It’s been one full week since I’ve come home from JMU. One full week since being back in Alexandria. One full week since starting the next chapter in my life. One week since I’ve been done with undergrad life. May 7th, 2017 not only did I leave my two wonderful roommates and my roommate’s cat Sagwa, who became my roommate (slept in my bed with me almost every night…could not be more different of a situation than I thought I’d be in even a year ago) and said goodbye to my church in Harrisonburg and my home for 5 years, I also started my job in Old Towne. I came home after a 14 hour day (church 9am- noon, a 3 hour drive to work, teaching 330-10) to the sweetest smile and biggest hug from none other than my Mama, Desire Sarah McCray.

I’ve always been thankful for my Mother but have come to appreciate her and all she has been through to raise her three kids more and more since attending JMU. There’s a picture that hangs on the board of our laundry room of my Mom in a graduation gown, my dad holding my sister in one arm and holding my right hand with the other and my Mom holding my brother’s hand with her free hand. I pass that photo almost everyday and everyday it puts a fire in my belly and a smile in my heart. Mom wasn’t in the house alot when I was in elementary school or middle school. At the time, it wasn’t something that bothered me or upset me. Only now after going through 5 long years of college can I appreciate that Mama was working as an educator and going to night classes with three kids. Not once, NOT ONCE did I ever feel a void of love from my busy Mom. Not ONCE did i feel I wasn’t a priority in my Mom’s life. After my mom stopped teaching in the ACPS school system, she was around more, conveniently right when I left for JMU. Jordan would call me telling me how Mom woke her up every morning for school, dropped her off, made her lunch…all things I didn’t get in school because mom was usually off to work when I was up for school.  Even still, I’ve always only felt unconditional love.

My Mom got the whole loving your children more than anything in this world and reminding them they can be anything they put their mind to from HER Mom. IN elementary school I vividly remember having an assignment where we had to write a report about our role models. Most people’s role models were football players, singers, authors and actors. Mine was Renelda Brown, my grandmother. You will NOT find a stronger more tender loving woman than my Grandma, all wrapped up in her teeny tiny 5 foot 2 frame.  Because Mama was always working and Dad usually was, Grandma was ALWAYS my chaperone on field trips. Grandma was the most popular chaperone(if I remember correctly), always bringing candy for everyone and exuding a maternal calming energy to small hyper active children that always were calm around her. True story: on a 3rd grade field trip my Grandma was my chaperone. It was a Thursday. I bawled my eyes out when she drove off home to Arlington and told my teacher through a broken voice and dramatic sobs ” -I-I-I I- MISS MY GRAAANMAAAAAAA. A”. I was confronted by my teacher who called my Grandmother in a panic. My teacher came back and said ” Zoe, I just talked to your Grandmother. She just informed me you will be seeing her tomorrow for church choir practice…then again Saturday for a church event….then again Sunday for church….So sweetheart, why are you crying like you wont ever see her again?” I replied  ” because I love my Grandma more than anything and when I’m not with her I miss her”. That was 15 years ago. Not a damn thing has changed.

My Dad’s mother, Grandma McCray, spent her last few years int he throws of Alzheimer’s. Grandma McCray lived farther away from us and I didn’t see her nearly as much as I saw and still see my maternal Grandmother. I do have a memory of visiting my Grandma after she didn’t really remember us anymore (which I know took an emotional toll on my Dad) where she called me into her room, thinking I was her nurse, and asked me to brush her hair. It was one of the best times I ever spent with my Grandma. After her passing, I decided to start going by my full name, Zoe-Elizabeth, after my grandma Mary-Elizabeth.

Mary-Elizabeth McCray: A strong woman who raised 12 kids in a 3 bedroom house. Renelda Brown: A model citizen who gives all of her self to her kids, grandkids, great grandkids, sisters, brothers, nieces, nephews, cousins, friends, husband and the God she has always served. Desire Sarah McCray: a woman with more college degrees than children who has nurtured and loved hundreds of elementary school students before having 3 kids of her own. A woman who navigates gracefully through my brother’s mental illness, my sister’s aspirations and crazy schedule and my crazy goal of becoming a full time performer. Like Kendrick said, I’ve got loyalty, got royalty inside my DNA. Thank you Moms. Happy Mother’s Day




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