Reason Number One: Stevie Wonder Restored My Faith in My Mother.
When I was three years old, I received a blue and white record player that could only play 45s and looked like a mini-suitcase. You had to tape a coin to the top of the needle to keep it from skipping, but in my world it was my most cherished item. My record collection consisted of two 45s. One was The Stylistics “Tell Me Have You Seen Her” and the other was Gladys Knight & The Pips “Midnight Train To Georgia”. That’s all I had and as far as I was concerned, that was all I needed.
My record player looked something like this except this is missing the nickel taped to the needle.
Many moons later, my mother came home with a beautiful album in hues of brown, sienna and burnt orange. When you opened it, it unfolded into a full piece of art that looked like a visual echo. I thought the best part was the book insert. It was a black and white version of the album covered with each and every lyric written inside. I would read it over and over, even the words I couldn’t pronounce or understand. I thought that book insert was the best thing about the album, until my mother handed me the bonus 45. It was like the prize inside your favorite cereal box. Of course, each morsel of the cereal was sweet and delicious, but it was the prize at the bottom that made the whole experience memorable. Well, that was my little 45. It had two songs on it. Saturn and Ebony Eyes.
As I played the 45, listening to Ebony Eyes, my mother came in and said “Stevie Wonder wrote that song for you.” Well, at approximately 4 or 5 years old, my mother’s word was bond. Stevie Wonder knew me and wrote a song about me and I had a copy of it! I played that song non-stop. Stevie knew that this little girl from Bed Stuy was “born and raised on ghetto streets.” He knew I loved music and had “a rhythm that [was] made of love.” And most importantly he thought this only child, this little girl, the daughter of a teenage-aged, single, little girl was beautiful. Stevie said I was “a devastating beauty, a pretty girl with ebony eyes”…so it had to be true.
Ebony Eyes was attached to me. It was mine. Just like every time Shaft entered the room, “he’s a bad mother…shut your mouth” played in the internal radio located in my head, I expected the world to sing, “She’s a Miss Beautiful Supreme” with each beat of my stride. I too had a theme song, thanks to Stevie Wonder and my mother.
I can remember probing my mother for more information. “When did Stevie meet me?” “Can I call him and say Thank You?” And just as vividly, I can remember my mother dismissing me. “Girl, I’m on the phone.” “Not now, Cazzie, I’m watching Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman.” I didn’t really care that she didn’t answer my questions. I had the proof that I was Stevie Wonder’s Ebony Eyes! I had the 45! My 45! Ebony Eyes was not one of those songs that my friends considered a household favorite like Sir Duke nor was it in heavy radio rotation like I Wish. No one cared that I knew every word to Ebony Eyes or even knew what song I was singing half of the time. That was fine with me. Ebony Eyes was my gift from Stevie. I didn’t need the world to know my special place in it. This was strictly between Stevie and I. Aisha may have had Isn’t She Lovely, since she’s his first-born child and everything, but I had Ebony Eyes and it was its own separate little 45 that fitted perfectly on my blue suitcase record player.
Well, I care not to share how old I was when I finally realized that my mother was a liar. Stevie Wonder never met me. Stevie Wonder didn’t write no daggone song about me. Yeah, I was a little ghetto girl, but so was every other double-dutch jumping, Ring Ding eating, female child in my neighborhood and neighborhoods like mine across the county. The 45 came with everyone’s copy of Songs In The Key of Life. It wasn’t my special gift. It was generic and public. What a fall from grace! Oh well. It was still a great song and I wasn’t willing to abandon the soundtrack of my youth. But I’ll tell you this much, I vowed never to lie to my children and create a fantasy world only to bomb it to smithereens later! As a parent, I never allowed my children to believe in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny or that a musical genius who wrote anthems for them.
Fast forward to January 13, 2001. At the time I lived in Atlanta and attended way too many balls and charity events for my non-social self. My husband had tickets for us to attend the Salute To Greatness Awards Dinner from The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center For Nonviolent Social Change, Inc. As a woman with a degree in African American Studies, finally he picked an event I was excited to attend. However, ol’ boy failed to tell me who the recipients for the night were and he also knew that I wasn’t going to ask. Believing that sometimes the devil is in the details, I tend to skip over them. Well, to my complete surprise and joy, Stevie Wonder was the recipient. I was in a same room, a typical Atlanta hotel ballroom, with Stevie Wonder. Up until that point, I had seen Stevie in concert once in 1995 in Chicago. At that time, I was a broke graduate student with nose-bleed seats located about seven miles from the stage. But on January 13, I would get the chance to speak to the man who wrote my personal theme song.
I approached the dais and there he was. He held my hand and leaned forward. Well, actually, I grabbed his hand and wouldn’t let go, but that’s neither here nor there. I said to my idol, “Funny story. As a child my mother used to tell me that you wrote Ebony Eyes just for me and I spent many years, probably way too many, believing her.” With perfect white teeth illuminating his smile he said to me “But I did write it just for you, my dear.”
Yes! It was true. I am that “girl that others wish that they could be.” Stevie said it himself. Oh, he put the joy inside my tears! (Pun intended) It was confirmed. I AM his Ebony Eyes and my mother is not a liar.