I was given an “assignment” to write a goodbye letter to my daughter Ari….. I stalled. I just couldn’t find the words then I heard Beyonce’s new song “Formation” and I laughed to myself because I imagined Ari in the bathroom getting ready for school, doing her make up and BLASTING that song! “I did not come to play with you hoes, I came to SLAY!” I’m laughing as I write this, if you knew “My Ari” you’re probably laughing too….. She TRULY believed she was Beyonce!
I can’t remember where I heard this but I remember hearing someone say “People don’t die until you stop talking about them”. It’s been echoing in my head the past 3 months, 2 weeks and 2 days. If you think about it, it is true. What if we stopped talking about Dr. King? Would his dream still be alive?
Recently I’ve realized people don’t know what to say to me. It’s like they’re afraid. I get weird stares when I talk about Ari so openly. They look at me in disbelief, as if I shouldn’t talk about my child that was so influential in my life for almost two decades. I just keep thinking to myself “If I stop talking about her then she REALLY dies.”
People have asked “Dee when are you going to write again?”….. I guess today, but I won’t write a “Goodbye Letter” because although I have let Ari go in the flesh, Goodbye is too permanent of a word for me. And if you know me, I am always very careful and strategic with my words.
If you attended the Homegoing Celebration of my Ari, I read a letter that I wrote to her 3 years ago. That letter was describing what a unique and special child she was, I just wanted her to know how much I admired her. So instead of a goodbye letter, I will write her a “Thank You” letter, for helping to raise me.
To My Ari,
Seventeen years ago I was a confused girl who had given birth to a baby girl. I’ve always been very open and transparent in admitting I have no idea how you turned out so well, cause I was lost. The mother thing was not automatic for me. I didn’t see a bright light shine down from the heavens, or feel this rush of love sweep through my heart when you were born. The only thing I could think about after you were born was if Melanie was going to remember the coke when she brought the Hennessy to the hospital to visit me. I was lost!
But as time passed I began to realize that I had to get myself together or you were going to be a lost little girl like me. Well, honestly it was when you tried to go outside and go to “work” with the hookers, when we lived in Montevallo Gardens that I KNEW I had to change some things! When Dr. Price helped, well made me, go to school I had no idea how much our lives were going to change. As I look back on things, that was only the beginning for us.
As you know I love quotes, but one that I always kept in mind while raising you was by James Baldwin “Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.” I remember when I was young and knew everything, whatever my mama told me I did the EXACT opposite; but there was so much she DIDN’T tell me to do, that I picked up unknowingly. I went to college, almost your entire life, and because you always saw me in school you always did well in school. You fussed at me for working too much, but then you became a hard worker yourself. You even began to change your hair color habitually like me, and grew a love for sneakers like me as well. Whenever I would have a brief thought about reverting back to my old ways I would think “And what will Ari do without me?” And I would stop being a drug dealer in my head and go back to teaching.
I woudn’t say that you were my world, but my world definitely revolved around you. I admired you so much for being different, because when I was growing up I was too afraid to be different. You helped me to start doing things for Dee and not thinking so much about what others said or thought. I never wanted to be your “friend” but I always wanted us to have open lines of communication. I knew you wouldn’t come to me about everything, but I did want you to know that I was there, and I wouldn’t judge or condemn you.
We both know our relationship was far from perfect, you went through the “Oh my God my Mama gets on my nerves” stage and we had our share of blowouts. I fussed and yelled when you left one fork in the sink, were constantly distracted by your phone, when you would take my stuff without asking or when you didn’t feed or take Coco out. And I gave you a hard time about "that boy", because I couldn’t let you know I thought he was good for you and that ya'll looked cute together. *rolls eyes* I tried to give you responsibility without being overbearing. I wanted you to have freedom to be yourself but to know there were boundaries in my house. While I was trying to instill that in you, you helped me be responsible and to hold myself accountable for everything that I did.
It was like we were the perfect team. We understood each other and we just let each other live. You were and have been the ONLY person in my life to know so many depths of me, and love me regardless. You were the perfect example of unconditional love.
So now I have my good days, and some days are not so good. I miss you immensely. This is the hardest thing I have EVER had to go through. I feel like I have no direction, like all of the plans in my head have been cancelled, because all of my plans included you. I’ve been lost before but this isn’t the lost girl that I was 17 years ago, this is a woman who finally thought she had it all figured out kind of lost. The only thing that keeps me from going crazy is I KNOW this was planned, just not MY plan.
So I can’t say Goodbye to you, I feel like saying Goodbye is leaving behind everything you have helped me to become. Instead I will just say Thank you….. Until I see you again. And I promise, when I do, I will hug you with no objections.
Love you all the way to the moon and WAY more than Red Velvet Cake!
To make sure “my baby” never dies, I have created the Ariyanna D. Benjamin Scholarship. Visit www.darislove.org for more information