Every black home I’ve been in has some sort of shrine to the ages. There’s a table or corner of prime wall real estate that has the rendering of someone we hold dear. In the most traditional homes, where Big Mama the matriarch resides, the space is a snapshot in time with some rendering of Martin Luther King, Jr., Jesus, or both. In my mother’s home, there are four: A poem given at my grandmother’s funeral entitled When I Must Leave You (hand calligraphy by my mom in 1983.), A corner curio cabinet with Poet laureate, author Maya Angelou from her figurine collection, the light we carry a photo of our forever first couple, Barack and Michelle Obama (Kwaku Alston, 2007©), and her 75th Covid-19 Birthday Bouquet of unique flowers selected by each individual family member or friend. The femininity and feminism in this loving display are transcendent.
My mind was a whirlwind as I noticed that The Light We Carry (Obama, M., 2022) is a perfect case study in The Top Shelf Wife as a guide. In the following paragraphs, you’ll see what I mean!
Within the pages is woven the tapestry of support and nurturing from Mother Robinson towards her cubs in childhood through the concrete sidewalks of Chicago, IL, into the people they were Becoming (2021). We got to feel glued to each syllable and story as Michelle and the young Barack ran through their dating paces. We turn over each stone as the light we carry she observes and imagines how their pieces fit together. We feel the consistency of his purpose in service to others. We listen to each thought and practice vetting a future president as a husband and father.
As a reader, I enjoyed with a smirk every twist and turn of the downhome romance. As a writer, I felt venerated in seeing the themes and nuances of both titles collide. So much so that, I included a synopsis of my findings in The Top Shelf Wife, Chapter 12: What Type is the Best Man to Enjoy the Value of My Gifts? The story of a top shelf wife is in their story; ideas of scalability, hypergamy, male involvement, and reciprocity are all present and accounted for. They wave, hand held high to be called upon. Chapters 6: Partnering Well and 7: Meet My Mom is relationship gold.
Don’t turn to TMZ, Instagram accounts, or The View. if you wonder how they did it. Although they’re all excellent content, our first family began with a large helping of: mothers who were nurturing and supportive, the understanding that it’s all practice, and hours of observation. Yes, even Barack was practicing until he wasn’t. The light we carry felt the rich texture of every page. Focus on the Family, a Christian based organization founded by James Dodson that has been sharing their views regarding family and Christ since 1977, posted an article, Defining the Four Pillars of Nurturing Children that candidly admits, “Nurturing is a complex process that is hard to describe. But with your inborn nature to nurture, your awareness of each of these four pillars, and God to guide you, you can use your gifts to nurture your children well. A nurturing mom provides thorough care that goes deeper than just meeting a child’s physical needs. Defining nurturing in all of its aspects can help parents provide nurturing care that will help their child’s growth and development.” Healthy nurturing by sustained parental relationships makes for a neat and tidy package. However, we are not all wrapped in a neat and tidy package.
Combining as a couple is most effective if a woman is comfortable in the markers of nurturing and support of the soul, spouse, family, a family’s plan, and the networks that a couple builds. The light we carry Typically, the environment starts with the couple’s family (ex., Mom and Pop Obama and Mr. & Mrs. Robinson). As the pyramid shows (Figure 2), foundationally, one nurtures herself. That love and light then can permeate and grow through the expansion of self into other relationships.
Combining as a partnership is most comfortable if the Essence of the Family remains intact, is intentionally learned through reading (The Top Shelf Wife, bing the light we carry among other books), and is passed generationally as loving intention and wise counsel. The curio cabinet corner, although sometimes dusty, is a beautiful honor of love in light in our lives. Each parcel (the ode to grandmother, Lady Angelou, the Obamas, and the Warren Family bouquet) is unique and placed with care as a reminder of The Light we Carry and as a Top Shelf Woman.