When I think about my cousin, Shelia Lynn, I admit that she wore my name a year before I arrived and was called just Lynn. We lived together briefly as children in Memphis. We were all sheltered at our grandmother’s house who played Mother Goose.
Yep, both of her daughters had returned to the nest and each had four children in tow. Eight kids in a tiny house but boiled over with love. Somehow, it worked and lifetime bonds were tightened among us.
Later, we were reconnected as young women. Her family remained in Memphis but our family had moved on to Chicago. However, our family always returned to Memphis, at least once a year. I remember going to see her act at Front Street Theater, there. She allowed me to come backstage with her to her changing room. I sat there and quietly watched her apply her stage makeup. Amazing!
By the time she entered stage right, I was sitting in the audience. I do not remember the name of the play but I do know that I was filled with awe and wonder. This would be the beginning of my noticing Shelia’s choices and I took away the parts that I found admirable. She was silently dropping pebbles for me to follow in my own timing.
Shortly, thereafter, her bravery and spunk caught my eye again when she moved to Atlanta to become a flight attendant. She graduated in the first class of black women to get their wings for Delta Airlines. She flew with them for over 30 years! Our paths continued to cross at different intersections.
As fate would have it, we both returned to Memphis and lived there in the early 80’s. This time, we became closer than ever as we shared our hurts, our pains and acknowledged each other’s accomplishments. I purchased a large wall map and whenever she called me from various locations, I would put a stick pin there on my map. She was still silently dropping pebbles and charting out new family paths.
Her colorful descriptions of places like hot Atlanta or snow-bound Boston or the tropical islands stayed with me. She spoke of one place where she could pick fruit from the tree from outside her hotel window. Though I was doing my own thing, I did take copious mental notes as she shared her adventures. She was still pinning those pebbles in my mind.
As the gods would have it, I did make it to Atlanta. I lived there for two years and met life-long friends as I struggled through the terrain. And, yes, quite like Johnny-Come Lately, I made it to the islands more that once. Her pebbles helped me to slowly make it to snowy New England. Once there, I enjoyed walking around Boston’s Back Bay as I took in the sights and sounds of the city for four years. So, all I can say is, “Thanks, cuz, for dropping those pebbles behind you!”
October 9, 2021