Sunday, November 17, 2013

Sentimental Sunday - In Honor of "Aunt" Doris

I grew up in a great neighborhood, called Granger Court (East).  It was an all-Black, middle class subdivision, in historical Aberdeen Gardens, in Hampton, Virginia.  Our neighborhood was filled with children, most of whom had at least one active-duty, or retired military parent. But the story of my neighborhood is for another day.

This Sentimental Sunday post is in memory of one of the many mothers of Granger Court; a woman whom I admired greatly, and who welcomed me into her home, and treated me (for the most part) like one of her kids, even though she already had five of her own.  I never took Mrs. Graves' welcoming outreach for granted, for I was consciously aware that, at least during the years that I was hanging out with her daughters (my "cousins" Tonya and Tasha), that not a lot of extra children from the neighborhood were allowed to visit inside their home.  (Even for me, there were those "wait on the porch" times, but that didn't happen very often.) 
The Graves Family, except for "Daddy"
Front (l to r): Dorey, Lazarus, Doris
Back (l to r): Tasha, Junior, Tonya
More often than not, when I would get invited in to the Graves' home, I would be offered a seat in the front room, which was the formal living room, and Mrs. Graves would sit down to chat with me, while I had to wait for (usually) Tonya to complete some unfinished chore, before she could come outside or have company.  During these moments, Mrs. Graves, or "Aunt Doris", as I sometimes began to call her, would inquire about my family, my grades, my job and/or my extracurricular activities.  She always would compliment me on something, which I always bashfully appreciated, because I had very low self-esteem, and didn't get compliments, often. She would even often tell me how glad she was that her daughters and I were friends, and that she thought I was a very nice young lady. Her regular show of appreciation for the person I was meant more to me than I've ever let anyone know.  
Mama Graves - just as I remember her
In later years, when I would return to the Graves' Pamela Drive home with my oldest daughter in tow, both Mr. and Mrs. Graves continued the habit of building me up.  They adored my daughter, Natasha, and always commented on how smart and well-mannered she was.  They sang my praises for how well I was raising her (alone), and always encouraged me to continue doing the best I could.  I loved how they both called my daughter, "Tasha" (rhymes with ash), the same as they did their own daughter, Natasha.  This just made me feel even more like a true part of their close-knit, loving family.
Doris Reid Graves
April 5, 1931 - November 5, 1998

November 5th marked 15 years since my "Aunt Doris" transitioned, and on that day, her fourth child, Kenyatta Dorey Graves ("Dorey", to most), who is a phenomenal writer, posted this tribute to his mother on Facebook:

Fifteen years ago today Mommy crossed a river of light and joined the ancestors. The Earth surged forward but, for a while, nothing moved in me. Now, here, I am differently aware of what it means to be my mother's child. Language leaves my mouth and as words make naked the presence of older values, a sense more country than I've ever been appears; I could almost mistake the masculine bass tones I hear for her voice. Her wit is my wisdom. The days of company I crave are inherited. Being real and genuine, genetic. Fifteen years can go where years go without slow-counting, without noticing the day your dreams no longer visualize a chance to say goodbye, embrace, and wish her peace on the next phase of her journey. The Earth surges. And I'm doing what I can with a life that resembles nothing I expected. Ear to the ancestors, eyes on my dreams, breath by breath, to be a man a mother might think on with pride.

Immediately upon reading this, I commented, asking Dorey if I could please post this to my blog.  He granted me permission, so now, here it is.  As you can see by this short example, Doris Graves' fourth child is a gifted writer! His way with words ranks right up there with those we most celebrate, always touching me deeply, in a place where only the written word can. 
The writer, Kenyatta "Dorey" Graves, just as I knew him :)

I wanted to post this because I loved Dorey's mother, and because I miss her, too.  Many thanks to her children, Natasha, Tonya, Jesse Jr., Kenyatta, and Lazarus for sharing her light with me; and an extra special thanks to Dorey (who I've never called Kenyatta a day in my life...lol) for allowing me to share his writing, and his pictures on my blog.



  1. Mine's is my Aunt Sallie Bea she is 93.

  2. That would be my Aunt Sallie Bea who is 93.

  3. Renate what an honor to have this in your blog. I miss those carefree days of running around in Granger Court and I remember your chocolate cakes yumm.I soooo miss my mom. She was a special to us all just not enough time thats why you need to appreciate people you love when they are alive. I wish I couldve done more for her. Live and learn. Love you and thanks.

  4. A nice remembrance of your Aunt Doris and what she meant to you. When i first read the title it gave me a start because my mother was Aunt Doris to my cousins.

  5. Love this tribute to your Aunt Doris!

  6. Tender memories. Thank you and Dorey for sharing.