Pearl Cleage

Pearl Makes a List: 5 Moments of Front Walk Wonder and Drive-by Joy

The thing about us humans is when faced with a situation that makes all the old ways of doing things obsolete, we adapt. We don’t always do it gracefully and there is usually a fair amount of whining involved, but faced with a cataclysmically unpleasant alternative, whatever it may be, we figure something out. We adapt. One of the things that recently set off a lot of whining in me was the requirement for social distancing. All of a sudden, I can’t hug my daughter/my sister/my five fabulous grands. I can’t greet my friends with a kiss or hug them good-by. I can’t have people come over, sit down, have a glass of wine and talk until midnight. I miss all that. But I believe that social distancing is important for our collective health right now, so I am doing my human best to adapt by recognizing that my front walk is no longer simply a way to approach or exit my house, but a lifeline to the people I love. Thinking about it that way led me to this week’s list:


5 Moments of Front Walk Wonder and Drive-by Joy

1. The first time my front yard revealed its new role in my life was during the early days of the pandemic when we were all scrambling to get our mask situation under control. One beautiful, sunny day, a car pulled up outside and a woman opened the door, skipped half-way up the walk and gently laid down two wrapped masks, one for me and one for Zeke. It was my friend lauri stallings and the masks were made by member of gloATL, her dance collective. Realizing it was her, I dashed outside and had to remember to stop myself from running down the walk to hug her. Instead, we danced around my front yard and laughed out loud at our great good fortune in sharing this moment. It felt like we were dancing on sunshine.


2. A few weeks later, still staying safe, I answered a text from my friend, Chris Moses, saying “look outside.” I did and there was Eugene Russell, composer, musician and family man, standing halfway up the same front walk carrying his saxophone. He lowered his mask to greet us and Zeke and I welcomed him from the porch. Then he stood right there and played “Lean on Me” while we swayed and sang along. Bill Withers himself invited the crowd on Soul Train to join in when he performed the song on the show way back when so we figured Eugene wouldn’t mind. And he didn’t.


3. A few minutes after Eugene left, Tayari Jones, writer, teacher, world traveler and my Spelman sister, pulled up, parked and got out with her own little chair. Alerted to her arrival time, I had placed a glass of wine and a rose from the garden on the walk to greet her. I blew her a kiss from the porch steps and sat down with my own glass of wine looking forward to the kind of conversation we usually have at Murphy’s during our regular monthly dinners. The rose perfectly matched the hot pink caftan she was wearing and as we settled in, she tucked it behind her ear with no regard for possible thorns. As we shook our heads over the news of the day, we both knew the future was going to be more challenging than we could possibly imagine. For that kind of prolonged struggle, we needed the sisters of Sweet Honey in the Rock.


4. I was a little worried that not being able to hug my daughter and the grands on Mother’s Day might make me sad for what I was missing, but when we pulled up in front of their house, they all tumbled out, wearing masks that did not in any way diminish their smiling eyes, or mine. We exchanged our Mother’s Day offerings with gloved hands or propped them up outside for later retrieval, but the cards they wrote for me were as sweet as if I could have kissed them to say thanks. Besides, they already know how much I love them. And I already know how much they love me back. And in a moment like this, all I had to be was happy.


5. Okay. I confess. Little Richard never appeared on my front walk, but when he died last week at 87, it felt like I had lost a friend. A wild, flamboyant, charismatic, musical genius friend who roared out of Macon, Georgia, and changed American music forever. The thing is, when a Sprit that big makes the transition to whatever comes next, attention must be paid. And paid in full. Little Richard would expect no less. 


Share your list of 5 things with Pearl here.

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