What happens to a dream deferred?
Grace Bumbry MaryBell Bumbrey-Austin
What really does happen to a dream deferred? As I sit pondering the direction I want to take my life this year, I think of my lineage and ancestors. Times are tough, expenses are continuing to increase and I wonder if I am wasting precious time and most importantly, talent. I have been self-employed for almost ten years and for financial reasons am considering re-entering the workplace. Of course at my age, it’s not an easy thing to do, but I have nursed and nurtured my children for the past eight years, dedicating myself and making huge financial and material sacrifices to support them and be available to them during their young and vulnerable years. I cringe at the thought of my son coming home crying or hurt or more likely going to an aftercare program because no one is home to greet him. Yet, am I deferring my dream? In college I wrote poetry and continued my study of dance. Once I left school and entered the workplace, the dance ended (except for the nightclubs) and the poetry stagnated.
For about a year I have been working on a business plan for a child and community care center. I love nurturing and empowering young people. I look at the day cares in our area where people are either forced to enter a large child care facility, a YMCA without great supervision or a home child care situation where the care provider is on the internet or plopping these fresh minds in front of the television for six to seven hours. I have the business plan but I tell myself I’m not ready to implement it. I don’t have the money. I need at least a fence to surround my yard and the money to pay for the land next to my home. I don’t have the money. Could I open a small child care business in my home right now? I look around my living room and I have more puzzles, toys, games, stuffed animals and books than most schools. I can’t count the number of people who have commented about the number of toys and bicycles in my yard and home and already believe that I have a daycare. So what is holding me back? What voice in my head, or who’s voice in my head is telling me that I can’t do it. I won’t be successful. I am not ready. I don’t have the credentials, I don’t have the lesson plans. I’m not organized.
As I sit typing, I am looking at the pictures of my father’s cousin, Grace Bumbry and my father’s mother, MaryBell Bumbrey. I was named Mary, after her. Both are related and the last names have a slight different spelling because their ancestors weren’t always literate. The original surname Bunberry came out of Ireland and many variations have since fallen through the lineage. Grace Bumbry came from the same economic status as MaryBell. Both were extremely talented. Grace, one of the most famous sopranos in the world, and MaryBell a pianist who taught piano in her youth. Both received scholarships to pursue their art. Grace’s mother took her by the hand and made sure that she knew that her dream and her talents were worth pursuing. MaryBell’s parents asked her to return home and support the family business. The Bumbreys owned a store in New Jersey which was rare for an African-American in those times and meant that they were doing pretty well financially. MaryBell was very fair-skinned and had a brother who lived in a different section of New Jersey because he could pass for white. I believe that this separated the family and put a huge responsibility on the siblings who were left with no choice but to help out the family. Both came from similar backgrounds, but Grace’s mother insisted that she pursue her love for singing.
I wonder what my grandmother dreamed about? And was she an inspiration to Grace? Her musical talents and the fact that she received a scholarship well before Grace? I wonder if she too dreamed of travelling to Austria and Italy, touring with some of the greatest orchestras in the world. Would she have? There is a quote by Carl Jung that says something like “the worst detriment to a child is the unlived lives of the parents.” Grace’s mother stopped at nothing to make sure she received the education and the support to pursue her gift. I didn’t know MaryBell’s mother, but I have been told that she was a stern woman. I can only imagine that she told her daughter that her goal in life was to marry someone who could support her and that she didn’t need to attend school. She did marry a Southern Baptist. Southern Baptist only believe in God’s voice as music and they chant, but do not allow musical instruments into the church. So MaryBell never played in the church and although there was a piano in the home, only the kids played on it and sat on it. I never heard her play.
What happens to a dream deferred? I can look back and see the pain and the silence that one can live in when their dream is stifled. The light is gone and the internal message is that your dream is a farce, not important and would never make a difference in this world. That’s not the message I want to send my children when they tell my life’s story. My grandmother was the most nurturing, beautiful, loving grandmother one could ever have. She encouraged everyone else to have a voice of their own, while hers remained silent. God gave her a gift and she placed it back on the shelf. God gives us gifts, but also gives us the free will to cherish and embrace it, or throw it away or let it sit and collect dust.
Today I choose to open it. Release your dream. Tell others about your dreams. If you don’t have anyone safe to tell, find someone safe or write it down. Then make a plan to pursue it. And watch the beauty unravel.