Everything I Needed, I Already Had

D is still answering the loads of questions he got, so no answers today, LOL. Hope you all had a great weekend. Me and D spent the weekend with his (our) family, and it was just great. But getting to the point of calling his family my family hasn’t been easy.

I spent a good part of my childhood resenting my family. Not being mad at WHO they were, but resenting WHAT they weren’t. Everyday, I’d cross the proverbial tracks and go to the “rich white people school” and I’d see mommies AND daddies dropping their progeny off at the door. Girls running into daddy’s arms at the end of the day. Family pictures hung up in people’s lockers that show three generations of family lineage. When I got back to my side of town, I saw the kids who looked like me running around with their throngs of cousins, having family reunions in the park, and aunts and uncles on every block in the hood.

Me, and mine. That’s all it was. My mom, my dad, my brother, me. By 1986 my father was certified fucked up and divorced. That left my mom, my brother, me. By 1992 my brother was off to college and never really returned home. Summer visits don’t count. So it was my mom, me. That’s all. My mom is from NYC, and my father from Jamaica (West Indies), so in our upstate NY neighborhood–family meant my mom and that’s all. A stark contrast to the big family units in my hood that would rally up to whoop some ass if need be, and even more polarized from the family portraits that I saw at school everyday. Alone. Even with people around me. I felt alone.

I resented my mom vehemently. Just go back to NYC permanently so we could have a real family there. Grandma, Grandpa, cousins, and aunts, and uncles awaited me there. But for my educational sake, and more than likely to protect me from my father, we remained. We shuffled back and forth, but in the end it was just us. No family reunions, no impromptu dinners at an aunt’s house. Just me and my mother, by fate knit closer than a wool sweater. It didn’t have to be like that. All I wanted was a family to love, to see what Christmas would be like if all we had to do was walk around the corner to have the big family dinner, instead of sitting on I-87 south for 2 hours and going across the Tappan Zee Bridge.

My resentment followed me, and I wore it like a girl scout badge. I had a woman say to me, “No man, and no man’s family will ever love you because you don’t know how to interact with a family. You don’t know how to belong”. I was ten the first time I heard that. And it stuck like old grits to the bottom of the pot. All I wanted to do was belong. I needed that sense of family. Two hours to NYC, three and a half hours to Philly, a plane ride to Florida, a longer plane ride to Jamaica was too far to go to get that family feeling. And even then, because we weren’t physically close, getting that warm fuzzy feeling that advertisers allude to in soup commercials was even more difficult. I broke down at boyfriends’ family functions. Hiding deep within myself because I didn’t know how a real family worked.

When I met D’s family, it was like love at first site. They loved me, and I loved them. But I still resisted, because I didn’t know how to give in. I didn’t know family. I didn’t know how to be a part of a family gathering. Something as simple as my birthday party turned into a full-out tear jerker because I had to work hard to hold it together and cracked by the end of the night.

Me: “D, your family is so great, but all I know about family is what I see on TV and from the pictures on Christmas cards. It’s so hard to fit into that, cuz I always needed family structure, but never had it. I think I’m family retarded”

D: “Who was around you when you grew up?”

Me: “My mom, my brother, all of our friends, family friends, my god parents.”

D: “Where did you go on birthdays and holidays? To their houses, right? You played with their friends, and their kids, right? They were at your graduations and dance competitions, right? That’s your family. You know all about family, probably moreso than me. You can’t fit into my family because they’re already your family. There’s no fitting necessary. You love them just like they love you. The first day they met you, my mom knew you were going to be my wife. Tasha, your family is your heart, no matter if they’re related by blood”

I just sat in silence after hearing him say that. All the resentment wilted. All the attempts to pretend to be a family lady were in vain. I can’t pretend to be something that I already am. Everything I (thought I) needed, I already had. I grew up with the best type of family. Friends and relatives all over the place. I was never alone. It’s sad that it’s taken a man and almost 20 years for me to realize that, but it’s alright. I’m happy that I have the best family around–mine and D’s. That’s all I need.

Welcome to the family.

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