I didn’t realize the truth of the saying that it takes a village to raise a child until I moved back to Birmingham in 2006.
Truthfully, I don’t remember a time growing up that my village hasn’t been there.
My momma, Doris J. Sparks, grew up in a tight-knit family. She had three sisters—Carolyn, Geraldine and the late Minnie—and five brothers, and most of my childhood memories include them, my cousins, my maternal grandparents, Lela and the late George, and my grandma’s twin sister, my great-aunt Rosie who passed away last year. Whether it was driving to Disney World or going to Gatlinburg or chatting at my grandparents’ house after church, my village has always been there.
In good times and in bad.
At so many of my childhood activities, they were right there in the audience cheering me on and offering huge smiles of encouragement when I messed up. Even now as an adult, it’s rare for me not to look out into the audience and see them there.
When I found a lump in my breast in 1992, my aunt Carolyn was with my momma behind closed doors feeling me up to see if she could feel what my momma and I felt. When I had to have emergency surgery in March to have my gall bladder removed, I woke up to find my aunts right there.
When I was the first granddaughter to graduate from college in 1993 and at when I received my master’s degree in December, my village was right there cheering me on.
The night before I moved to New York, I remember my aunt Geraldine coming over and looking at me with tears streaming down her face, telling me she didn’t want me to go, and my uncle Mike and aunt Janice making the drive with me and my parents.
When I returned home from Pennsylvania for my daddy’s funeral in 1994, they were right there, offering a shoulder to cry on.
When my mother was diagnosed with leukemia, they were right there going to appointments with her and taking care of her.
When I returned to Birmingham again for my mother’s funeral in 1996, they were there crying with me.
When I returned from New York in 2006 with my heart broken and broken in general, they were right there helping me pick up the pieces and rebuild my life—babysitting my baby girl and eventually helping me plan my wedding when I got remarried.
When my first book was released, they threw the party and helped spread the word.
My village has always been there.
Maybe you’re like me and your mother is no longer here. I challenge you to look around at the people God has placed in your path to help you on your journey. It might not be a biological connection or a big group like what I have, but I believe there is someone.
We can’t take these people’s presence for granted. It’s so easy to get sad on Mother’s Day because my momma isn’t here, but I realized this weekend as I celebrated Mother’s Day with my aunts, cousins and grandma at our annual get-together that I am so blessed to have these amazing, strong women in my life. I just wanted to say publicly, thank you. I wouldn’t be the woman or the momma I am today without you.