When I think about my 33 years on this earth, I think about my shortcomings a lot. The things I wish I knew how to do. The friends I wish I had. The bonds I don’t have with my paternal family because they didn’t know I existed. The experiences I missed out on because my sole purpose as a child was to avoid bullies by any means necessary. But giving my life selective attention isn’t fair to me or my family. To help bring me out of my own self-loathing, I have to remember the things I’m thankful for.
I don’t have the typical family; I lived with my maternal grandparents, my aunt and cousin. I always had to explain my family make up to people. I call my grandparents my parents because they adopted me, and I don’t know them as anything else. Since I’m adopted, my aunt is technically my sister and my cousin is my nephew but we grew up like siblings; it’s complicated. I didn’t think this made me special; I didn’t like it. I wanted a family like the ones on television, specifically Run’s House. I wanted siblings. I wanted to know my real father. I wanted my mother to be sober so I could live with her. I wanted what I thought was normal.
Looking back, there’s a lot to be thankful for and there was nothing wrong with what I had.
My grandparents are from South Carolina but ignited their love in Harlem. They were old school, which I hated at times because it kept me sheltered and timid but they instilled a certain work ethic in me. I can count how many days I seen my daddy miss work. Daddy left the Jim Crow south at the tender age of 16 and arrived in Harlem at 17. He had a courage that is unmatched by the men of today. He could fix anything he laid his hands on. Daddy remained loyal to the same woman and job at the New York Daily News for 55 years.
It didn’t matter where I was, he would come and get me. He wasn’t the most affectionate, but through his acts of service his love shined bright. For that, I’m thankful. He showed me what I should be accepting from men in my pursuit of love. He also showed me that if I don’t do anything else, I better get to the money and take care of home.
No matter how tired mommy was, meals were cooked, clothes were washed, bills were paid, and the house was in order. She was also the best cook on my side of Queens and had a cooking business to prove it. Mommy kept me close to her and was the perfect role model. I remember her being so lady-like when I was little, and she never failed at anything. She showed me how to be a woman.
My mother retired from taking care of others as a home health aide and when I was born, she focused on taking care of me. Daddy worked past retirement to make sure I had what I needed for college. They adopted their grandchild and put her first when they didn’t have to. They were supposed to be living their golden years but took little old me in. My parents are love personified. The epitome of diligence. I am forever thankful.
One thing my family made sure I had was a love for music.
My grandparents were lovers of the blues and soul music. My cousin planted the seed for my love for Hip-Hop. He would blast the latest Hip-Hop and R&B from his sleek sound system. I had no choice but to lend my ear to it. Hours after I was born, my aunt, who loved funk and R&B, played “Daydreamin'” by Aretha Franklin. There aren’t many samples I can’t name. Whether it was music videos, documentaries, Hot 97, magazines or the latest album, I was fully immersed in it. Music was the only thing I had to look forward to to relieve my childhood stress. No therapy, no mentors, no extracurricular activities, nothing. Just music.
Even though they thought I was weird because I wanted to stay in my room and listen to music all day, they didn’t realize I was loving music the way they taught me to. I found peace in getting lost in the lyrics to my favorite songs. I have an affinity for music because it was my escape. Now, I get to talk to, interview, and chat with music’s finest because of a love they cultivated. For that, I’m thankful.
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