Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Thank you 29 times: Lessons from the Ladies who loved me (Part 1)

Cousin, Me, Auntie at home in Cleveland
I never understood why people give the person that was born presents on their birthday instead of the person who actually gave birth. To me, the person who gave birth is the person who deserves the credit.  Furthermore, I have always considered myself lucky because whereas most people only get one mommy, I got three.  So on the eve of my 29th birthday, in an effort to remedy the misplaced praise, I wanted to take a moment and electronically “shout out” the special ladies in my life and the unique lessons that each of them has taught me. My cousin got custody of me when I was 12 (after my mom died), so lessons 13-29 come from her and my aunt.  Enjoy.
Part 1: Auntie and cousin
“My other Mother” also known as “Cousin”
Me and Cousin at her wedding reception
29: Behold a lady- Even though she is in her early 40s,  my cousin still wears slips and stockings in the summer! She crosses her legs (at the ankle) when she wears a skirt and very rarely swears in public. From her I learned, there is a certain way that a lady should carry herself at all times.  From her, I learned the importance and necessity of class!
28: Express yourself- Sometimes, I put my cousin on speaker when she calls me. If I didn’t the phone would probably burn a hole in my hand and ear. Yes, she is a talker. She told me yesterday that she never met a stranger and I believe her.  So lesson 28 is the gift of expression.  
27-24: endurance, self-restraint, discipline and hard work- My cousin was only 4 years younger than I am now, when she inherited an unruly, angry, defiant, confused 12 year old. She worked 2 jobs and went to school the first few years that she had me, to keep from spending my insurance money on anything other than emergencies. By the time I was a teenager, she had her Master’s degree. But she still kept her part time job at a local retail store. I probably couldn’t count how many odd jobs she had throughout my life. It's humbling to know that she did it all so that I could keep the same standard of living that I had before my mom died.  In the midst of all this she never missed a track meet, or awards ceremony. She even made time to take me and my friends to rap concerts. Sure, she slept through the whole thing, but she was there and I will never forget it. Watching her work so hard and so smart helped me to see the value in discipline; the reward of hard work, and the self-confidence that comes with endurance.
23: "We are not poor"-I can still remember the halfway heated arguments my aunt and cousin would have about money. My aunt is a saver and my cousin is most definitely a spender. She has always been responsible with money, but never felt that responsibility meant living in lack or denying yourself what you deserve.  She taught me to make time and money for myself. You only live once…”buy what you want!”  Roger that, cuzzo.
22: Patience is a virtue-People close to me always comment on how patient I am.  It’s true; I don’t get angry often because I have learned to maintain a healthy emotional balance. In hindsight, I know that I learned this from my cousin. Throughout the years, I can count the times she raised her voice at me on 2 fingers (give or take a finger). She has always been patient and kind. From her I learned that one can be sensitive without being emotional.


Cousin, Auntie and Me at Master's Graduation
21:A heart of gold- My aunt is not the mushy type(even though she still lets me curl up underneath her and sleep sometimes).  She is the type, however, that does the special thoughtful things that no one else remembers to do. This summer she bought me a beautiful rainbow bracelet. I loved it. But when she saw how left out my girlfriend felt because she didn’t have one, she bought her one too. From my aunt, I learned how to be thoughtful, considerate and generous.
19 &20: R E S P E C T and Don’t let anyone take advantage of you- My auntie is NOT someone you want to mess with. I wasn’t alive when she was my age, but I can  only imagine the type of havoc she wreaked on anyone who transgressed against her. Even now, I make sure to stay out of her way when she is mad (I warn everyone else to do the same)!  From her I learned that you have stand up for yourself. No one is better than you and you have a right to defend your honor and integrity if you feel threatened. A strong woman doesn’t have to tell anyone she is strong, people will be able to see it in the way she speaks and carries herself. She taught me to hold myself in high esteem and that even if people don’t like me, they will respect me.  From her, I got my quick wit and sharp tongue.
18 &17: Sacrifice and the importance of family- This was my aunt’s favorite thing to tell me and show me growing up. Over the years, I have watched her do extraordinary things for me and my cousin. I never have had a doubt that I am her top priority.
16: Humor- This lady is hilarious! She could make a living as a stand up comedienne. She has the type of dry humor that makes you think, but will have you doubled over in tears. From her I get my sense of humor.
14 &15: Acceptance/Unconditional love- The “news” of my sexual orientation may not have come as a surprise to my family, but their reaction was a major surprise to me. Both my aunt and cousin are hard core Christians. And I mean hardcore, “white on women’s day wearing, “ “third Sunday ushering,”  Christians. But when my aunt found out I was gay she didn’t shun me or judge me at all, she said “well you must have been born that way.” She has always accepted my lifestyle and has embraced anyone I have brought home. She treats them like they are an extension of me, making them feel welcome and at home. From her I learned to accept people for who they are.  
13: The “love-food” connection- Every year when I get ready to come home, I can expect a “menu call” from my auntie. During this call, she runs down the menu of what she plans to cook for me and also takes requests from me. I know that whatever I ask for she is going to make an effort to do it for me.  Even though my  aunt is in her mid 60s, it that doesn’t stop her from making a 7 course meal every time I come home. Complete with appetizers, special cocktails, dessert and an after dinner snack. She always tells me that she may not have a lot of money, but she can show me she loves in other ways. So, I am more than happy to wear her love for me on my hips!  From her, I learned that when choosing a wife, make sure she can burn!

I have learned a lot in 28 years and 364 days but the most valuable lesson that I got from my aunt and my cousin was that LOVE truely is the greateast gift you can give or recieve....

*to be continued...*


  1. OMG! I am in tears! This was absolutely BEAUTIFUL & so on point! Much Love 2 my cousins, including YOU!

  2. Great recap of 28 years of learning and growing Kenya!