The coat was rough, and if I slept on the wrong side that night, the fabric of the coat would chafed my skin. I memorized the muddy yellow and burnt orange sequence of the needlework, and as a kid, I would imagine, this must be how a million suns look like if they interlocked their arms together at the end of a long summer day. The zipper was broken, but that didn’t matter, however, my hair would get stuck in the zipper from time to time. The coat smelled like cooking oil and garlic on most days. Some days it smelled like the faded rain and wet earth. On those days, it was because I would take the coat with me and pretend to read on the porch, but instead of reading, I spent countless hours daydreaming into the rain about things I cannot even recall. On occasions when the coat was cleaned, it would smell like a weird flowery smell. I never liked that smell because it reminded me of Mrs. Fischer’s hair. She had red hair, and her face was red on most days too.
The coat was warm, the inner lining of the coat was a light cream color, the color of vanilla ice cream if it was left out too long. There were holes in the inner lining of the coat, mostly because maybe I rip things in my sleep? The holes didn’t bother me much, they were fun. From time to time, I would hide things in there to discover it later. This coat symbolizes the boredom of a young girl but also served a very practical purpose. When I was young I refuse to sleep with a blanket, instead, I would cover myself with this large coat. Similar to how kids often have a favorite blanket, I had a large coat. Thinking back to the attachment I had with this coat, I believe it was more than just boredom and practicality. This coat belonged to my mother. When we moved to America, my mother was a stay-at-home mom for the first couple of years, and then it was as if I never saw her. My dad told me she spends most of her time with White people. I remember asking him what I must do to become a White person? If he knew the answer, he never told me. So every night, I would go to bed with this coat as a blanket, and in many ways, this coat replaced my mother. And one day, without noticing I let go of that coat.
I sat down and did this free write (the coat) after reading a combination of the readings I will share below. Introducing Mothering as Revolutionary Praxis, Cynthia Dewi Oka (2016) added a quote by bell hooks:
“For those who dominate and oppress us benefit most when we have nothing to give our own, when they have so taken from us our dignity, our humanness that we have nothing left, no “homeplace” where we can recover ourselves.” (p. 45).
She then goes on to add:
“The revolutionary struggle against a colonial, racist, hetero-patriarchal capitalism which has for centuries separated us; arranged us in structured oppositions to each other; reduced our bodies to raw resources for abuse, exploitation and manipulation; and, in the words of Frantz Fanon, occupied our breathing, is today the struggle for a world - no, many worlds - where we might exist and thrive as each other’s beloved.
It is the struggle not only for a social universe that is meaningful and just, but lives that are inherently precious.
It is the struggle against our elimination, our disappearance from each other.“ (p. 45).
I will also include the poem She is Radical written by Tara Villalba and Lola Mondragon (2016) as they talked about how their mothers were everything but also invisible.
Since my anthology is about reimagining Hmong womanhood, I have been thinking a lot about mothering and loving and how these two things can help reimagine Hmong womanhood. I have been thinking about what happens when a mother can no longer give to their own and what/how they can hold onto to being each other’s beloved. Similar to Villalba and Mondragon, I grew up seeing my mother’s faults easily, I denied my mother on many occasions, I must have made her so sad and invisible. I treated her how White people treated her. I had a “White” Mother growing up, but I was my mother’s “White” daughter. I am well educated, and my mother can barely hold a pencil.
My mother didn’t give me much growing up, but it was also because I didn’t take from her. What she had seemed to be owned by someone else, who, I still do not know. Even the concept of giving had changed from when I was a child to now. The concept of giving is so capitalist, or so we think because nothing is free. I perceive my mother’s giving as a contract - - the life I live has made me suspicious of the woman who gave me life. Life, she gave me life so therefore maybe we will always be each other’s beloved no matter what happens. The act of being “beloved” is so radical because it’s so transformational - it is like literally giving life. After all, as Villalba and Mondragon explained, “I realized I learned to survive because I saw her survive.” (Villalba & Mondragon, 2016, p. 68). Of course, I could not write this without the help of Lauren Adams. We sat hours in a dingy computer lab thinking through the love of our parents. As this is my last post, I would love to express how grateful it has been to learn from amazing women of color - both from our literature and from class!
Original post: https://820poetics.tumblr.com/post/159243619901/the-beloved
Gumbs, A. P., Martens, C., & Williams, M. (2016). Revolutionary mothering: Love on the front lines. Canada: Between the Lines