There is a body of people that have collectively influenced the young woman I am today. The Adams family—like chain links they been together to form my one influential person. It is as if a mix of dazzling facets and multifarious temperaments blend to sway. It is an influence driven by credence and profound understanding. It is the Adams folk—collectively.
There is a tantalizing aroma of my great-grandmother’s soul food that follows me as I go from room to room. The scent of savory stuffing and sweet candied yams never clash but coexist harmoniously.
The walls are decorated with a dark beige paint that adds to the sense of intimacy in the home. Small cream-colored, square-shaped, shelves hold little sepia a boys and girls that sit pretty and draw the attention of anyone who is looking enough to meet their gaze. As a girl I would brush the tips of my fingers against their rugged exterior. I was especially enchanted with the little girl. One day, my great-grandmother walked into the dining room and caught me touching her knickknacks. “Don’t touch those baby, these are not toys,” she said softly. The gentle touch of her palm on my shoulder was a reinforcement of her everlasting love; the kind of love that could make anyone feel as if the world around them was filled with fireflies.
Coffee-brown boxes neatly aligned to create the wooden cabinets in the kitchen. It was here that I first traveled the world. I performed one-man symphonies with pots and pants. I would then crawl through the jungles of Africa where venture into the Ogbunike caves of Nigeria.
As years passed, I grew more interested in the table talk. There is a grand table, a precious mahogany shade, strong and promising. Placemats that change with the seasons lay elegantly on the table like tiny lily pads on a vast pond. I’d see no difference between the painting on the wall of Jesus breaking bread with his disciples and the people sitting around our dining room table. I’d sit at the table like a wolf with watchful eyes and open ears. I’d listen, mesmerized by the strong southern accents of men and women, who have been born and raised in Brooklyn. I watch each facial expression, some molded by the walks of life, others, untouched, cheery and intrigued by the world.
The light from the old-fashioned chandelier illuminates each face. Like a superstar in a spotlight they shine. They speak about olden days, and olden ways.
“Remember all them parties we had in the basement?” Aunt Joy would say.
“I remember I was young, I would sneak downstairs and y’all would be jamming,” said my mother.
“Uh-huh, and someone would say Boobie, your daughter is down here… Then I would say go on upstairs,” my grandfather would respond.
Like butter gliding across toast, they spread their burdens and triumphs across the table, allowing everyone to take a piece and absorb it. Whether they had eyes like breaking dams, or smiles that extended to the end of the earth, someone would always say, “Symphany, I forgot you were sitting here.” I always hoped to myself that I would go unnoticed again so that I could soak up their words. Like a dry sponge, I was thirsty for the experience of the people around me.
On the table, along the placements and hearty-home cooked meals lay my past, present, and future. I can absorb life and extract my own truths. I have gained insight into the world of my Afro-Native American ancestors, and experienced a taste of my southern roots. I have watched the power of table talk conquer the malicious attack of cancer and illness. It is because of the influence of this unified body that I am not afraid to go out into the world and work for what I want. It is the forceful battle during tribulations that has trained me to take on obstacles head on. It is the simple moments that have showed me to appreciate the little things and laugh. I can be vulnerable; I can take chances and let my world unfold.
BY Symphany Rochford
Editor’s note: Symphany Rochford is the author of this essay, which was submitted with her successful application for a Spring Creek Towers College Award Program 2014 scholarship. Enrolled at Hartwick College in Oneonta, New York, she is the recipient of $1,000 annually for the next four years. Rochford plans to major in Nursing and Business Administration, and enter the nursing profession after completing her college. She graduated from Brewster Academy.