16 December 2009

The Nannie Diaries: A Negro Love Song

This is an experiment.  I don't know how long I'll do this, but a post I wrote a while ago gave me an idea: write about Nannie.  I want to say that I'll post a weekly diary, but I doubt that.  That said, I'm scared I'm starting to forget her.  So I need to write something.

Sometimes I sit and try to figure out how I got here, this excruciating arid land of the life of the mind, this place where fun comes to die.  I always tell folks that I went to graduate school for all wrong reasons: I didn't want a job, didn't know what I wanted to do, didn't think I'd make a very good lawyer.  All I knew is that I liked to read books; it's the only thing I ever did consistently.  Piano lessons?  I hated to practice.  I quit.  Basketball?  I hated playing defense.  I quit.  Trombone?  A 2nd grade experiment gone bad.  I quit.  But reading?  I always did that.  I'd finish the public library's summer reading challenge in a couple of weeks.  My Uncle Parnell had to have been fed up with escorting me to and from my local branch.  He was always really nice about it, though.  I wanted to walk by myself, but my moms wasn't having it.  Our trips wouldn't have been so frequent if they would've let me check out more than two books.  Looking back, I understand my moms trepidation about sending her first born out into the 'hood alone, but I knew my avuncular walking buddy would have preferred to have been playing ball at McMillen Park than wait for my prepubescent ass to check out The Westing Game AGAIN.

I got it honestly, though.  I'm the latest in the line of women who love to read.  My mother is a major Barbara Taylor Bradford fan.  Emma Harte is her girl.  I remember reading A Woman of Substance just because it's my mom's favorite book.  She had this tattered version of the novel, looked like it had been read 50 times by a person with claws for fingers.  My grandmother, though cheap as hell, will buy a hardback book.  In fact, she is notorious for buying people books as gifts, but simply giving them the paper covers because in the interim, she's decided to read it, and hasn't finished by gift giving time.  She does this to my mother all time.  Just gives her the cover and laughs saying, "I haven't finished it yet."  It's totally annoying.

All this enthusiasm about literacy had to have started with Nannie.  She loved poetry; she recited it all the time.  I'd sit on her lap, and she'd just start spitting dialect poems.  She came up back in the day when kids had to learn stuff in school.  She actually had to learn poems and monologues and recite them. 60+ years later, she could still recall them.  I went to magnet school, and I don't ever remember having to learn and/or recite a poem.  EVER.  And if I did, I sure as hell don't remember it now.  See how television rots your brain?

Anyway, those hours on Nannie's lap listening to her must have rubbed off on me.  I stumbled into this gig--had tried business and communications before settling on English as a college major--but I suppose it's fate.  I remember sitting in an American literature class listening to the professor explain call-and-response as a trope in black literature.  He was using hip hop as an example, but I just thought of sitting on Nannie's lap.  I knew this stuff already; Nannie just never gave me an official name for it.

So yeah, I guess in a sense, I should be here still (writing about) reading.  I can't say I'll stay, but I'll finish.  Nannie quit school at 15, but remains one of the most literate and learned folks I ever knew, and that includes all these other grad students and professors I've met in this ivory tower.  Makes sense for me to close the deal.  I think she'd be proud.  Seeing me cop this last piece of paper might make her shout jump back, honey, jump back.

Anyway, I'm going to learn this poem and recite it:

A Negro Love Song
Paul Laurence Dunbar

Seen my lady home las' night,
Jump back, honey, jump back.
Hel' huh han' an' sque'z it tight,
Jump back, honey, jump back.
Hyeahd huh sigh a little sigh,
Seen a light gleam f'om huh eye,
An' a smile go flittin' by --
Jump back, honey, jump back.
Hyeahd de win' blow thoo de pine,
Jump back, honey, jump back.
Mockin'-bird was singin' fine,
Jump back, honey, jump back.
An' my hea't was beatin' so,
When I reached my lady's do',
Dat I could n't ba' to go --
Jump back, honey, jump back.

Put my ahm aroun' huh wais',
Jump back, honey, jump back.
Raised huh lips an' took a tase,
Jump back, honey, jump back.
Love me, honey, love me true?
Love me well ez I love you?
An' she answe'd, "'Cose I do"--
Jump back, honey, jump back.


z.bediako said...

its clear that you adore your grandmother. forgetting her isn't possible. you just miss her. i think writing about her will be hella theraputic & help to keep her memory alive. so, i hope you keep doing these in some form rather it be in a personal space or on the interwebs.

pld is my favorite poet. opportunity (my favorite) is one of the best ones to learn/recite. it is hilarious.

summer of sam said...

nannie LOVED some pld. when i was a kid, i was all like, whatever, but now. i live for that dude. i'ma learn 'opportunity' too. thanks.

Anonymous said...

She does thischeap GW2 Gold to my mother all time. Just gives her the cover and laughs saying, "I haven't finished it yet." It'sCheap Runescape Gold totally annoying.

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