I was born into a rather large family. My mother is the oldest of eleven, and my father is one of ten siblings. In case you didn’t pay attention to the math that is 19 aunts and uncles. In addition I have great aunts, great uncles, countless cousins, second cousins and so forth. Surprisingly, with all of this family on both sides, I can only boast one niece. Her name is Drianna and she was born to my brother, and his then girlfriend, when I was a preteen. That was one of the happiest days of my life! I felt like I was getting the gift of my very own baby doll. I absolutely loved dressing her up in her super cute outfits, and doing her hair complete with headbands and bows. It was such a joy having this little person around, her father and mother never had to press hard for a babysitter as I was always willing.
Ever since she was born, I always had awareness that she was watching me (and my older sister). Drianna is biracial, but at a very young age would get upset if we referred to her as anything but black like we are. She has absolutely gorgeous, curly hair, but when she was about five or six years old, she would make statements like, “Auntie, I want my hair to be straight like yours.” At one point, she took scissors to her head and (tragically as I see it) chopped off all of her beautiful hair. I hope she’s not embarrassed by this story…too late. Today she is a well-adjusted, college student who is fully aware of who she is and where she comes from, but I have to think that our influence on her led her to pose those questions about identity. As a middle school student, she was determined that she was going to go to college at Grand Valley State University, study abroad and then move to Florida one day. My mother, her grandmother, would chuckle when she said this because she knew it was exactly what I had done.
Knowing that she is watching me has been a huge motivation in my own life. It has helped to shape my decisions, the way I conduct myself, and the example that I am attempting to lead by. When I think of striving, I think of her. In times when I’ve considered giving up, I think of her. There have been moments recently when I didn’t want to fight for what I believe in, and all I could think was what would that show her if I gave up? She’s the easiest girl in the world to love with her bubbly personality, and warm and caring heart. I never ever want her to be disappointed in me in a way that could have been avoided. Her eyes have always been watching me, in my book, and they always will. It is a humbling way to live life knowing that your decisions not only affect you, but those around you. For some it’s your children, or other family members, or even friends. I always want to live a life that she can be proud of, and if she desires, would be able to model herself after.