Excuse Me, Are You Listening? 9-23
Sunday, December 5, 2010

Dear Readers,

All I could remember thinking about my cousin, Jeanine Johnson, before we decided to take a vacation was that I thought she was spoiled.  Not in the spoiled rotten kind of way but my recollection was of that.  I just always remembered her being the first to get every new toy, outfit or latest gadget.  I remember that she had a bunny rabbit and a red and white realistic playhouse in her backyard.  I swear I can still smell the playhouse's exposure to the elements.  Every time I went over to her house I would peek out the window and look at the playhouse.  Her and her family then moved to California.

By that time we had sort of drifted apart.  I was in college struggling to pay tuition and working.  I was not too concerned about what anyone else was doing.

We are adults now and we decided that we were going to take a trip and hash life out.

The whole trip idea started when I called her on September 11, 2010.  She is a stewardess.  I knew that the anniversary would be hard for her.  I wondered if I had called her the year before and reflected on my own insensitiveness.  Everyone took 9-11 differently.  My family is made up of airlines employees and law enforcement officers.

During the conversation, she told me that she loved me and what an inspiration I was to her.  My mind was not even in that place.  I am not inspirational, some would say that speaking the truth is being pessimistic.  I would say wake up the world will gobble you up if you have a dream and you don't know how to bring it to fruition.  No one should wait on the world to tell them what they should do.

I wished that more people would, have given me constructive information instead of blowing me off.  I just replied thank you even though my mind was going a mile a minute.  I just called to see how she was doing and it was getting complicated and deep.

For fifteen minutes, she talked about everything under the sun without hardly taking a breath.  Now, this is the cousin Jeanine that I knew.  A bottle of soda shaken for a minute and ready to explode as soon as you opened it.  However, I was never surprised by it and listened intently. 9-11 exposed us all to a feeling of discord and shakiness.  We just don't feel safe anymore.  Even the economy with all of its problems made it worse.  We were being attacked on our territory and our money was evaporating right before our eyes.

I tried to remember how long it had been since I had spoken with her.  My heart began to pound a bit as she told me about her failures and successes.

I thought if she were my daughter, I would be proud of her for always being independent and loyal.  I smiled as she told me about her mate and her daughter.  Her travels to Bali, Hong Kong and beyond.  I could not stop smiling.  I wanted to see her the next day.  I wanted to get in my car and drive to her house and do the “I have  not seen you in so long scream!”

But she lives in California. The idea for us to meet in St. Maarten where our grandmother lives was perfect.  It was neutral territory for two people who had not seen each other in 12 years.  I needed to go there and my soul was content.

So we planned for a week, dealt with the missteps and ultimately both of us boarded planes to St. Maarten.

I can tell you that I am now aware of what my plane pet peeves are after riding on several for many many hours.  I forgot to bring headphones.  I sat by the window and felt squished the entire time.  However, as soon as the captain came over the intercom and told us that we were about to land.  A wave of emotion like no other came over me.  It was a cross between getting married and the moments after you have a baby joy.  I felt like I was finally arriving home after a long absence. I could see the aqua water below and I could not help but to swallow back tears.

I was the only one wearing a knitted rainbow scarf and a faux fur vest.  I was wearing an  “I Love Lansing” tee shirt and dressed in layers.  I could tell I was going to be hot and it was.

I arrived a day earlier than she did. I changed into a sundress and walked around the hotel in a daze.  I went to the beach and stared at the water.  All I could do was give the sea and its strong currents respect.  I felt if I put my foot in, I would be swept away by its majestic waves and crystal blue waters.

I went back to the room and just slept.  It was so beautiful and comforting. I did not realize how tired I was.  I guess so after not taking a vacation in 15 years.

My room phone rang and Jeanine was at the front desk.  I could not move fast enough.  I ran to the lobby and she was not there.  When I walked out the front door, there she was looking the same as she did when we were teenagers.  She was talking to two hotel employees about how to get to the room.

One of the employees bore a uncanny resemblance to my father.  We embraced and cried for at least a minute.  The two employees from the hotel were dabbing their eyes.  We really put on a show of emotions for them. I felt like if I let go she would disappear.  Jeanine too was holding on for dear life.  The employee that looks like my father said that he wished that he had a camera to forever capture what he had witnessed.  I found that to be a high compliment knowing that he has seen many reunions.

We had the time of our lives. In one week, I realized that I am different. I found a piece of myself, a piece of my culture and a sense of stability. My spirited, intelligent and beautiful entrepreneur cousin is helping me to stay on course and not sweat the small stuff.

I wonder if others ever sit down and figure out what path they want to take in life.  I wonder what would have happened if I did not take that impromtu trip.  I only know that I respect the sea and all of its wonders but if I put my foot in and I am not prepared to swim, I may drown.  So in 2011, as I prepare to celebrate The New Citizens Press' 10 year anniversary, I am better prepared to test the waters.  I will not tread but swim a faster and stronger freestyle.

Love People,

Rina Risper

This column was printed in the December 5, 2010 - December 18, 2010 edition.


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