One address I did not expect to find in Mama’s address book is from Long Island, not the one around the corner, but the one in the Bahamas.
We were there in 1996 for a family wedding.
One day we rented scooters. On the way to a secluded beach we met a local family with four kids. Four black kids with big Afros of blond curls. Mama was so struck by them, she asked their parents where that blond hair came from.
I cringed a little, but the proud parents of beautiful children had no problem telling Mama about the white ancestors on both sides who had contributed their genes for blond hair.
I have no idea when or how during the conversation addresses were exchanged. Mama wrote down all four kids’ names. All started with M like their father’s. I bet she sent them a Christmas card that year.
She liked making friends.
She loved children.
She used to tell me she would have liked another of her own, a third.
It was on another day of that trip that I learned how completely sheltered I still was, as a 26-year-old, by that love of hers – because I was her child.
We were snorkeling in a lonely spot on the island’s Atlantic side. Both shore and sea were rougher here than on the turquoise Caribbean side.
We were a quarter mile from land, when a shark came my way.
Seeing its large grey body below the surface with us I panicked. I turned away, lifted my head above water and rushed to shore.
Once we were back on land and safe, my father laughed at my panic. Mama, who understood my fear, said she’d wanted to put herself between that shark and me.
That shark had been like a sighting of death to us.
And Mama wanted to meet it before me – to make sure I would be safe.
And so she has.