Words to the First Born
by Tierra M Wilson
I was born on a bittersweet spring day. The sweet part? It was my grandmother’s birthday too. The bitter part? She was murdered before I was born.
Although I never got to meet my beautiful grandmother, I feel connected to her in more ways than I could even put into words.
I’m not exactly sure what God was doing when I was given the same birthday as her, but I assume I was a small part of the healing process for the 10 kids she left behind.
I was the first born in every sense of the word.
- My mother was the first born, and I was her first born child
- I was the first grandchild
- I was the first niece
- I was the first new life after the tragedy
Growing up, I was beyond loved. I couldn’t ask for a better childhood. I had a special bond with each of my grandmother’s 10 kids. There were 5 boys (my uncles) and 5 girls (my mom and my aunts). Put them all together and they were called “The Montgomerys” by the residents of our small town in Zachary, Louisiana. They were known for being, intelligent, rowdy, and fiercely loyal.
Here’s where my childhood gets interesting. Each of The Montgomerys had distinct personalities, and each was determined to teach me specific life lessons before I turned 18.
My mother had to work, so my “teachers” took turns watching me after school at our family house, which I affectionately nicknamed “The Blue House.” The Blue House sat on the corner of Avenue G in the Avenues, a small hood on the other side of the tracks.
These lessons were their “words to the first born”, a direct quote from my uncle, Creighton. As a kid, I thought they were just fun babysitters, but looking back, I realize that each of these lessons was integral to the woman I’ve become. They were instruction manuals that have gotten me out of some tight situations.
In the hopes that they inspire you like they did me, I’ve summarized my experiences into 10 lessons, each as unique as their teachers:
Lesson #1: Faith and Spirituality
My mom Tonya was the oldest of The Montgomerys, she taught me that life is not about surviving, it’s about thriving. That despite the circumstances you can and will make it to the top. She showed me how to thrive in every situation including work, spirituality, and family. Because of her, all of us made it through. She’s the reason I am thriving. I have family, friends, health, happiness, peace, and more than I could have ever asked for. Because of her lessons, my life is full and abundant.
Lesson #2: Nature and Knowledge
My uncle Ernest, aka Uncle Ban, my grandmother’s eldest son, taught me that nothing is what it seems. Our time together included nature walks and encyclopedia reads. He would teach me about a new animal or a part of history that I had never heard of before. He taught me to always ask questions and to never take anything at face value. He’s the reason I never stopped learning. He’s the reason I crave exploration.
Lesson #3: Stillness and Reflection
My uncle Derrick, aka Uncle Madoo, taught me that being still is an important part of life. Our time together was often spent in silence and reflection. These were the most influential moments of my childhood. I recall just sitting still, in the sun, in a car, or on the couch, for hours with him. He’d slowly share a story or experience and then pause so we could reflect. He’s the reason why I am okay with being alone. The reason I don’t make rash decisions. The reason I can stay calm under pressure.
Lesson #4: Discipline and Fun
My aunt Cantrice, aka T Toot, taught me that life is about balance. Our time together was an adventure filled with silly sounds, funny songs, and a little grossness too. She taught me to let loose, to never take myself too seriously, and to always be a kid. My aunt was also a military veteran who would switch over to an authority figure in the blink of an eye when needed. She’s the reason I’m goofy yet stern. The reason I can find a reason to laugh in hard times.
Lesson #5 & #6: Perseverance and Survival
My aunts Lechawn (aka T Shawn) and Tracey didn’t teach me lessons til later in life, but the lessons they taught were the most important. Both of them showed me that no matter what life throws at you, never stop fighting. T Shawn taught me to never give up on someone you love because you never know when they will pull through. T Tracey taught me that life isn’t always fair, but you can still win through love. It’s because of them that I know I can survive anything.
Lesson #7: Strength and Defense
My uncle Creighton taught me how to survive. After school lessons included street fighting, self-defense, and emergency preparedness. He taught me how to cook wildlife, handle knives, disarm and disable an attacker, and to survive a hurricane. Creighton believed in me. He never treated me like a child but as an equal. He’s the reason I was ready for adulthood. The reason I can defend myself. The reason I crave nature. The reason I’m still alive.
Lesson #8: Love and Hip Hop
My Uncle Lael, aka, Uncle Lelly, taught me to love myself, my heritage, and my culture. Our time together included lessons on Africa and black history. He taught me how to DJ and the importance of poetry and hip hop. After school, we would listen to music and discuss how to make the world a better place. His passion for activism and culture left a huge imprint on my life. He’s the reason I hold my head up high. The reason I tear up when I hear good poetry. The reason I listen to the pain behind the lyrics. The reason I care.
Lesson #9: Speed and Agility
My uncle Ahmad, aka Uncle Maud, showed me the power of athleticism and sports. Our time together was spent running, playing basketball, jumping ditches, climbing trees, and pushing our bodies to the limits. He taught me that sports are not only games but therapy too. He showed me the beauty of competition and that my only limitation is me. He’s the reason I can still do push-ups and run sprints. The reason I love pushing myself. The reason I don’t crack under pressure.
Lesson #10: Poetry and Passion
My aunt Tanzel, aka T Tanz, the baby of the crew, was more like a sister to me. She taught me how to put my passion on paper. T Tanz taught me that it’s okay to feel things. From sadness and joy, to happiness and love, those feelings all tell a story if you let them. Time with her was spent listening to her words as they flowed off of the pages. She taught me to take those feelings and turn them into art. She’s the reason I’m emotionally stable. The reason these words flow on this page.
I had a good childhood. Life wasn’t perfect. We had our ups, downs, sadness, tragedies, and pain. Each of The Montgomerys had personal demons that I watched them battle and ultimately overcome. In the end, they always won, and from my point of view, I was the luckiest little girl in the world. I was a gift to ten children who had survived a horrible tragedy. They needed someone to love, and I needed their wisdom to guide me.
Whenever I feel down, or when life gets hard, I remember the question my uncle Creighton still asks me every time he sees me.
He always says, “Words to the first born. Who do you believe in?”
And I always reply, “I put my faith in God when times get hard.”