My mother’s youngest sister has always been the aunt I saw myself in the most. She was always in school for a degree my grandmother couldn’t recall when she was asked about it. Every time I saw her she was sure to be sporting a different hair style: first summer- “Set It Off” braids, the next it was Denise Huxtable’s short cut that I can help but think paved the way for Rihanna’s cropped style today.
I can still remember spending summer days in her condo in New Kingston, the unit that was painted to look like a lemon but couldn’t avoid the scent of the nearby papaya trees. She was in law school then I think, or possibly getting another psych-type master’s degree. I wasn’t completely sure. All I knew was my aunt was brilliant, gorgeous and dope as hell.
It was 1995 and her post-college home was my castle. I remember the year because “Dangerous Minds” was in theatres and with her copy of the soundtrack, I would do my best Coolio impressions hopping from couch to couch. I probably looked like one hell of a mess, but it was an escape from my father’s house where I couldn’t even turn up “Red, Red Wine” on Lite FM.
The next summer at home in New York, just was not the same. There was no lemon paint, no Coolio. So when my mother came to tell me we were going to help my aunt move in to her new apartment nearby the University of Michigan, I didn’t even wait for her to finish her sentence, I picked up and started packing right then.
We were three stoplights away from her place when I saw my Dominique Dawes Barbie go flying to the top wall inside our car. The next thing I remember is seeing crushed glass on the seat next to me and thinking that up close, the streets in Ann Harbor were shimmery and clean. Not like New York at all.
On the way to the hospital, I remember hearing bits and piece of conversation but it wasn’t until my neck brace and I were seated in the waiting room that I was told what had happened. Our car had been hit by a moving van that broke a red light. My father was in surgery and one of the blue clad nurses would make eye contact with us when they had something more to say to my mother and I besides, “That’s all I can tell you at this time.”
So then all there was, was the waiting. And even after being cut by sharp pieces of glass, the waiting felt like I was being sliced open, limb by limb.
I didn’t even hear when my aunt came in. It was possibly the one time she and my mom did not commence with the Watson women wail greeting. Instead, I looked up and she was sitting there quietly, like she had been there forever and would always be.
My father left that hospital with us the next week, singing his favorite country gospel songs like he had never been pinned under a car on a shimmery street. Whenever I find myself feeling like waiting is tugging at every inch of my skin, I remember the calm that washed over me seeing my aunt sitting there. It was for me even at ten years old, a reassurance. A reminder that even in waiting, I had something wonderful enough to be grateful for. I had a light even when it felt like nothing but darkness was there.
It seems for many of us, there is nothing that gets us as anxious, as overwhelmed as the waiting. We can feel helpless, regretful but mainly we can feel doubt. Did we do the right thing back then? Am I making the right choice, now? When those moments wash over us and seek to drown our minds, we need to look around and find something that reminds us to be grateful. Seeing that light can give us a gasp of air.
Today, even in the waiting room be aware and thankful. Finding a flicker of light can be the reminder you need, that you are far from through.