by Tameko L. Barnette
Every year for the past five years on the first day of Summer seven women of color gathered together for three days in the name of renewal, restoration, relaxation, and rejuvenation. But this year's Sister Day took a new turn when the seven women of color practiced a new ritual theme of truth and honesty. These women found out that some truths are just too difficult to hear.
Janet, Marcel, Doris, Rose, Adina, Collette, and Trisha entered the four bedroom beach house they rented together for three days. Janet immediately started inspecting every inch of the place for dirt, grime, and unfinished cleaning by the housekeeping crew. Marcel went to the bathroom to relieve herself of the four diet Cokes she drank on the way to the house.
Doris went to the kitchen to check out where all the cooking apparel was so she could start fixing everyone some lunch. Rose and Adina carried the groceries into the kitchen behind Doris while arguing over the last pop- tart out of the box they brought for the ride to the house. "Will you two shut up and just split them in half?", Doris yelled in their general direction. Collette and Trisha traded sexy stares at each other as they looked around the living room at all the beautiful nouveau European style furnishings. "They starting all ready, y'all", Adina informed everyone about Collette and Trisha, the gay couple of the sister circle. "This ain't no romantic retreat for you two, Trisha", Adina said. Trisha just laughed quietly while winking her eye at Collette, her lover for the past six years. "You just mad because you are single, Adina", Trisha fired back. Doris noticed the beginnings of World War III taking place in the living room and intervened quickly. "You two need to stop it. This is supposed to be a gathering in the name of sisterhood. If you two can't hang with that you need to leave. You're not going to ruin our five year tradition with your childish bickering. Understand?"
Adina and Trisha looked towards the floor quietly saying, "All right." Doris continued, "If Trisha and Collette want to use these three days to get closer in their relationship than that's just fine. That's why we're here. To get closer to who we are as women of color. To get in touch with ourselves and let others get in touch with who we are as well. This ain't some playground where kids start fighting over candy and a pair of sneakers."
Trisha and Adina realized they shouldn't've gotten Doris started on her preaching rampage. Doris continued to fuss about their childish argument all the way into the kitchen as she began mixing chicken, mayo, and relish together in a bowl for her famous chicken salad sandwiches for everyone's lunch.
* * *
A couple of hours later, Doris yelled from the kitchen, "Lunch is ready, everybody!" Six women ran from every direction heading towards the dining room for their lunch. The dining table looked like a buffet table at a company party. Doris made a platter of chicken salad sandwiches, potato salad, meatballs in barbecue sauce, and sliced cheddar cheese with an assortment of crackers. On the opposite end of the table there was the desserts; Doris prepared a bowl of potato chips with french onion dip in another bowl, some fresh strawberries with yogurt dip, and apple pie.
Everyone looked at each other sitting around the table wondering who would say the blessing before they dived into all the good food that Doris had prepared so lovingly for her friends. "I'll say the blessing every- body," Collette said anxiously. "Okay, go for it," Trisha replied. Instantly, everyone at the table closed their eyes, bowed their heads, and held hands with one another. Collette cleared her throat.
"Lord, we would like to first thank you for keeping us out of harm's way as we made our journey to this beach house for the fifth year in a row. We would also like to thank you for all of the blessings you have bestowed upon us for the past year, and thank you for this wonderful food we're about to eat today. And thank you for blessing us with each other's presence once again. Amen," Collette said sincerely.
Everyone followed Collette's lead in unison saying, "Amen!" For about ten minutes all one could hear was silverware scraping the sides and bottoms of dishes as everyone passed around the platter of sandwiches, potato salad, and the barbecued meatballs platter. Then after all of that, everyone passed around the huge pitcher of peach iced tea that Doris made with fresh peaches. "Doris, these sandwiches are good, girl," Trisha said.
Everyone nodded in agreement with Trisha. "And the iced tea is to die for, Doris," Rose said as she scooped another spoonful of potato salad on her plate. "And the meatballs are great, too," Marcel said with a mouth- ful of sandwich. So far, everybody agreed on something, but the day was still young. Fortunately, during their lunch on the first day of their three-day retreat everything was peaceful and serene. The ladies devoured the food that was prepared for them with loving hands and shared smiles of content- ment as they enjoyed every bite.
* * *
Around 9 o' clock the first night they were at the beach house, all of the ladies gathered together in the living room after getting some refresh- ments from the dining room table that was prepared for them by Doris, who was obviuosly the cook of the group. Doris could work some serious miracles in the kitchen. The theme of the evening was honesty and truth. Everyone was a little nervous about using a theme that hit so close to home. Because they knew that some beautiful and ugly things were going to be revealed that night. The question on everyone's mind was whether or not these new revelations would prove to be a blessing or a disaster.
Rose cleared her throat to start the evening of honesty and truth on the right note. "Well everyone you know why we're here right now. As you all know everybody has a set of three questions they have prepared to ask someone else in the group. Just general questions that any one of us could answer, but we're only going to ask one person to answer one of the questions, okay? Now, who would like to go first? Remember, honesty and truth are extremely important. Otherwise, we're doing this in vain," Rose concluded as she sat back down in her chair.
"Well, I'll go first," Collette anxiously said as she shuffled the three index cards nestled in her lap. "Here's my first question for Adina." Adina looked around nervously at everyone, hoping the question wasn't too personal. She hated to cry in front of people. "Okay, let's hear it," Rose said trying to make Collette hurry up and ask the question to get the evening started on the right foot. "Well Adina my question for you is, Why do have a problem with me and Trisha's relationship?" Silence filled the room as the other six women anxiously awaited Adina's response. The truth was that everyone was wondering about Adina's resentment towards Collette and Trisha, as well. They couldn't wait to hear the answer to this question.
Adina took a deep breath before she started her answer to Collette's question. "Well Collette...ummm...first of all...well...," Adina broke into a sweat because she never thought that Collette or Trisha would have the audacity to ask such a question. The other six women leaned forward to make sure they heard Adina when she started talking.
"Well Collette, I don't really have any resentment or anything towards you and Trisha it's just that...it's just that...," Adina stalled once again.
"It's just that what, Adina?" Collette grew tired of Adina trying to dodge the question. Obviously, there was some resentment dwelling deep inside of Adina, but she didn't want to share it with anyone. Adina shifted from left to right, then right to left in her seat showing her discomfort with the question Collette just asked her, but trying to maintain some measure of restraint from really speaking her mind. "It's just that what, Adina?"
Feeling trapped between a rock and a hard place, Adina just blurted out, "Look Collette, I don't really like seeing two women or two men up in each other's face, kissing and hugging, and stuff like that. I've never been comfortable with gay people. I guess I should've told you this five years ago, but I thought you probably wouldn't want to be my friend again."
"Are you satisfied now, Collette?" Adina rolled her eyes in the opposite direction from Collette. She felt like getting up from the chair and walking out on the entire situation, but she stayed to face whatever come back Collette would fire at her. To the surprise of Adina, Collette, Trisha, and the other ladies started to clap their hands for her. "Well, it's about damn time, Adina," Rose said while clapping her hands. "You go girl. That felt good, didn't it?", Marcel asked. "I didn't think you had it in you, Adina," Trisha said. Everyone kept on clapping their hands for Adina, until they noticed tears rolling down Adina's smooth brown cheeks. "I'm sorry, Collette and Trisha. I really like the two of you, but I just can't..." Adina got up from her seat and left the room running towards the patio.
"What's wrong with Adina? She did a great job telling the truth. She has nothing to be ashamed of," Trisha said while watching Adina walk back and forth on the patio wiping away her tears. "I'll go talk to her, okay. Why don't the rest of you just continue with the questions?", Collette demanded while walking towards Adina on the balcony. Everyone continued with their question and answer session while Collette went to talk to Adina.
"Adina, why did storm out the session like that? I'm not offended by what you said. Not in the least, Adina. As a matter of fact, I'm proud of you because you finally opened up and told the truth. Trisha and I knew you had resentment towards gay people, but we just wanted you to say it. The struggle we have inside of ourselves don't begin until we can face our shortcomings. Then the journey can begin. You understand, Adina?"
"Yeah Collette, I understand. But what I don't understand is why everyone was clapping for me." Collette started laughing at Adina. "You didn't hear a word I said, did you? It's because you finally admitted to something that has been bothering you for a long time. I'm guessing this situation was bothering you before you met me and Trisha."
"How did you know that?"
"It's in your eyes, Adina. What happened to you that made you feel that way? Or did someone teach you to hate gay people? Try to figure that part out as well. In order to grow as a person, Adina you have to be willing to change your past perceptions of yourself and others."
"Well, my mom divorced my dad many years ago when I was a kid, Collette. She divorced him because she realized that she was gay. She started seeing this woman I called "Aunt Lena", but I realized later on that "Aunt Lena" was her lover, not a relative. The kids at school picked on me every chance they got and I guess, as stupid as it may sound, I never got over that. Up until tonight, I thought I was a pretty open-minded person."
"It's all right, Adina. At least, you're ready to change your perception of people who are different from you. You shouldn't ever be ashamed of your relatives or friends who are gay. They need your support, not your resentment. They get enough resentment from everyone else."
"I hear ya, Collette. I owe you an apology. I'm sorry. Are we still friends?"
"Of course, we are, Adina. Girl, can't nobody gossip like the two of us," Collette said laughing and wiping away the tears in her eyes.
Adina started to laugh, too. They hugged each other gently and rejoined the group. "Is everything all right?", Rose asked with concern.
"Yeah, everything's cool," Collette responded. Collette and Adina took their seats while everyone else continued with the session.
As their weekend continued, Adina felt reborn. "Sister Day" for these seven women took on a whole different meaning that year.