To Be Creative
My Mom, Wander Alexandria McGinnis is the first woman I witnessed be creative. As a young child I would sit for hours on a large old 1980’s floral pillow in the living room watching a movie or listening to Brownstone. I’d sit head tugging back and forth, wondering what I would witness when I was finished. On “hair” days, I would go and find “the bucket.” This metal blue bucket, once was the home to a plethora of popcorn, cookies, or candied goodness of a past no one remembered, but was now filled to the brim with colorful beads, ribbons, bo-bos, and different hair accessories. After I picked out the color assortment for the week, she’d set them aside as she braided, and plated my hair in perfectly sectioned squares or diamonds. Then she’d place each barrette on my hair, crowning me for the week. I’d stare at myself in amazement swinging my hair back and forth in front of the mirror, making a melodic cacophony with my hair. I’d toss my chin length ponytails back and forth pushing myself into an imaginative world where the Texas sun was on my skin and I was happy. Honey, you couldn’t tell me nothing. The magic of her fingers, having finished her masterpiece of braids and twists created a rhythm, and the only way to respond was in joy.
Wander, has always been creative. Coming from a large family she learned how to do-it-herself; piercings, hair, you name it. Before pinterest and youtube DIY fads were a thing, she was sewing clothes for my sister, me, and our dolls. On Sundays we were up singing and she made sure I could firmly hold the soprano line so that our family could always have four part harmony when we went to church. But my most memorable moment of creating with my mom was making Christmas ornaments.
My mom was a working mom, supervisor of her office at the Department of Human Services. She had a particularly large team, a small budget, and a big heart. She would leave just as the mockingbird that nested in front of my bedroom window began to mimic the crows and come home just as living room tv’s and lights flickered off, leaving homes in silence and darkness all around the neighborhood. One night, she barged in the house at her usual time, hands full of bags, and on the phone. “Girl, let me call you back, I just got in the house,” As she hung the phone up, she went into the kitchen, and within minutes it was transformed into an art studio. Her movements were suspicious as she picked up ordinary cooking ingredients. My mom wasn’t one to make a meal every night of the week, so I knew we for sure weren’t making a cake. As she poured flour into a bowl, the music began to play, and with grace and a gentle sway, she began mixing flour with pounds of salt forming a clay like substance in her hands. It was a different magic than I was used to her making with those hands. She sat the flour out on our countertop, rolling and kneading it and began cutting them into different shapes. Her wet palms began molding this make-shift clay into tiny little people. Some plump, some skinny, some tall, some short. Mouths, eyes, lips, hair, she carved out the details with pins and knives. She added accessories: necklaces, fur coats, thigh high boots, and I watched as this creamy clay began its process of metamorphosis. Within moments this flour and salt, became Karen, her co-worker who moved from Detroit and held onto her coat as if it was the last piece of home she had. As she painted I recognized more; Lisa, with her glasses, red hair, and neon pink painted lip. Her exuberant spirit lifted from the clay with each stroke. It was art, it was joy, it was easy, and I will never forget it.
My mom taught me that creativity is relational, it often begins at a point of tension or limits. Limits within our environments that force us to think or imagine what could exist beyond. Limits that force us to figure out ways to spiral through space, overcoming and pushing back the barriers that attempt to break channels of connection that move from soul to soul. My mom taught me that creativity was worth it. Even in the most mundane seasons devout of apparent beauty. That it is a gift that the world is waiting for you to offer it. A gift that the world is waiting to offer you.
My mom taught me to be creative.