Turning Dreams Tangible!

Here’s a timeless story (at least that’s what I feel) about love, a mother’s love, and dreams that our  babies live to realize long, fruitful lives. This is about the love and respect for human life. It was the very first story I wrote for The Washington Post. I don’t know why, I stopped to reread it in the middle of a busy day, last week (it’s framed on my wall, you know). But I did, and I found that it is still as timely as ever. It was written in 2000. ImageComments? http://www.yvonnejmedley.com 


For Waldorf Mother, Million Mom March Was Emotional Journey

[FINAL Edition]

The Washington Post – Washington, D.C.


Yvonne J. Medley


May 18, 2000

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Editor’s note: Yvonne J. Medley, a freelance writer from Waldorf, attended the Million Mom March in Washington on Sunday and wrote this account of her experience for The Washington Post.

When some of the women where I worship, at the Resurrection Prayer Worship Center of the United Methodist Church in Brandywine, kicked around the idea of participating in the Million Mom March, I thought to myself, “You’ve got to be kidding.”

With a smile on my face and a slow nod, indicating my approval, I thought, there was no way I would give up what little spare time I have to bake in the glaring sun.

But then the momentum of the march scooped me up. And the reality of my growing fear (really an obsession) demanded my presence. It’s the fear of knowing that my four children–Robert, 20; Renesha, 17; Rashad, 9; and Rachel, 2–don’t have to be doing something wrong or mingling with the wrong crowd to come face to face with gun violence.

So there I was, on Mother’s Day, standing on the Mall, among 700,000-plus strangers, and baking under the glaring sun.

I originally had planned to go by myself because I didn’t want the trouble of friendly companions whining to leave early, stay late, stand over here, sit over there, complain about the heat or the public toilet. I just wanted to put my name on history’s ledger and let Congress know my intentions.

Then I got the bright idea of asking my 17-year-old daughter to come along. Surprisingly, Renesha quickly agreed to go. And though she’d never admit it, I knew it was her Mother’s Day gift to me, especially since she’d exhausted her cash flow on her prom the week before.

We headed off Sunday morning. The Metro cars were almost bare. And it was a lucky thing, too, since my daughter refused to sit with me on the train (something about being seen in public with me hurting her image). We’d barely stepped off the train and attempted to maneuver above ground, when seemingly out of nowhere, we were engulfed in a heavy flow of women and children (and some men) bearing signs, wearing Million Mom March T-shirts, visors and buttons, and bubbling with energy. We promptly rode the wave.

It didn’t take long for emotion to flood the back of my eyes at the sight of women carrying posters and photographs and wearing T- shirts graced with the faces of their deceased children. How fair could it be for a woman to wear on her back the portrait of a young man, happy and dressed in his prom tuxedo, and branded with “1980- 1997” printed under his photo? Yet she walked proudly, as if she were pushing the stroller that had once cradled him safely inside.

One woman walked around with a huge yellow sign, decorated with a collage of her son’s baby pictures. In the middle was his final photo- -the one of him as a young man lying in a casket. I turned my head, determined not to let my daughter see tears trickle down my cheeks. When I looked, she said she was wiping the wind out of her eyes.

All these mothers and fathers were willing to relive their worst nightmare for anyone who inquired, just because, they said, they didn’t want anyone else to go through what they endured.

A woman from Los Angeles told me that a gunman on the loose killed two others before killing her daughter. Another woman from New Orleans spoke of her daughter, a policewoman, killed in the line of duty. The woman’s smile was soft and it quivered as she graciously accepted the condolences of passersby–mine, too.

The main program began, and we’d been standing in place for about 20 minutes when Renesha tugged at my shirt and announced that she was ready to leave–she was bored.

“We just got here,” I replied and turned my attentions back to the stage. She perked up when performer Tanya Blount sang two songs. Renesha’s excitement waned a bit when someone, trying to squeeze by, stepped on her foot.

And when I shouted “Hallelujah” and “Amen” to Blount’s rendition of “His Eyes Are on the Sparrow,” I made instant friends with a woman from Pennsylvania who was crammed next to me. We had a lot in common (except race, careers and residence–I am African American and she was white; I am a writer and she was a social worker; I live here and she lives there).

This woman and I hadn’t experienced the tragedies that other marching mothers had seen, and we didn’t want to. Our presence was a purely proactive search for a pound of prevention. Throughout the program, we talked about our children, our lives, the clever sayings bobbing up and down on protest signs, like “Mommy, why can’t we go to the Zoo?” and “Moses never owned a gun.” And we talked about our vow not to forget the march, come November.

My 17-year-old, by this time, was sitting on the pebbled ground beside me, cushioned by a towel I’d given her. She was plucking the dirt out of her manicured fingernails in subtle protest over not being able to leave yet. I chuckled at her teenage antics and obsessed over her right to grow into adulthood.

Sniffling sounds surrounded me, and mine joined the serenade as mothers, one after another, braved the podium to recount the most horrific moment in their lives. How tragic is it to be in your home one minute waiting for your child to bring in a few groceries, then be hurled into the irreversible future, standing in front of thousands, talking about the night your son or daughter was killed? For me, Sunday confirmed the power of a mother’s pain.

A good two hours into the program, Sarah and James Brady moved the crowd as they spoke. My daughter looked up and said, “Who are they?” Astounded, I laughed when I realized she was only a baby during most of the Reagan era. Then I said simply, “I’ll tell you later.”

About four hours had passed, and I was filled with hope and accomplishment. During the ride home on the Metro, Renesha chose to sit next to me on the same seat. And I was thankful to have her–and her siblings–alive and well. And I thought, “It’s my duty to keep them that way.”




Turning Dreams Tangible

So, yes, I’m watching the Super Bowl. And I’m totally into the excitement. But I’m going happy-crazy out-of-my-mind with energy and frustration. While dedicated sports fans see do-or-die competitive play (and I understand and respect that), I’m seeing the tangible proof of every player who had a dream, realized. And I’m not talking about the winner (because, technically, I’m blogging this before the game’s end. In fact, the stadium lights went off, and right now, it seems that team momentum has changed over. And, yes, the craziness drove me to my laptop—with one eyeball on the screen.

 But each player in the Super Bowl at one point in their too-young life dreamed of this. And they made it! And now, they’re actually in the process of formulating new dreams/goals, and stimulating new pathways to the tangible proof of new visions. Why am I sure of this? It’s because there’s one thing I know they are sure of—if it’s been done once, it can be accomplished, again—and why not, since there’s still breath in the body.

 So what’s driving me crazy? I wanna do it too. Now! In fact my every waking minute (like now), I’m on it, trying to figure it out.

 Okay, I got that off my chest. Let me tell you the tangible I saw today at church. Sitting in the pew right in front of me was a former Heavyweight Champion of the World. I didn’t spy him first, my husband did. The sermon also before me was awesome. It told me, and taught me to hold on, and to praise God for all that’s really lasting—and the Pastor explained why. I got it. But I eyes, heart, and mind bobbed and weaved on the Heavyweight Dreamer Tangible.

 I won’t mention his name just yet, if ever; because I’m hopeful to talk to him more and maybe even help him get his tremendous personal story published. That would be awesome—for this breathing tangible has been through a lot. Bless him. He even told my husband a quick story about how because he is a Heavyweight Tangible, numerous insignificants often challenge him and threaten his life like it was a trophy to behold.

This is paraphrased because really, I was eavesdropping: A guy pulled up next to him at a stop light, noticed who he was, and tried to goad him into a fight for simply no reason, perturbed about it, he explained, “And when I went to step out of the car to see if he meant business, the guy raised up his shirt to show me his gun.” The Heavyweight Tangible told how he just shook his head in disgust, realizing that this silly game had been played again. He got back in his car and drove off. And it was at that point when my mother instincts kicked into the fear mode of knowing just how quickly, and insignificantly your babies (even your grown Heavyweight Tangible babies) can meet up with senseless tragedy in an instant. But working through that is for another blog subject.

 Back to Heavyweight Tangible; even though he’s been through hardships, ups and downs, I noted with gladness that he is still standing, and seeking faith. I also noted that this individual knows what it’s like to Turn a Dream Tangible. And I’m going happy-crazy wanting my turn.

(excuse any typos. i’m watching the game.)

 Is that wrong? How about you? Lemmeknow.  www.yvonnejmedley.com

Turning Dreams Tangible

So on Thursday, I asked my ESL Students [English as a Second Language], adult learners (evening classes), a question—after the class watched the first half of the film, Julie & Julia. The question was, “What is it that you like to do? I mean, what is that thing that you’d like to do, and getting paid for it (in any amount, large or small) would only be a bonus?

 Well, first, the answer-attempts came slow then emerged, hesitant.  That’s because first, in one’s head, answers had to be translated out of one’s native language into English. Then the students had to cast down their primal-dream focus, which is to survive a new culture, a new life, and a new language. Apparently, when one has all of that to do there’s little time left for entertaining the career dream or the being-called-to-a-passion dream, and there’s no time to coordinate the corresponding what ifs.

 But in class, I encourage conversation; and so some answers began to cautiously deliver:



“Conceptualizing buildings/Engineering” (working the translation was a trial, but worth it)

“Creating themed party favors” (trial, number two)

 While the answers sweetened the air, most of the students still managed to dodge. But I said, “No worries,” because I promised to assault them with the question on next Thursday. They smiled and said they’d show up because they’re polite. They’ll actually show up because of commitment.

But here’s one gentleman’s answer: He said, “I like to take care of my family.” Then he sat back, satisfied and he smiled. His expression said, “I gotcha!”

 I smiled and buzzed, “Annnnnnnt. Wrong answer.”  He laughed. He understood.

 After class, he came up to me and said, “I’ve been in this country a while now, really. But when we first got here, I had to feed my family; provide shelter, protect them – as I have to do now.” He said it with a polite smile supported by a pause and a negative headshake. “There was no time to …” His look finalized. I understood. But next week, I will still present the weighty question again.

 Sadly, that question is a hard one for many, universally. Often, we don’t feel we have the right to such frivolous happiness like feeding a heartfelt passion, a calling or a gift—at least not in the broad daylight where others can see and/or hear.

 Personal Observation: Sometimes maturity sets in and we factually assume (that means out loud in front of witnesses) our right to be happy and fulfilled. I mean, as a day-job perk. And then we may even begin to embark on the tangible journey to make it so using faith, diligence and new direction. However, sometimes, when that light bulb finally shines, we’ve already let decades slither by. Then we tend to get caught up burning a few more prime-time WATTS being pissed off about it. I’m just sayin’.

 So while you’ve got some wattage still left in you (i.e., life), can you answer the question? What is it that you’d like to do (whether or not money is an object to behold)? I mean, really—no pie-in-the-sky, please. Put some real personal, tangible thought into it. Lemmeknow.