Back in my theatre days, I was given a mask-shaped pillow with the tragic face on one side and the comic face on the other. Sad. Happy. For years, to keep it pristine, I kept it inside the original cellophane. But sometime after my youngest son entered his teens, I decided enough was enough. It was time to Velveteen Rabbit the damn pillow. The plastic went into the trash and the pillow was tossed from one sofa and chair to another and finally ended up in my writing space as a reading pillow.
No conscious decision was made for the pillow to remain comic side up, but this was its daily world view until last March— March 6th to be exact; the day my oldest son committed suicide. That was the day the theatre pillow truly moved toward Velveteen as I pressed it into my tear-soaked chest day upon day, night after night. Whenever I was able to drag myself to the desk the pillow waited for my return— tragic face up. A conscious choice. The comic side was too unsettling, inappropriate. Periodically, my husband— not my son’s father— would pop in to see how I was doing and— true to his Irish nature—offer up the comic face for consideration. He meant well. I love him for how desperately he wanted me to return to happy. But grief has its own timetable.
Months later the comic side turned up and held strong— until the wrongful deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd sent our country into a justifiable upheaval.
Ahmaud, Breonna, and George are not my children, but their deaths have brought the loss of my son back to the surface, and his soul mingling with theirs has me mourning for everyone who has ever suffered unjustly. Everyone on this planet is someone’s child. Love between mother and child is everlasting. That sacred bond should never be severed by the hands of hate. The bountiful, blissful, beautiful power of love born in every child needs to be nurtured not only by a child’s family, but by us all. I am not Black or a Person of Color, but I am a mother. And as a mother, I see, hear, and stand with anyone who is on the receiving end of racism. I pray for the unity of all communities around the globe.
Where I stand with my theatrical pillow is another matter. I’m sorry to report— and this connection only hit me as I began to write this post because, apparently, awareness has its own timetable— the Happy side is White and the Sad side is Black, which is unsettling, and yet, appropriate. I don’t believe the designers meant to deliver a racist message, and perhaps the Black community wouldn’t view it as such either, but now it’s impossible for me to view it any other way. And I’m glad. Because now the pillow is more than Velveteen; it’s a daily reminder that Black Lives Matter.