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 my mom’s sisters, my cousins, my maternal grandparents, the late Lela and the late George, and my grandma’s twin sister, the late Rosie. Whether it was driving to Disney 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 and hugs when I messed up. Now that I’m married with a child of my own, their presence has extended to my family too. Just a few weeks ago, they were in the audience cheering with me as my husband graduated from college.
When I found a lump in my breast in 1991, 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. At all my subsequent surgeries through the years, they have always been there waiting with me as I prepped for surgery or being one of the first faces I saw when I woke up right after.
When I was the first granddaughter to graduate from college and when I went back to school to get my master’s degree, 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 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, and they have supported me at countless events as my other books have been released.
Over the years, my village has expanded to include my sisters-in-love, Karen and Pam, and my adult nieces, Brittany and Ashley. I am so thankful that I consider them all to be friends. We laugh together, cry together, worship together, and eat together. What a blessing.
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. Even though Mother’s Day was yesterday, it’s not too later to acknowledge those people and thank them for all they are to you.
We can’t take these people’s presence for granted. I am so blessed to have these amazing, strong women in my life. I just wanted to say publicly, thank you and I love you. I wouldn’t be the woman or the momma I am today without you.