet and always ready with a kind word, and she revered the Lord. And Miss Lena, lovely, long and fresh, with a singing voice that could simultaneously raise rafters and melt the hardest of hearts, taught us all how to be glamorous. So very glamorous.
I didn’t realize it when I was little, but my mother’s BFFs were curating valuable lessons for me—lessons on how to be. Watching them, I learned how to enjoy childhood but also how to be a lady. I learned, too, the value of friendship, creating safe spaces for children and laughter. I lived for my aunties’ hugs, their counsel, their approval, their truth. And they gave it—in spades. When I think of all the most significant moments in my life—my graduation, my wedding, the birth of my daughters, and the saddest day of my life, the burial of my mom—it is their faces that I see, their voices that I hear, their love that I feel.
This is what I’m hoping my daughters will remember about my best girlfriends when they get my age and have children of their own. I’ve made a point of, like my mother, curating my friends not only to fit my idea of friendship, but also to serve as an example for my girlpies. So when they visit with my dear friend and literary agent Victoria, they know humor, a deeply loving relationship and protection and get an up close look at the intricacies of a successful business. When they are blessed to be around my honey love, Akilah, they know adventure, free-spiritedness and exploration (plus lots and lots of unapologetic grown-up fun!). When my girl Selassie is in the house, my girls get to see independence, sweetness and pure beauty (plus, some of the best Ghanaian cooking this side of the Western hemisphere), and Tina packs for them sensibility, organization, kindness, understanding and finesse—the kind that comes with the most perfectly appointed home or that party you’ll never, ever forget because she made it the most spectacular ever. From their auntie Angelou, they get that go-getter, entrepreneurial spirit and a fanatical love of and respect for nature.
In other words, just like I was blessed to have my mother’s BFFs in my life, so, too, are my girlpies to have my best friends in theirs. And I’m so grateful for that. For them. I’ll make that known, for sure, this Mother’s Day, when we celebrate not only the mothers in our lives, but those who mother—who nurture and love and protect and give of themselves selflessly.
Make a point of telling the aunties who mothered you and the friends who nurture your babies that you appreciate them. That you love them. Can’t find the perfect words? No worries—Hallmark’s got you covered with their stunning line of Mahogany Mother’s Day greeting cards, which always seem to find the most perfect, authentic words to express yourself to the ones you love and care about. Check out the beautiful Mahogany greeting cards here, as well as the location of stores where you can purchase them.
Happy Mother’s Day to my aunties, my tribe and the MyBrownBaby crew!
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This post is sponsored by Hallmark. I shared my story here on MyBrownBaby to help the company spread the word about its Mahogany greeting cards. Of course, all opinions are mine.
Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.