I'm back home. I'm sitting in a Paradise Bakery scratching mosquito bites on my forearm, the true souvenir from my trip. I couldn't post the dates of when I was going back to Greenwood because there were a couple of people who we didn't want to know that we were coming. One of them was M.W.
This trip was a lot shorter, just five days. It was probably my last trip to Greenwood, at least the last one I'll take with a film crew. I still can't believe that I got to make a real movie. I also can't believe the amazing people that I got to work with. From the sound guy, the cinematographer, the editor, and the production assistants - the team of people that made the shoot happen were always kind, fun, and hardworking. I know that some of them I will never see again, except of course on Facebook.
As I sit here, the thing that sticks out to me about this last trip is M.W. I think I can write her name now, Honey Wright. Honey and my grandfather were together for over 20 years. When I look at her I always feel amazed because I'm looking at someone who stood next to him, fed him, kissed him, and was loved by him for many, many years.
In the summer of 2010, she sat down with me for about three hours and told me stories about Booker Wright, Booker's Place, his family, and their life together. She was warm, confident and funny. She repeatedly hopped up to make me drinks, get me crackers, and so on. She was funny and full of life. Her memory was like a moving picture in her mind and she took me for a ride.
When I first started compiling a list of possible interviewees for Raymond and David, Honey Wright's name was at the top of my list. I called her several months ago to ask her to help with this film. Initially she said yes, then I heard through her daughter that Honey would not be involved. I had trouble getting her on the phone, when I finally did she sounded confused. I thought that maybe I'd woken her from a nap. I heard through the grapevine that one of her sisters, the one she traveled with and spent the most time with, had died. I felt badly for her, but I didn't think too much about it because I really needed her to agree to get on camera with us and also to provide photos of Booker.
Over the last several months the filmmakers and I have had countless strategic conversations about how to get what we need from Honey Wright.
I saw her briefly on the June trip. I hardly recognized her. She'd gained weight and she seemed hunched over even when standing straight up. I was warm towards her. I always feel warm towards her. But I needed the photos so I didn't really take her in. In July I found out that she lost another sister not long after I left Greenwood. I wrote her a card and called to give my condolences. This time I sincerely felt for her, but part of me was also trying to cultivate trust so that I could get what I needed from her.
I know how this sounds. Yes, I feel ashamed.
I saw her on this latest trip. I learned that she's actually lost three sisters in less than 13 months. Raymond and I sat down with her, showed her a few scenes from the movie he's making, and chatted a bit. She was so frail. She was reflective, talking about her life as if she believes she's at the end of it. She was tired, her thoughts would trail off. She often looked into space and just stared.
Finally, I was able to see her. Her hair fell in soft, intentional curls. Her skin, which is so light brown that you can hardly tell her race, was clear and delicately decorated with dark freckles. Her long, thin fingers traced the table as we spoke. Her eyes were large and brown. They reminded me of the way a young child will often look off when you answer a question for them. Their expression fades to nothing and their lips may slightly part as they use all their mental energy to conceptualize what you've just explained to them. Honey has those eyes.
I finally get it. She's not avoiding us. She's not trying to make our work difficult. She's not afraid of anything. She's tired. She sent her warmth, her memories, and her joy to me a year ago and she simply has very little of it left. Three sisters have died since her screen door shut on our visit in June of 2010. She's holding on to today as tightly as she can. She's no longer concerned with events that took place almost 40 years ago.
I love looking at her. I want to watch her when she sees the movie we make. I want her to swell with warmth about the man who moved through her life all those years ago. I want to send her home with joy.