In the beginning, my mother labored with me for three days. My father was sick to his stomach, as he was with both of my mother’s pregnancies. I know I arrived as a fat, testy baby and grew to be an even fatter, even testier infant. My half-sister told me the first time she met me, my mother was hand-feeding me fried chicken from a tub of KFC at a family reunion. She said I was the largest baby she had ever seen, my mouth greasy and covered in World Famous crispy bread crumbs. This is all I know about what kind of baby I was. That, and how my father purchased the air purifier so he could hold me and a cigarette at the same time.
Even before that, while I was still in the primordial darkness of my mother’s womb, I had been so-called “thought of” already. My parents had gathered around an Ouija, or spirit board, and asked the ghostly powers-that-be about the gender of their next child. Notably, my parents were devout Christians. They decided that if I was a boy, my name would be Solomon. Instead, I was born a girl and they chose Lashonda, meaning “God is merciful” or “God is gracious”.
Around the family dinner table in my youth, I used to lead our rare family meals by saying grace. I would recite at lightning speed, “God is gracious, God is good, let us thank him for our food, amen”.
It would come out so fast and jumbled (with the heaviest A-MEN followed by food shoveled into my mouth) that my dad would burst out laughing, causing my mom to scowl. Needless to say, I was not in charge of mealtime prayers for very long. God is gracious, indeed.
I have often wondered if my mother felt God was merciful as she lay in labor for her 72nd hour, my father hunched over a hospital toilet somewhere. She likely did not note God’s mercy in my father’s favoritism of me or my defiance at every word she breathed. She most definitely found no grace in my reluctance to offer her an ounce of empathy when she would inevitably drag us back to my father after their numerous splits. These conflicts were not my fault. I was repeatedly told they were not my fault. Yet, my mother was always angrier at me for calling the cops than for the broken vases and bleeding bruises left on her arms.
I have never needed the reminder of my name. I learned quickly to pray to “cloud” because it was the only thing up above me. The only thing close to grace. Try praying to “cloud”. Watch it float by, oblivious to your anguish. Cloud is merciful.