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I just wanted to go to a party.

“Jackson, honey, your name is perfect. Anyone who tells you they don’t want to be your friend because of your name isn’t the type of people you want to be friends with, okay?”

“I’ll be friends with anyone,” I promised her. “Maybe if my name was Eric or something.”

Ma frowned. “Come on, love. We’re going to go have an art lesson.”

I groaned. I didn’t want to do art. Whenever there was a problem, Ma always used art to try to fix it—to teach me. I didn’t want to learn, though.

I just wanted friends.

“But Ma—” I started, yet she gave me a stern look.

“Jackson Paul,” she scolded, using my middle name. I stopped talking because whenever Ma used my middle name, I knew she wasn’t going to let me slide.

She gathered some things from the house.

Paints, paintbrushes, a white bedsheet, two long sticks, wire, and clothespins.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“You’ll see. Come on. Let’s go out to the field.”

We walked through the trees in the back of our house toward an open lot of land. That was where Ma had me paint the sunsets with her at least twice a week.

I waited not-so-patiently as she set up her “canvas.”

She staked the two sticks into the ground with a bit of distance between them Then, she tied the wire to the top of each stick, connecting them. Next, she took the sheet and attached it to the wire with the clothespins.

She turned my way, smiling. “You know where your name came from?”

I shook my head.

She picked up a paintbrush and covered it with blue paint. Next, she splattered the paint against the sheet. She added a new color to her brush and did the same thing. It looked like a mess, but a nice mess somehow.

I didn’t know messes could look nice.

“His name was Jackson Pollock, and he was unique. He was known for his drip painting technique like this. Here, try it.” She handed me the paintbrush, and I started making a nice mess, too.

“He was an individual, Jackson, and he went against the norm. He didn’t try to make people like him by being something he wasn’t. He didn’t care what others thought of him. He was just himself, and he was extraordinary.” She walked over to me and tapped me on the nose. “Just like you. Do you know what his original first name was?”



I grinned ear to ear. “Like my middle name? Jackson Paul?”

“Exactly. Your father and I named you that because you are extraordinary, too, honey. One day, the right people will show up, and they will realize how special you are. They will see you for everything you are and love every piece of it just like your father and I love you. They will be your friends. Okay?”

I nodded. “I guess until those friends come, I got you and Dad to hang out with me.”

“Yes, Jackson.” She pulled me into a hug and kissed my forehead. “You’ll always have us.”

We went back to painting, and it was a lot of fun.

After we finished, I looked at our artwork. “Hey, Ma?”


“You think I can be as good as you at art one day?”

“No, Jackson,” she told me, shaking her head, “you’ll be better.”



Growing up, my sister and I never really went without. We grew up on acres of southern land in a house that was bigger than it needed to be. Daddy never really cared about having a home that size, but Mama felt they deserved it. As if God put the money in their hands, and they did enough for the community, therefore they were allowed to swim in God’s blessings.

Mama was right about one thing—Daddy did deserve it. He worked hard to get to the position he was at, and he never took that for granted. He believed in the church more than anyone I ever knew, and for every acre of land he owned, he gave back to the community.

My sister and I had a certain role to play as pastor’s children. Mama always taught Judy and me that we had to act a certain way throughout all our lives. The Harris girls were always supposed to be proper, prose, and beautiful. Not just an outer beauty, but we were to hold beautiful spirits, too.

For the most part, we took those roles very seriously. People looked up to our family, which meant we had to create a world worth looking up to. We were blessed, which meant that we had to be other’s blessings.

That meant we always had to be perfect in public. There was no place for flaws. So, whenever we faltered…whenever the world hit us, and we’d stumble, my sister and I fell against one another.

I knocked on Judy’s front door, and the second she opened it, her eyes filled with tears.