Archive for December, 2011
Old-school Party Pondering
Monday, December 19th, 2011

Isn’t it great when something unexpectedly whisks you back to a sweet childhood memory? It happened to me last night at a holiday party as I watched accomplished, fun-loving blackfolk dressed to the nines, chatting, networking and performing the many dance-stepkids of the Electric Slide. They reminded me of my parents and their working-class buddies, dressed like movie stars in snazzy suits, peplumed dresses and feathered hats, looking far too stylish to be the teachers, insurance salespeople, carpenters and steelworkers they masqueraded as by day. This soiree was sponsored by Sigma Pi Phi fraternity (the “BouIe”), and included such tuxedoed and gowned local heavyweights as Montgomery County executive Ike Leggett, Md. Lt. Governor Anthony Brown, former D.C. councilwoman Charlene Drew Jarvis (daughter of famed blood plasma and transfusion pioneer Charles Drew), Ken Tolson (grandson of cinema’s “The Great Debaters” leader), attorney Weldon Latham, Smithsonian exec John W. Franklin, son of beloved historian John Hope Franklin. But what moved me wasn’t the guest list. My favorite moment came during a romantic slow dance, when I spied a lovely woman with long gray hair wrap her arms around her distinguished-looking husband, nestle her head on his shoulder and close her eyes. How often must they have danced together? I wondered–and yet her face was as love-struck as a 16-year-old’s. Her hubby looked just as grateful. Partygoers’ warmth and suavity made me want to offer a shout-out to all the classy, hard-working and -dancing brothers and sisters taking the floor in balllrooms, rec centers and  basements this Yultide, setting an elegant example for young folks everywhere. Special thanks to Leonard “Doc” and Mary Haynes (and their handsome sons) for including Kevin and me in this lovely evening!

Knowing nothing–and embracing it
Sunday, December 4th, 2011

If I’ve learned one thing from writing a memoir, it’s this: Few people know what’s truest in their lives. As a columnist, I make a living mining my life and writing as honestly and as candidly as I can about my past, my opinions, my secret selves. Yet while writing Brothers (and me), I was repeatedly surprised by memories, motives and feelings I’d buried inside that I didn’t know existed before the memoir forced me to dig deeper. There’s so much we humans don’t realize–not just about others but about ourselves. Yet the hardest words for most of us to say are, “I don’t know.” They denude us of our illusions of control, exposing us for what we so often are: Uncertain, mistaken, far from in control.

I’ve come to embrace “I don’t know.” Admitting my cluelessness removes the cudgel of my pretenses, frees me to accept the questions with which my mind swirls–and whose answers change by the hour. It has taken years for me to understand poet Rainer Maria Rilke’s words: “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms or books that are written in a foreign tongue. The point is to live everything. Live the questions now.”

Sometimes you’ll live your way to the answers.

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