I Had a Dream About Oprah Winfrey

And she was writing a book I would love to read

I rarely dream about celebrities. It is a rare occurrence, and in order for it to take place, I would have had to watch a movie or read a book about that person right before going to sleep. And I certainly have never dreamed about the incomparable Oprah Winfrey before; the woman whose net worth is 2.5 billion dollars.

The dream I had early Sunday morning on September 11, 2022, struck me as peculiar, yet intriguing. I was in a dark room and the only area with an inkling of light was the small space where Oprah sat.

She wore her famous square-rimmed, flashy glasses, her hair was pulled up into a neat bun, and she donned a white blouse and brown slacks. She was shouting, “I am writing my book in Chicago about the children I never had, and I will need my fucking space!”

It echoed throughout the room. I simply stood there in awe. I could not move. Both my body and mind knew exactly what was taking place. I was in the company of one of the most influential Black women who was shouting repeatedly at the top of her lungs about a book she would need space to write, and I could not move.

There aren’t usually smells in my dreams, but in this one, I could smell a sweet and earthy scent. It was welcoming — a scent that provided safety and peace. Could it have been a signature perfume of her choice wafting from Oprah’s body? I don’t know.

I just knew that there I was, watching one of the most beloved women in the world declare frantically of the book she was writing. And it was both painful and motivating to witness.


Oprah does not have children and neither do I

Why did I have this dream? What does it mean? I do not fancy myself as someone who analyzes dreams. I simply try to understand them in my own way. Of late, I have had my share of weird ones, though, and this one is no different.

Oprah Winfrey does not have children. She has been open about this in many of her interviews and speaks about it candidly without regret. Her career path did not have room for the time, support, nurturing, and care she would have needed to allow for children, so she passed on that opportunity.

She endured giving birth at 14 years old to a baby boy who was the product of familial rape from an older cousin. The baby died after just two weeks.

I think about what she must have lived through — how she had to cement herself — become hard enough to keep moving, and I tear up.

I realized, ‘Whoa, I’m talking to a lot of messed-up people, and they are messed up because they had mothers and fathers who were not aware of how serious that job is.’ I don’t have the ability to compartmentalize the way I see other women do. It is why, throughout my years, I have had the highest regard for women who choose to be at home [with] their kids, because I don’t know how you do that all day long, Nobody gives women the credit they deserve. — Oprah Winfrey

I do not have children. Not for the same reasons as Oprah, but my reasons are also valid enough for me. I have always had an incredible fear of not being able to love my children how I would need to or losing myself enough to forget my past and not burden my children with my baggage.

I also found out in my early 30s that it would be difficult for me to have children naturally, so I did not take that risk. Not to mention, I have yet to have a partner worthy enough in my eyes to share such a responsibility as parenting.

“I am writing my book in Chicago about the children I never had, and I will need my fucking space!”

I have watched many women give their all to their children — love them unconditionally — lift them up where they have faltered; teach them right from wrong, and these same children grow up to leave their mothers crying senselessly about the choices they are making or have made.

How much of it is nurture? How much of it is nature? One can never know who or what their children will become until it has happened. That is a weight too heavy for me to carry.


And there was music and tears and nervousness too

I am no stranger to music in my dreams. Music seems to be the way I love — the way I lean into life when everything else becomes too tough to tackle. I speak using music and the world around me silences itself to hear me.

The song that played in my dream was Maze featuring Frankie Beverly’s “We Are One.” It repeated the following lyrics:

Sometimes I feel
That we try and make each other sad
(I don’t know why)
The things we do
How we make each other feel so bad
We’ve got so much
We could all be having so much fun

This song sends me to a space and time that is both nostalgic and a sad reminder of my past. My mother’s family always had these wild cookouts and family gatherings. I say wild because there would inevitably be an argument, an altercation, and someone or more than one person would head home in tears or angered by the day’s events.

Her family frightened me. So much anger. So much intensity. And oddly enough, amongst the pain, so much love, too.

Funny how the mind works, huh? To have this song on repeat in a dream reflected around the non-existence of children, Oprah Winfrey, and me as the voyeur — there’s more here, I know it.

I try to dig a little deeper. A fellow writer left a comment for me after we’d been conversing regarding my most recent article in An Injustice Mag, stating, “Exactly my point, leave their table for yours. In fact, write a book about the hypocrisy you face to become a writer. Be the change you want to see. Prove them wrong and exceed their limitations.”

His suggestion sent my mind swirling, and several moments of creativity flashed before my eyes. I can do what he is suggesting.

In the dream, I was nervous. I have yet to figure out if it was because I had been standing in the presence of the great Oprah Winfrey or if it was because of all the things I have lined up for me in the coming months. I am excited. I am full of fear. But it all will be worth it in the end.

I have always had an incredible fear of not being able to love my children how I would need to or losing myself enough to forget my past and not burden my children with my baggage.

And there were tears from both me and Oprah. With Oprah’s frantic shouting, came free-flowing tears that streamed down her face gently. Her declaration hadn’t bothered her. Her voice bull-horned without the bullhorn. Everyone, I am certain, who was anyone, could hear her.

I cried. Watching her in this intense state shout about needing the space to write about the children she never had, moved me — both in the dream and when I woke up.


The truth is in the details

We miss, sometimes, what we never had. And perhaps, that’s our link in this dream — knowing we have not and want not, but we sometimes regret it, even if we tell ourselves we don’t.

The truth is always in the details if we’re willing to plow through the dirt of us and retrieve a cleansing state.

I had a dream about Oprah Winfrey, and she had been writing about the children she never had while I stood there as a witness, which led to me thinking about the children I never had. Maybe it is a coincidence, this dream. Maybe there is nothing there and nothing I need to search for within it.

But I would love to read that book.


Originally published in The Narrative Collective via Medium.

Cleveland

Flash Fiction Musical Selection|Erykah Badu: Orange Moon

Photo by Julian Myles on Unsplash

Me and her pops had a big fight. I’m talkin’ — the kind that makes a brotha take a step back and think about what’s about to go down before it goes down — that kinda fight. I respect my elders — I got manners, you know. My folks raised me right, but I was just so damn tired of him puttin’ thoughts into Ruthann’s head about me — how she can do better than me.

I mean… Ruthann loves me. She ain’t tryin’ to hear what her pops is sayin’, but I hear him. I see the look on his face when I walk through their door. He hates me — literally hates a brotha.

And listen, I don’t normally feel that intensely about what other folks think of me — but this means something to me. I can’t put my finger on it just yet. But having her pop’s approval is at the top of my list.

Ruthann looks at her pops like he made the damn world. He is the sun, moon, and stars — hell, the entire universe to her. He has her heart and for three years; I cracked at the wall around it and I finally got in. I can’t have him reversing that shit, you know. I’m in there now, and I plan to stay there.

I ain’t stupid. I have my wits about me, and I got plenty of sense. Her folks don’t want her settlin’ down with me — don’t want us intermingling. My people — her people.

They can all pass. You know what I mean, right? They’re light as hell. They are the lightest Black folks I know. Ruthann is sugarcane colored — gently kissed by the morning sunlight. Her eyes are emerald green. Her lips are two finely sliced pieces of sweet flesh added to her face for effect.

When I first met her folks, her mother didn’t even say hello to me. She said, “Boy, you are the color of burnt molasses,” sucked her teeth, and walked off. Her pops looked me up and down — measurin’ me with his eyes. Dude ain’t need no ruler. I knew exactly what he was thinkin’.

I looked around their home — noticed the fine china, the furniture that didn’t come from IKEA, the barely walked-on floors, and the chandelier that dangled above our heads.

Somebody’s blood was royal, and it wasn’t mine.


I never thought I’d fall in love with a girl whose folks hated other Black folks. How much do you have to dislike yourself to look at people of your race like you want to sic the county dogs on them and skin them later just for fun?

Ruthann memorized this quote from Toni Morrison, she tells me sometimes. She tries to get my mind off the drama of her family, but I can’t stop thinkin’ about that shit. It consumes me. She’ll just say it as smooth as her lovely mouth can form the words, and I kid you not — I feel better.

“The function, the very serious function of racism is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being. Somebody says you have no language and you spend twenty years proving that you do. Somebody says your head isn’t shaped properly so you have scientists working on the fact that it is. Somebody says you have no art, so you dredge that up. Somebody says you have no kingdoms, so you dredge that up. None of this is necessary. There will always be one more thing.”

And she’ll go on further, “Baby, it ain’t racism in our case, it’s colorism. And I don’t give a damn about who’s lighter than who or who’s darker than who. You know what I give a damn about?” And I play into this every single time, like the man in love that I am. “What, Ruthann? What?”

“I care about you. I care about us.”

The anger leaves me just as quickly as it seeped its uninvited self into my bones. I sink into the tightness of her embrace, and I allow her to be my peace.

She is my peace.


Photo by ziphaus on Unsplash

The fight started because I asked Ruthann’s pops for her hand in marriage. Ha! Listen, I was scared shitless! I sat down in their “main room”, across from the old man, and rubbed my sweaty hands together. My breathin’ was off. My heart was racin’ at the speed of light. I kept stutterin’.

He just sat back in his chair, chest all puffed out like he was some damn washed-up Avenger waitin’ for the call back into action.

“The Shield Family is cut from a different cloth, boy. Ruthann will not marry into one as simple as yours. We have standards. I want what’s best for my daughter, and Cleveland Mabry, you are not it.”

I don’t know what happened — I just saw red. And before I could stop myself, I raised up out of that chair, charged toward her pops, and lunged at him with an anger I couldn’t pull back.

He jumped up, took three steps away from me, and looked like the last days were pouncin’ on his heart. I thought the old man had seen a ghost the way he removed himself from my line of sight.

Ruthann had been standin’ on the other side of the room — just outside the doorway. She heard everything. She had tears in her eyes that were streamin’ down, linin’ her dimpled cheeks.

I hated to see her cry. I told her when we first met that I would never do anything to make her cry — not intentionally. The last thing I wanted to do was make her so mad that tears left those beautiful gem-colored eyes.

I walked over to her, placed my hand within her personal space, and she stopped me. She held up one hand, looked at her pops, then looked back at me. What she said next… floored me.

“Daddy, you do not decide who I will marry. You don’t get to approve or disapprove. You don’t get to design your life around mine to further infiltrate your beliefs into what I deem beautiful within this one life I have to live. If Cleveland wants to marry me. Then we will be married.”

There’s something about a woman standin’ up for you without your consent — without your awareness before it takes place. That night, I fell even more in love with Ruthann.

What the hell were two twenty-three-year-olds going to do on their own without her family’s financial support?

We were going to survive.


She moved out of her folks’ place and we carried everything we could to my house. I’d called my mom on the way over. She wasn’t happy, but she wasn’t mad, either.

We have a spacious, fully furnished basement. It was nothin’ to turn the area into Ruthann’s room.

My pops looked at me like the world had landed itself on his shoulders when I got outta the car. It was like he was tellin’ me something without sayin’ nothin’. And after the day I’d had, I just couldn’t play mind reader.

I walked past Pops and into the livin’ room, placed Ruthann’s bags on the floor, and led her downstairs to the basement where she could get herself ready for dinner.

When I came back upstairs, Pops was standin’ right there — arms folded — body language sayin’ a firm, “There’s only one man in this house, boy,” and I heard him loud and clear.

This wasn’t gonna be our home, either.


After dinner, I walked Ruthann down to the basement. I told her exactly what I knew I needed to. I watched her dancin’ eyes, her radiant smile, and her regal presence lean in to give me her full attention. The room smelled like her — like jasmine and fresh rain — like sage and Nag Champa. I choked on my words.

“We… we can’t stay here. Ain’t nobody said anythin’ yet, but it’s comin’. And Ruthann, I’d just rather not be here when it does. I’m tired of runnin’ into storms because we love each other. I’m so damn tired. Tomorrow, I’m gon’ pick up an extra shift at work for however long it’s gonna take to save up and get outta here.”

“So, you think you have to do this on your own? You don’t. We are a team, Cleveland. I’ll pick up a few more hours at the library, and I’ll make a significant withdrawal from my savings account. We are going to be okay.”

At that moment, I knew I’d made the right decision. I knew the woman who stared back at me with eyes of emerald green and skin matched by the glimmer of first light would be with me forever.

Because it felt like the right time, I slid the ring from my pocket and got down on one knee. I looked up at her — a lump formed in my throat — my hands got sweaty. I took a deep breath in and said, “Ruthann, I would like it very much if you chose to stay with me for life. Would you marry me, please?”

I could feel a smile growin’ on my face — one that settled there longer than it probably should have. I was safe. She said, “Yes.” Actually, she said, “Come here, silly! Hell, yes!”

And every time I wonder what will happen to us — who will try to separate us because of where we each come from …

I sink into the tightness of her embrace, and I allow her to be my peace.

She is my peace.


Originally published in Lit Up Magazine via Medium.

Breaking Into Beast-mode

Musical Selection: Peg by Steely Dan

Photo by Sharad Kachhi via Pexels

I haven’t played
a bad hand in
a couple of decades
so the fear of one
landing in my lap
terrifies me worse
than losing a game
of spades in a
freshmen college
dorm room.

I told a fellow writer
the other day,
“We’re just playing
with time, now. We’re
not old enough to
give up but we’re not
young enough to still
get googly-eyed over
the small stuff.”

I didn’t mean it …

I still get googly-eyed
over the small stuff.

When your heart
is wrapped up
in something, nobody
can stop you from
pursuing that thing.
It becomes what you
chase after with a force
that can dominate your
opposers.

Breaking into beast-mode
should be a career.
Creative minds run
rampant when headed
toward their own
tunnels of light.

Little bundles of
treasure await each
and every one of us.

And like “Peg,” we’ll gladly
“smile for the camera”
when our time comes.


Steely Dan, Peg

The Grieving Room

Photo by Keegan Houser on Unsplash

Stepping out of my comfort zone and finally feeling free

I have done three different things this week, all of which have taken me out of my comfort zone a bit, and placed me in a space I had not met before. I will start with the why of it all. Why have I done these things? What am I looking to gain from having done them? How will I move forward now with each of them started and a part of who I am?

When you are a fearful person, everything that falls outside of your line of comfort scares you. The dreams you have festering in your mind continue to fester because you fear every move you need to make in order to make those dreams your reality.

I have lived at least twenty years of my life stuck in constant fear of the unknown, yet the unknown is what I am drawn/connected to. It is where I want to be — where I see myself at my happiest. So, how do I get there if I stay stuck in the same spot — afraid to move? I won’t. And that had to change. It is changing.

So, what did I do — which three things?


Others recognize my strength as a writer — this gives me joy

Late last year, I submitted to a publication called The Short of It, which is hosted by editor Susi Bocks. The premise of the online publication is to publish “exquisite expressions in tiny explosions.” I submitted five micro-poems all the while, thinking, as I am often wont to do, they would not be chosen, and they were.

The editor published the feature for the five poems in the wee hours of Friday, July 29, 2022, and you can find each poem here. I want to share one poem with you, though — one that encompasses all that I have been feeling of late about myself and the world at large.

Pressure

she sits on the sea’s floor
shaped by the world
above it–changed forever.
the workers of ancient
tongues sift through
her words, chanting
their dismissals.
the pressure from centuries
ago labels her again
and again.
is this the chosen path
home or not?

To see these poems of mine hosted via The Short of It amongst many other writers whom I read daily and find comfort in doing so gives me an incredible amount of joy. For a couple of years, I’d ceased submitting to both online and print publications because the number of rejections was mounting, and I did not have the strength to scale that mountain any longer.

Braving it once again allowed me not only to submit to The Short of It, but also to write an essay catered to and about Black Joy regarding country music. I had in mind the publication (via Medium) I want this work to be connected to, so I wrote the essay with the publication’s theme sounding off as I typed each word.

I edited, fine-tuned, and combed through every word at different intervals. The time came to apply to be a writer. I did — again, fearful that I would not be their choice. I received the acceptance email also on Friday, July 29, 2022, and had been advised to submit the draft to the publication for continued review.

If you are a writer on/from Medium reading this, or if you have submitted your work to any viable or indomitable publication, whether online or in print, you know this does not mean the work will be published. This means you are IN. The publication will now work with you to bring your best work to their audience or they could decline every new submission if not tailored to their liking/theme accordingly.

I am hopeful the essay will be published, though, and I am optimistic about its chances. Again, there is joy racing through my bones solely about being accepted as a writer for this publication because I had been so afraid to even apply just two years ago.

I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and walked to exactly where I needed to be. And now, the journey is such a freeing one.


When people connect with your writing — they want to build with you

On Friday — yes, there’s a theme here. Do you see it? A fellow writer who is also an entrepreneur, artist, and creative powerhouse, left a comment on a previous TGR newsletter pertinent to my “dream” job and future goals. I read the comment — reached out to her. This morning, we had an hour-plus-long call that can only breed good things from this moment forward.

I am confident in her vision and in what we discussed as a game plan. It is intentional. It is laser-focused on a certain topic. It is exactly what I believe most of us need right now and in the immediate future — especially me. Prayerfully, early next year will produce more great things because of this interaction.

If I had not been writing my heart out — not sharing my difficulties and breakthroughs with grief — I never would have made this connection. If I had not taken a moment to break away from that pesky comfort zone of mine, I would not have sent the email or hopped on the call.

She saw — has seen something in my writing for years that made her want to build with me. There is no phrase — no way of actually describing this feeling that can do it justice.

When you are doing what your heart pushes you to do, the right people see it.


I whisper these accomplishments to the wind, and she hears them

The one thing that shatters my heart, though, about my newfound freedom is the fact that I cannot verbally share this with my cousin and hear her response. But I whisper it into the open air. I bend the ear of the flirting trees. I allow myself to bounce ideas out loud and nod when I feel like she approves — supports them.

I have learned that freedom from fear comes when the comfort zone is squashed. I am learning to guide myself down paths that speak to me and feel safe with more of an open mind. I am learning that although my cousin is no longer here to experience everything with me as I experience these things in real time — she is in my heart tapping at the center of me, at just the right moment.

And every tear that falls doesn’t come from me being sad anymore — they sometimes come with an undeniable air of joy surrounding me at every turn.

Find a place inside where there’s joy, and the joy will burn out the pain. — Joseph Campbell

Welcome to The Grieving Room. I am here. You are here. We are not alone in this.

See you next Saturday


©2022 Tremaine L. Loadholt Originally published in The Grieving Room newsletter via LinkedIn.