Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Remembering Nonie

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This beautifully made baby was once a stage prop for the traveling show, Ragtime. She can be found at Heights Station Antiques. She reminds me of a time when I thought I was Nonie's.

There are a few mysteries in my life and Nonie is one of them. My memories of this woman with a warm, ample lap are so vivid that I can quietly inhale and recapture her fragrance...soap, the sachet that she put between her breasts where she cradled my head; the smell of her lovely food simmering in large pots on the stove. When I really need to feel loved, I remember Nonie's nurturing.

Nonie is my first memory...for me, all life began in her arms. So when I found myself being pulled along a street by the hand, wearing clothes that didn't seem to be mine, it's no wonder that I balked and demanded, "Where is Nonie?" Implicit in that question was, "And who are you?" Those two questions, spoken and implied, brought a threatening reprimand from the stranger gripping my hand. This is my first memory of my mother.

Over the years, though fearing to ask, I persisted in trying to find Nonie. Sometimes it was suggested that I had imagined Nonie, made her up out of thin air. Other times I was promised an answer, "When you're old enough." As a grown woman, I asked my mother about Nonie and she told me that Nonie had been our maid. (Here I should mention that my mother frequently constructs her own truth.) I refuted with, "Nonsense! We weren't well off enough to have had a maid." It was then that I resigned myself to never knowing who Nonie was.

The last time I remember Nonie, she was holding me in her lap while sitting in her rocker on the front porch one summer afternoon. An old neighbor man approached, asking, "Where did you get that white kid?"

I sat up abruptly, looking around for the white kid. Nonie threw her head back in laughter, "Baby, you can be black if you want to be." It had never occurred to me that Nonie and I were different in any way.

So, wherever you are Nonie, thank you for the memories. Over my long life, taking sanctuary in the memory of your love has given me strength, courage, a sense of self, and...most of all... a capacity for boundless love...just like you!


  1. This i a nice rememberence(if this is a word).We went to the USA when my youngest was about five.She had not seen people of another color then her own.We live next to family here.Having lived here for about 400 years it gets like that.She just asked if the neighbor next door was family.I was surprised that she didn't see the difference.

  2. I too have a memory of being with someone (grandparent?) who loved me and then being carried away (parents.) I never forgot that feeling of warmth, care and love. Thank you for sharing your story.

  3. Wow...that could be haunting.
    I too had a mother who like to construct her own "truth"..whatever suited her needs.
    I am sorry you never got to see your Nonie again...but she sure loved you and you can bet she was REAL.


  4. what a touching memory, what a wonderful thought to hang on to.
    thanks for sharing...


  5. Absolutely beautiful and heartfelt. Thank you for sharing your touching memory. (And beautifully written.)

  6. My goodness, how amazing. Btw I saw your comment on Alexander McQueen at Hollister's and was touched.

    This is so unusual, the fact that you remember her is real. I wonder, could it be that you have a mixed background and were then adopted by parents who share one part of your ethnicity?

    If I were you I would get on those detailed DNA tests and then perhaps adoption searches. There could be a whole world of family out there that would love to meet you. Sorry to be so bold. I guess I feel you remember her for a reason, a neverending bond. Peace, x.