Today is May 17. The day of my father’s birth. The day of his brother, my Uncle Leonard’s, birth, as well. My dad didn’t like celebrating his birthday; he didn’t like people making a big deal of it because it was his “big brother’s birthday first and he’s gone.” My uncle died in a car accident years before I was even a twinkle in the stars, so I never knew what it was like to see my dad happy on this day. I used to fantasize about my uncle still being alive and how all of us would get together and toast them both. Maybe a huge family dinner with my uncle’s children who never were. They were only one year apart exactly, so they were very, very close. Grew up basically like twins. I never knew my uncle but his presence has always been a thing I existed with…and with that has always come an ache, thus. I bet he gave great hugs. It would’ve been dope to look in his eyes and see the same slanted eyes my dad had; they looked alike. The similar facial structures and smiles. I would’ve loved to hear them laugh together and talk about old times in New Castle, PA. And I really would have loved seeing someone who had that big brotherly authority over my dad, cause he was SUCH a boss and so in charge all the time. To see him happily defer to his big bro…it would’ve been a delight. Maybe that’s my alternate dimension experience cause I can close my eyes and see it clear as day sometimes.
I live with a lot of that, actually–what if’s. There’s no one set thing that will trigger a vision of something that could’ve happened if different choices were made, if certain tragedies missed their target instead of slamming into my life or the lives of those I love. What ifs camp out in my peripherals, teasing me with something better that will never be. It’s hard missing someone you never knew. Like three of my four grandparents. Or, in several of my friends’ cases, the father who wasn’t what he should’ve been. Or the ex that broke you–I knew that one intimately. It’s hard to process missing who you thought someone was, too; there’s another one. Or what you hoped they could be. What ifs are like missing a dream after you wake up.
A year ago today I was in Mexico on a beautiful, tiny island called Isla Mujeres having these same thoughts. But indulging in fresh seafood caught a quarter of a mile down the road, being serenaded in Spanish, and sipping piña coladas sure made for a better setting. MéjiYOLO, I miss you. The photo I almost chose to accompany this entry, actually, was a selfie from that day. I never posted it anywhere because I felt so damn bad about myself back then. My last couple months in NY and the first couple in Pittsburgh were mad hard on me and it was physically evident. I gained weight, my skin went crazy, my hair got dry and did all types of shows instead of just being luxurious…stress is a motherfucker. I’m now almost 20 pounds less than I was that day, my skin is significantly better, my hair is longer and healthier, I feel better about myself in general. I look back on that photo and wish I felt better about myself just the way I was then, though. There’s beauty in the breakdown and we never realize it until hindsight. I guess it would’ve been poignant to post it today but I went with another shot I took–the statued angels protecting the cemetery on Isla Mujeres. Just felt right. Also: I haven’t come along far enough yet to let everyone else judge the beauty it took me a year to see. Maybe next year.
Since I last wrote in this space, which was on my birthday, both of my children celebrated their own birthdays. My daughter is now 10, my son is 2. I can’t imagine there’s any feeling in the world quite like the one I get when I look at my kids’ dimples knowing I gave them those. That dimple gene is mine; my mom’s before it, her mom’s before that. Their goofy, wide smiles, too. The way their hands look. Their laughs. The way my daughter pronounces certain words, certainly, and her monotone voice. I passed all of it down. I don’t think I’m as good of a mother as I’d like to be, but my friend Issa Mas wrote something the other day that really resonated with me. Many of our kids’ happiest memories will be of us being happy. They’ll remember the way I busted out laughing randomly at something minute and silly just as much, if not more than they remember that trip to the children’s museum or the amusement park. Thug motivation indeed. Happiness is the goal.
Since I last wrote in this space, I bought a car. My first ever. With it has come a fair share of anxiety (oh just the hugest purchase of my life thus far, nbd), but also a huge sense of freedom. I wanna go to Target? I drive my ass to Target. I’m drunk with power.
Since I last wrote in this space, the anniversary of my NY exodus came and went, too. It feels like a damn year, trust. I feel really disconnected from that city at this point. And that’s not to say I don’t miss it or I’ve stopped considering it home, but I know I miss what it was to me and not what’s becoming of it. Everything great about New York is in jeopardy of extinction because of greed. It angers me and hurts me to my soul. Harlem’s gentrification pains me the most. More on that later, though. Right now I need to toast to Ronald and Leonard. And Mexico. And great friends who ride shotgun on the journey. And the ability to have friends riding shotgun cause: WHIP. And the fantastic view from my courtyard. And thick thighs browning in the setting sun. And finally finding the formula. And potential. Happiness.