Back in Manhattan, traipsing up the stairs to a photo shoot, I opened my lunch. Minutes later, for wardrobe change, Mother B’s youngest grandson made his way where I stood, covering my mouth (stuffed of salad) I mumbled a very cool “nice to meet you Damian…” Yeah, real cool for a writer who three days earlier sat in the main lobby of Louisville’s historic Galt House Hotel like a mute schizophrenic, a nervous mute schizophrenic mouthing “Hello Ms. Booker” “Greetings Mother B.” “Pleasure to meet you Ms. Bob Marley’s mother, Ma’am.”
Exactly how all came to fruition is still unclear. But it mainly involved a few phone calls and really cheap airfare. Knowing that every end of summer column begins with “Dear Summer” I thought it only right that one stray from the beaten path as I did when I impulsively traveled from New York City to Louisville (Kentucky, y’all) for a reggae-good-moment-in-time that was so phenomenal, it’s only now, in the midst of autumn, that I’m able to journal it for my Jahworks family…
Adjectives. Anxious, nervous, sweating. It hit me all when I encountered a woman who did one simple thing one day back in 1945–birth the Godfather of reggae. So yeah… heart pounding, calm, mess of me stood in the elevator along with two of Mother B’s assistants. Unbelievably nice and unaware of my adjectives they escorted me up 11 floors to her suite.
Now, all I remember from the door to a chair is that I walked. Sorry, it’s the truth.
And then, after someone explained who I was or what I was (a visiting writer) I said, “Pleasure to meet you.”
Somewhere between the chair and the smile all nervousness subsided and I began chatting with Cedella Booker, the 79-year-old mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, matriarch who sat laughing with me on this, her first trip to Louisville.
This was a serene day for Mother B. who attested that when she awoke thought it was breakfast time but in actuality it was five… P.M. “Good rest, good vibes,” she nodded. Because the flight had hampered her hearing she instructed me to move my chair closer.
I then noticed that her gray locks were being held back with one of those silky navy and gold “I heart Jesus” scarves, that her shoes were black and orthopedic, that her dress was green, that her eyes (hidden behind designer tortoise shell frames) were wise and brown, and that her skin, a deep cocoa, was exemplary of the mantra “black don’t crack.”
I told her that the weather reports were all calling for evening showers and we talked briefly about “True Rasta,” the poem she’d perform for the first time since the Africa Unite celebration in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. No, I didn’t learn what the poem’s about, but c’mon you heard the title.
I asked how long she’d been growing her hair. I asked if this was her first time in Louisville. I asked… Oh, so she’d been growing the locks since 1978, upon her move to Miami. I then proceeded to tell the story of a friend who cut their hair because they thought their locks were harboring negative energy due to their “impure lifestyle” and how they believed that if your lifestyle is positive they held positive energy and vice versa… all to which she replied, “All in the mind. Everyt’ing is in the mind, yuh know.”
And I did know. I knew that I was A. lucky and B. had to have a picture. See, you can’t leave that kind of moment without evidence, but luckily I didn’t have to ask, fore I might have left without proof.
The organizer of the Kentucky Reggae Splash (by the way, that was the event) Dave Hanson invited me to be photographed along with Mother B. And so as I knelt, down, beside her and then another adjective snuck up on me. Panic… I didn’t want her to smell my face. Because my face smelled just like bacon. So I being honest told her, “Maybe it’s all in the mind but I put this shea butter on my face and now my head smells just like bacon.” And she (along with everyone else) laughed one of those earnest laughs that ended the, well, panic.
After leaving the suite I ran, jumped, and pinched myself on the sidewalks of Louisville en route to the Reggae Splash. But before I could get backstage it began to rain and I began to laugh thinking that just maybe Ms. Booker was remembering me–the bacon-scented girl who told her that it was going to.