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Berdine's Corner

Capturing Life's Memorable Moments

by Kenney Dennard

berdine dennard
Berdine Dillard Dennard

Life Lessons from a Matriarch

...sit back and we smile/ keep piles of pictures filed in case I go senile/
Cuz some things are just too good to be forgot/
Like your neighborhood block or your favorite spot/
certain records always seem to make me reminisce/
and when it hits, and then it clicks, remember this/
My life flash before me I'm there/
from the sounds I hear, I pinpoint the year/
its perfectly clear/
I like the way it went down and all of that/
in fact, it means a lot because you can't bring it back
remember that

-"Remember That" Rakim

I'm sure I spend way too much time reminiscing, especially when it comes to my cherished memories of my mother. It's been five years now and I have finally gotten comfortable in my new space of life without her here. It was a difficult transition.

From time to time, I still hear a song that takes me right back to her smiling face. I heard "As The Beat Goes On" by the Whispers a few months ago and smiled ear to ear from the beginning of that record until it went off. My mama loved the Whispers. But that song in particular took me back to when I was about 6 years old. It was around that time the song came out. On Saturdays around noon, right after Soul Train went off we drove out to my grandma's house and my mom would turn up the radio of her Monte Carlo when that song came on.

I could never sum up the amount of joy in my heart when I hear songs like that or Stephanie Mills, "It Feels Good all Over" or James Brown's "Bewildered." The Whispers entire "Happy Holidays to You" Christmas album stirs happy memories. It's amazing how much joy a sound can trigger a created memory.

I have hundreds of them, memories that come from all over, not just songs. Although I reminisce a lot, I feel the importance of creating new memories for myself and others. Life is all about moments. Although work, money, expensive clothes and material things make us happy, we make all of those around us happy by just being in the moment, enjoying life.

I have incredible memories of Christmas, Sundays, traveling all over the world with my mother. I've actually been to Alaska, The Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, Atlantic City, New York City, Dallas, Washington DC, Orlando, and many other places with my mom, whether it was a family vacation or if I was alone with just her and my dad, and once or twice, just alone with her.

I'll never forget when my mom was traveling on a buddy pass from LA to Atlanta courtesy of me and my job. I was worried sick because I had not heard from her, and my dad and sister hadn't either. I was worried like I was the parent and she was the child because my mom hadn't traveled much by herself. I was getting off work late around midnight at Newark Liberty Airport. I'd finally given up and just figured she must be in the air on her way back to Atlanta. Right before I left, I asked one of the gate agents to see if she was on the list of travelers flying to Atlanta. Right as the agent began to look it up, I looked up and my mom was walking in from the Jetway smiling, greeting me, "Kenney Boy!" She said she didn't wanna take a chance waiting in LA with no sure seat to GA, so when they said they had a flight open to Newark, she jumped on. I proudly walked my mom through my work area and then drove her through Manhattan to my aunt’s house in Brooklyn, NY.

I remember specific details of each trip we took. Even the time the family traveled from Buffalo, NY, in that same Monte Carlo; this time the engine started smoking somewhere in Ohio, the Buckeye State. My dad loved to remind us kids where we were, so once we hit Ohio, he kept saying, "We're in Ohio, Kenney Boy, the Buckeye State. After the engine started smoking, we pulled over and had to sit on the side of the road a few hours while my dad hitch-hiked to a gas station for help. Before he left my mom was sure to sarcastically throw in, "We're now stuck in Ohio, the Buckeye State." While my dad was gone, my mom had all of us children along with my cousin Neika get quiet while she said a prayer out loud. She, then, passed it to each one of us kids to say a prayer out loud as well. Before we knew it, my dad was back with help. We were on our way about an hour later. I was about 6 years old. I guarantee you if we had just driven back with no problems, I wouldn’t remember that trip today.

My mom found a way to put a little magic in all types of moments, whether it was with her cooking, her dancing, or just her personality. She threw herself a birthday party once because she said no one else had ever thrown her one. Our entire extended family had a ball just watching her have a good time. Years later, it was just as much fun watching her throw my dad a surprise birthday party. I think she was just as excited as he was.

That was quite an era.

When my mom got sick, she swore she was going to fight cancer with all she had. Then when it got close to the end, she saw what was coming. She stopped fighting. She had peace. I didn't.

On the last visit I spent with my mother she was very sick and spent most of her day in bed. But suddenly, as I typed on the computer in the hotel guest office, I looked up and she was standing behind me. She put her hands on my shoulders and said, "Boy, we've had some good times, haven't we?" Of course we had. But I didn't want to speak past tense at the moment. I wish I had. I responded, "And we gonna have a lot more good times mama!" I was wrong. I never saw her standing again after that. But she was right. We had had some great times!

I tend to talk a lot about my mother. She and my dad took us kids on a magical journey and those great times will never be forgotten. So now I'm on to create my own memories. But I hope others take heed to this column and some of the stories. Create magical moments with your family. When you’re gone, their most cherished possessions will be those memories.


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