About a year ago, I thought of Freedom Land, an amusement park. I remembered an incident that happened when I was eight years of age when my Aunt Helen and her friend Annie took me on a trip to this amusement park. Aunt Helen was a very attractive older woman. I remember her rhythm. Her left leg was slightly shorter than her right leg and walked with a limp.
"Aunt" Helen baby sat me and my brother, who was a year younger than me. I thought she was having an affair with my maternal uncle, although I would not have known what to call it at the time. One afternoon, I woke up from a nap and she was sitting on my uncle’s lap while he was on the toilet. I saw them; the door was wide open. I just stood and looked. Both turned and saw me. “Go back to your room!!,” Aunt Helen said sternly. It did not look at all unusual to me, not that I’d seen that before.
Annie had a natural long before it was popular. She was dark-skinned, tall and slender. She was pretty. She must have been somebody’s relative but I never knew whom. I remember little about her or where she came from. I don’t remember Annie living in the projects, only visiting.
Freedom Land was a trip that took the entire day. I remember nothing of the trip there, however, I recall the trip back was full of anger and sadness. After rides and amusements, we children were allowed to choose one souvenir each. Besides myself, two other children came with us: Billy and Cookie. My brother did not make this trip.
I thought Cookie was cute and had a crush on him for several years. He was tall and sounded smart. Well, he could talk. The crush faded as I watched Cookie’s face swell from drug use and his speech began to bore me. Even though there was a difference in our ages, I never really knew what I wanted to hear him say, to speak to me as if I were the only person there or to sound like he had an interest in a particular subject. And to him, I was just a chubby little girl who kept staring and smiling in his face. The only thing he ever said to me directly was, “Hey,” or “Hi, how you doin?’. Over time, I thought he forgot my name. He always wore a hat resting on top of his picked out nice Afro.
It looked as if Cookie never went anywhere for any amount of time. He was a permanent fixture in the projects, living in an apartment with his mother. I never saw his father, nor did I know his last name. His mother wore thick lens glasses with glitter at the corners. She always wore lipstick and dressed nicely, her hair was always done. I don't remember ever seeing her outside wearing hair curlers under a scarf like some other women did.
Years later, Cookie overdosed and died on his mother's couch. She made the mistake of telling the police he was already dead. His body was collected more than twenty four hours later.
Billy was a little unusual looking. He had a large, shapely head, and his voice sounded like a loud whisper. His teeth protruded like an oval with a slope from the face. When he chewed gum, it looked as if his mouth never really closed. He had full lips. There was nothing unattractive about him; he had his own unique features. When he talked to be heard, it was high, like the Beaver only with a southern accent. I knew he lived in the projects. I saw him a lot and said hi to him.
There were five buildings in the James A. Bland Housing Projects. Each had ten floors and nine apartments on each floor. Billy and Cookie lived in the “Joint of the Day” - the fourth building. The older, more experienced kids seemed to live in that building. They appeared to have lives outside of the projects. The Bland was the best place in the world to me. I knew from other children's reactions when they found out I grew up in a projects, that I should be ashamed, but to me, it was a great place. I was confused over why I should feel shame because of where I lived and loved to play.
In the projects, there were large areas of grass along the walks, staked with “keep off” signs, surrounding wonderful trees that looked enormous to someone my size. As I looked down from the sixth floor where we lived, I imagined that I was actually seeing the trees uproot themselves and walk slowly to sit or stand around the benches and talk when night was most quiet. They always walked back to their exact places before morning so no one would know. Seeing that made me grateful we lived so high up.
When Annie and Helen offered us each a souvenir while at Freedom Land, we all wanted the same thing: a sword. This was fine for Cookie and Billy: they were older boys. Aunt Helen said, “Little girls do not use toys like swords. You may have a doll if you like.” I was also reminded of the fact that they did not have to offer me the opportunity to have a souvenir. I didn’t want a doll; wanting a sword meant, to Aunt Helen, that I would want use the sword the same way the boys did. She may have thought that type of play was a little rough for a girl to be involved in. I don’t remember if I accepted the offer of a doll. I had plenty at home.
The “offer” of a souvenir seemed useless because the boys could have anything they wanted. If they chose dolls, would they have been discouraged? Meanwhile, I was chastised for not wanting or accepting what a girl should want.
So many years later, that trip to Freedom Land came to the front of my mind with the words ”Where are your swords?” When I heard the Voice, I looked straight ahead from what I was doing. I remember walking to the chair at the desk. I was feeling overworked and overwhelmed. I was without the help that was clearly known I needed but had been given more work that needed to be completed immediately. I realized that it slipped my mind to carry them with me on that and several mornings.
I repeated the question: “Where are my swords?” I thought not of the weapon but of strength. I thought of Archangel Michael who is always carrying one. I thought of Excalibur and what it was said to represent. I saw them in my mind: a singular object that carries energy up itself and radiates. They represented strength, focus, and direction, a lot of things I felt I was not. It helped to think of them. I misplaced mine. In hearing those words, I found them again. From that point on, actions were self-motivated. I did the work, it did not do me.
When I think of my swords I think of strength of purpose: what I feel I need rather than what others tell me I can have. In what time I have on the planet, anger and sadness are too expensive to use up time. I should have known then I would eventually grow up and be able to obtain all of the swords I could ever want. I really never thought I would grow into a self-actualizing adult, but that's another story.