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  • Jay

Jazz For Mama.

Fathers make daughters

who grow to resent men

and mothers juggling two roles,

too exhausted to be emotionally available to them.

The result is years of feelings too deep to discuss,

and appointments with a therapist

who charges too much.




The year was 1999. A bitter cold and snowy suburban morning in January. I occupied the backseat of our midnight blue ’93 Mercury, waiting patiently for mama to finish cleaning the snow from windows too frozen to roll down.


WNUA 95.5 was a staple in our car. My very first encounter with the world of jazz music. It was the only other station she listened to aside from Gospel Radio 1390; “where the ministry was in the music”. She always said that jazz laid the smooth foundation for the start of a good day. I loathed it then. It’s funny how the traditions of our mothers become our own in time and without warning.


Kenny G was her favorite. Like clockwork, his sax was always the first sound I’d hear on the ride to the extra special before, before care at school. I call it extra special because Mrs. M was kind enough to accommodate her work schedule by opening earlier, allowing me entry two hours before school supervision was due to start. I’d go inside, wrap myself in the warmth of my coat, and sleep on the gymnasium floor until the bell rang. It was an altruistic act to aid a single mother by tending to her child when the morning skies still looked like a dark night.


My parents separated when I was 6. If you asked me what life was like prior to then, you’re better off not knowing for now. Afterwards, mama juggled long hours for paychecks that never seemed long enough with the daily demands of motherhood. Cooking and cleaning, cleaning and cooking, and preparing to repeat it again the next day; neglecting her own self-care until she remarried again a few years later.


My understanding of the situation at the time was insignificant compared to her actual sacrifices. You never really know until it’s you, rings true.


Fathers make daughters who grow to resent men after having watched their mothers play the villain in the age-old story, repeating itself through generations present and future. I empathize with her as a woman and single mother, but as a daughter with unhealed emotional trauma, there’s much to be heard to properly release. I don’t think this lifetime will allow me that opportunity. My therapist encourages me to have respectful dialogue with her to assert my newfound boundaries, but black mothers always receive differences as disrespect; no matter how softly and intentionally delivered.


“The bible says to honor your mother and your father. I don’t’ want to hear how bad of a mother you think I was. I did the best that I could.”


Words too often fall on deaf ears. I’ve accepted that she is a woman with her own issues and there is no changing what she went through or who she had to become. She too is a daughter, woman, mother, turned wife with unhealed trauma.


Painful wounds unknowingly passed through the birth canal when life met her for the first time.

Painful wounds unknowingly passed through the birth canal when life met me for the first time.


Mama’s bags are heavy, inherited as my own, but generational curses are only challenged when you acknowledge their existence. The duty to break them relies on change and as a mother with my own softly played morning notes, I embrace that change with wide open arms.


I make new traditions.

I affirm my love with words and actions.

I welcome different opinions and accept healthy dialogue.

I encourage questions where there is no understanding.

I don’t chastise emotion.

I apologize without malice.

I am not always right.

I have tough conversations.

I am not always right.


In present day, I now wake at 5a to exercise and seize the day before the sun.


Though Kenny G isn’t a part of my regular rotation, my daughter knows Coltrane’s Blue Train by opening note.


I send mama my jazz playlists sometimes.


She says that she doesn’t like the kind I like and I’m okay with that. I tell her that when I hear the first notes of the morning, I am laying a new smooth foundation for the start of a good day.

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