This Woman’s Work

I came home from a long day spent doing “this woman’s work,” shuffling kids to doctor’s appointments in between my full-time marketing telework and full-time virtual school assistant jobs to find a package of deliciously-scented candles from Freres Branchiaux, a small candle business created in suburban Washington, DC by three brothers – aged 14, 12 and 9 – who started this business because they had “maxed out their toy allowance” and wanted to earn some money. These three young black boys took a candle-making workshop, then went to work developing a wide range of soy-based candles in great-smelling scents, like Cherry Blossom, Lime Cotton and Green Lavender, as well as others based on cultural icons, like Wakanda Forever – “Reminiscent of soft florals, bergamot, and thyme.  Smells like love. :)” and Wakanda Forever – “Ginger, saffron, and mixed fruits make this candle heavenly—Wakanda style!  And it is our FIRST colored candle—Vibranium Blue.”

While I was finishing up a Microsoft Teams meeting, the news of the indictment of one of the officers responsible for Breonna Taylor’s death in Louisville, Kentucky broke. I didn’t have time to read more until I was sitting in the waiting room while my niece had her appointment. I was horrified to read that the only indictment to come down was for a police officer who had shot into nearby homes – the charge was endangering others in the neighborhood. The sheetrock of these neighbors’ homes received more justice than award-winning EMT Breonna Taylor and her family. I thought of Breonna’s mother. A few weeks ago, I had read a magazine article in which her mother described the night of her daughter’s death and the following day. The police wouldn’t tell her what had happened – they went so far as to outright lie to her, telling her that her daughter had been taken to the hospital while she was laying dead in her home, and to ask her if she knew of anyone who would have wanted to hurt Breonna, all the while knowing their own officers had killed her.

I got home from all my driving around and opened my long-awaited box of candles. See, Freres Branchiaux received so many orders around Juneteenth that it had taken them quite a while to fill them all – a wonderful problem to have, of course. The two candles I’d picked both smell amazing: Whiskey Sweet has a hint of cedar layered with citrus, whiskey and musk. When I saw that there was a candle named after a Kate Bush song, later covered by Maxwell, you know I had to grab that one too! This Woman’s Work is sweet and fruity, with apple, grapefruit, vanilla, jasmine and sandalwood. I hadn’t heard the song in a while, so I listened to both versions. And as I listened, I cried for Breonna Taylor’s mother and for all the mothers who haven’t received justice. I cried for Tamir Rice’s mother, and for Trayvon Martin’s mother and for Michael Brown’s mother and for George Floyd’s mother. I cried because I feel so angry at the system that continues to fail non-white Americans, and I cried because I feel helpless to do anything to change it.

And when I stopped crying, I quietly set about resuming “this woman’s work.” It may not seem to be much, but I am being what my favorite musician, Tori Amos, would call a “Mother Revolution.” I’m raising three beautiful children to see the wrongs in the world and seek to right them, to be kind to everyone, no matter their situation, and to speak up for those who don’t have a voice. I’m raising three kids who can talk politics at the dinner table and who know that black lives matter and that everyone is welcome. I’m raising kids who will speak their mind and who won’t say they “don’t see color,” but will understand that we live in a racist system and have to fight it every chance we get. Most days, I feel like I’m not doing it well enough, but then one of my kids says or does something amazing and it reminds me that “this woman’s work” is mostly languorous and silent and done in the background while lives are being lived until something happens that brings our values into sharp focus.

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