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Monday, February 28, 2011

Boxing The Bang Blues

Of my five sisters, I am the one who most favors my paternal grandmother, Sophie Mae Moss, a woman who epitomizes the words strength, intelligence and beauty. Yet, in spite of possessing her face and head, I have spent most of my fifty-three years hiding from the wind, yanked firmly under hats, bandanna-tied under scarves and above all else, safely ensconced behind crisply cut Geisha-girl bangs or a side-parted, side-sweep of hair (which I'm certain loudly announced I was engaged in a cover-up).

I lamented the size and shape of my high, sloping forehead, as if it were the most horrific feature ever unrecorded in the Guinness Book of World Records. How could this have happened to me? Why was I The Chosen One for rude comments from passing strangers, bodacious teens, classmates and, sometimes, even siblings and cousins? Just now, the thought crossed my mind if my grandma ever experienced the coming of age trauma of being different from the others. Somehow, I never thought to question her while she was living. Possibly because I'd have had to confess that, for me, to look like her was a constant source of pain.

The names---most of which I have since trained myself to forget---once shone down on me as bright and glaring as a hanging neon light. "Big Forehead" seemed to be the one that made the largest splash, whenever some kid wanted to be particularly nasty. So I learned to sweet-talk my mother into combing a shock of my hair (thank God it was always long once straightened) into my face and, pressing one hand to my head while her other snipped the hair into a blunt line snaking across my face, just above my brows. To encourage them to lie as protective as sentry, I resorted to tying a scarf across my forehead at night, at the expense, of course, of the bumps that would spring up in my adolescent face, considering oil and pores, same as oil and water, don't usually jive. That was when "Bumpy Face" got added to "Big Forehead" to weld a double whammy!

One long-lasting memory of the first part of my life is the ingenuity I'd muster to hide my genetic faux pas from the world. Yes, I walked backward in rambunctious wind, avoided direct eye contact with other people with high foreheads for fear they'd witness the self pity in my eyes, and walked with my hand plastered over my bangs if a fan or other wind-generating mishap occurred.

I learned to stand aloof from people, especially other children, when I was younger. Children were prone to observe whatever it was you were concealing, and like adults and animals, they'd find themselves drawn to my forehead; hands moving lightening fast to lift and slick back my non-antagonistic bangs. Yes, that was childhood. Great! Now fast-forward to young adulthood and you have a young teacher making sure to maintain a respectably healthy distance from those youngsters who were prone to invading another person's privacy...didn't matter if the other was the teacher.

One afternoon during sixth period, the last period of the day, I dropped my guard. The student had been standing near my desk rattling pleasantly for a few minutes, both of us charmed Spring Break loomed close enough to smell Panama Beach breezes. And as I'm grading essays, half listening, trying not to take too many sets of papers home with me, this student reaches out and gently but firmly swipes back my bangs! Mercy! I thought I'd be sued and suspended and sentenced, if I hadn't remembered I enjoyed my freedom and had bills to pay. Everything hidden inside me longed to bolt up from that teacher's desk and snatch a crank out of that child. Steam literally roiled up from my nostrils. Momentarily, the whites of my eyes turned alcohol red. I was so heated my hair went nappy then straight in seconds.

In a flash, he apologized and softly inquired if that was why I perennially wore bangs or styled my hair in my face. It took me a minute or two, but I eventually mustered a muffled yes. Surprisingly, the entire scene was privy only to us, but the aftermath remained with me for quite some time.

As the years played out, I vowed to overcome such a mentally and emotionally crippling self-prejudice. It didn't feel right. It didn't make me feel good to judge me. I told myself, I will learn to swim in this lifetime, same as I will hurdle the nudity I felt whenever I wasn't posted up behind my infamous bangs. I was notorious. As the times changed and the styles did the same, I didn't. What? I found a way to work my super-big Angela Davis Afro into a banged wonder. Braids arrived and were everywhere except at the front of my head. And my short natural had to be trimmed with enough hair on the top to tease down onto my bumpy forehead. Drats!

Then came the day I graduated from Tuskegee Institute with Highest Honors and relocated to Atlanta, GA. Wholly loving working and living outside of the confines of dormitories and my parents' hallowed home, I defied the odds one weekend and styled my hair off my forehead and turned the nose of my blue Chevy Chevrolet towards Tuskegee and returned for a weekend visit with my hair, for some unfathomable reason, styled completely off my forehead. My stepmother, I recall, studied me for a second and said, "Wow! I like you with your hair back off your forehead! I can see your whole face! You look wonderful!" And though there was nothing about her expression and tone that bespoke ridicule, I figured she had to be pulling my leg!

But she wasn't. Unbeknownst to me, I faced more years of walking toward total self acceptance and self love. And though that walk was to take a circuitous route at times, much like a snake hunting its tail, I eventually, finally, thankfully, proudly, I accept my forehead in all of its wonder and uniqueness. I am precisely the way the Divine wants me and made me to be. I am a legacy; my son has a slight bit of my forehead and, so too, definitely does my granddaughter, Laila Amor.

A few years ago I remember watching Tyra Banks, who also possesses a high forehead, host a show about accepting what is unique about you and making that feature or characteristic your calling card, your strength, your birthright. And that is what I have embraced...all that makes me One-of-a-Kind. On the journey, I've come to understand that once you accept you, others who love and care about you will also.

Cherishing this golden existence as I box the Bang Blues,

Sunday, February 27, 2011

A Home-going Leads To A Home-coming

(L to R, Claudia Moss, Cousin Hannah Young, Sister Bernadette Stitts, Cousin Danny Young, Aunt Marion (my mother's baby sister), Cousin Mary Ann, Sister Glenda Pearl Halcromb and two precious little friends. We came together to say good-bye to my second cousin, Tracey Forman, daughter to my first cousin, Avery Young, Mary Ann's brother.)

I traveled to Tuskegee Institute, Alabama, on Thursday, February 24, 2011, to stand with my extended family, as we said farewell to my second cousin, my baby cousin, Tracey Forman. She was the only daughter, the only child, of my first cousin, Avery Young. Yes, when the clarion call goes out, whether for the Youngs or the Mosses, we go. Tracey was a Young on her father's side. My beloved mother Clementine Young Moss was her father's aunt, the sister to Avery's dear mother and Tracey's grandmother, Lee Young.

At Tracey's Home-going ceremony, I learned how very much she was loved and revered by the people with whom she worked and served beside in the U.S. Army. The sweet testimonies told of how she loved all with whom she came into contact, making them laugh one minute and making sure they were held accountable on the job the next. Sitting there, staring at her silent form, I had to smile, the stories making me nod and beam with pride and pleasure. I thought of her father sitting at the front of the church, near her open casket, where she was beautifully and ceremoniously dressed in her military uniform. Her father is incredibly hilarious, too, the funniest, wittiest remarks slipping easily from his lips.

Tracey's smile could brighten the dullest room, like her baby girl, who stood between the cars at the home where the families gathered after her mother's service. I don't know where her other three siblings were in the throngs of people, but they were absolutely gorgeous sitting side by side at the funeral, trying to be strong while the Davises flanked them, their grandmother's, Ethel Davis', family. Ethel and Avery were childhood lovers who parted ways as the years created a string of memories.

When the Home-going came to a somber end, everyone filed out of the sanctuary and crossed a foyer to enter the dining hall, where members of the church had prepared a savory meal for the repast. I could barely eat for meeting Tracey's other family and friends, so I popped out of line to snap pictures and chat. Perhaps I should have been a politician. Everybody received a hug and a hello. Swept up in the revelry of living, I captured over 300 pictures, most of which I will post on Facebook (so if you are reading this, please know that The Golden Goddess is Claudia Moss on Facebook, and you are invited to join me there, also!).

On this Home-coming trip, I spent time at Tracey's father's home in rural Roba, Alabama, a tiny patch of the world on the outskirts of Tuskegee. What a blessing that was! Avery, whose nickname is Muff, is an immaculate host, along with his beautiful wife, Renee. My sister Bernadette, whom we affectionately call "Chicken," because she was characteristically prone to fly into a rage and fight like a chicken with its head chopped, hopping and leaping and scratching up one side of her opponent and then another, spent the night with me! (Mind you, I used to be her opponent on numerous occasions in our childhood.) Avery's only sister, Mary Ann Young, and our little cousins, Hannah and Danny, were there as well. They are two of our cousins Brian and Shakira Young's brood. There are two more boys, William and Jeremiah. Then again...I may be missing a chap! Something is telling me there are five of them, but at this writing it is 3:01 AM, and I dare not wake anyone with a question of that sort.

All of my siblings from my mother, Clementine Young Moss, were present to say good-bye to little Tracey, although four did not enjoy the delightful sleepover at Avery's home, which was much like a rustic retreat, complete with five horses and rolling stretches of land and a lake! My oldest sister Diane lives in Montgomery, Alabama, so she drove home after sharing an evening meal with us, saying she had to work, unlike some of us. (giggles) My twin brother Claude (Bubba) lives in Tuskegee, and off he went as well. Glenda Pearl and baby sis Athera, who travelled up from Margate, Florida, with Mary Ann, spent the night at my father's home in Little Texas, a tiny postage stamp of a rural area outside of Tuskegee, on the opposite end from where I was.

In the event you are wondering, I am Tootsie, the other twin to Claude. My father named my twin and me. He loved his great-grandmother's name, Claudie, but he considered it too out-dated for his second daughter. Thus, he crowned me with the name, Claudia, a classic nombre in any circle! And my twin brother's name came fairly easy, as my father's name is Claude.

When a light goes out in my family, I am reminded to live my BEST LIFE right now! And the gift of our lives is GOLDEN when we remember that we are divine creations having a human experience.

In closing, I invite you to "go home" if you haven't visited the homefolks in a while. You know it is all too "facil," as the Spanish can say, to stay away, for one reason or another. Just go home and sit on the porch, prepare the evening meal, listen to the old stories, bring the little ones and savor precious moments with those whose blood whispers the same melodies as yours.

February 28, 2011

Praises to The Leading Ladies Society

(Left to Right: Claudia Moss, J.L. King, Trey Gooden, Goldie Buchanan, Angela Laster-King, Tina Crittenden, and Dr. Brown)

It was my pleasure to attend the Leading Ladies Society's "First Annual Lovers Retreat" at the Crowne Plaza Perimeter NW, in Atlanta, Georgia, on Saturday, February 19, 2011. The beautiful gala boasted the following impressive seminar speakers: T.O.W.O.A. celebrities, Angela King and Tina Crittenden; Motivational Speaker and People Coach, Tangela Washington; New York Times Bestseller J.L. King and Hosts of Trey&Tonya Loveology on, Tonya Buchanan and Trey Gooden.

The Leading Ladies Society, Inc., is a scholarship and grant foundation committed to enhancing the lives of all women with networking, support, education, and empowerment. The Society's four defining principles are: Live life with PRIDE, PURPOSE, PASSION and always strive for PERFECTION.

The Society's 2011 goal is to award two academic scholarships and two small business grants to women. The proceeds from their upcoming events will go towards accomplishing these goals.

Please donate to The Leading Ladies Society, Inc. via their website at The founders are Lynne Barney and Helen D. Brooks.

Living a Golden Life~~~