Raising Me

Tracei Willis
Tracei Willis’ “Raising Me” is a tribute to the women in her life, past and present—including herself. This vivid description of growing up in the American South, then becoming a mother and raising her own daughters in contemporary America, honors the many generations of women in her life for their inner strength, beauty, and independence.

I was raised by
An up before dawn,
Purple hull pea planting, tomato vine staking, okra chopping,
Back in the house before noon,
Price is Right watching, “Bid Higher!” yelling
Collard green picking, sweet corn shucking, butter bean shelling—
“Ya’ll children, quit letting all my cool air out!”
Hardworking, never once complaining
Followed her man to North Mississippi--
kind of mama.

I have known some
Chicken wings frying in a pressure cooker,
Sun tea brewing on the front porch,
Hot water cornbread flipping in a cast iron skillet,
Smoked turkey leg boiling in the butter beans…
“Gone out my kitchen while I’m cooking!”
Strong, black, never wavering
From the hills of Alabama--
kind of grandmamas.

I have admired some
Jackie Kennedy linen gloves and pillbox hat styling,
A-line dress and pink pearl profiling
L’eggs control top brown sugar pantyhose and patent leather pump voguing…
“Why don’t you just take a picture, it’ll last longer honey!”
Smart and classy, brown and beautiful
Look out now Chi-Town-- kind of aunties.

I have played with some
Diana Ross and the Supremes wanna-bes,
Earth, Wind and Fire groupies,
Some double dutch bus riding, shake, shake, shake yo—
“Gone get it girl!”

Gonna be women, one day too soon,
Graduation day and I’m California-bound
kind of sister-cousins.

Somehow I managed to raise
A farmer’s market shopping, EAT LOCAL
Organic tomatoes in the windowsill growing,
Composting and recycling,
No high fructose corn syrup drinking
“Filtered water or green tea for me!”
Anti-carnivorous, strictly herbivore…
“I’m green and I’m proud!”
Going to outlive us all,
Moving to Europe one day--
kind of daughter.

And a
“My lip-gloss be poppin”, apple bottom jeans wearing
I’ve got a mind of my own,
my opinion is the only one that matters,
I will be the one to televise the revolution,
raising money to clothe the homeless,
I’m making plans to change the world,
just right after I text my new boyfriend to meet me at the mall…
Staying close to home, ya’ll can’t get rid of me that easy—
kind of daughter.

I will always be the
Tree climbing, lizard catching,
Cow milking, egg gathering, pig slopping,
Half huhnchen and pomme frites devouring, castle roaming,
Train hopping, book loving, prose writing,
Paper grading, English teaching, still dreaming,
Always daddy’s girl
Wanna travel the world--
kind of me.

About The Artist 

Tracei Willis teaches the art of language to 6th grade students in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, USA. Prior to living her dream as a teacher, she was a phlebotomist in a hospital, a combat medic in the U.S. Army, and the robotic, monotone voice of the drive-thru window at a McDonald's restaurant. She is also the mother of two amazing, intelligent young women--Alexys, the dramatic one, and Maya, the stoic one.