The gift of giving is so important. When I was a child, my Auntie Barbara was my favorite. She was the coolest and hippest person that I knew. She lived about 30 minutes away and she had 2 sons that were around my age.
When ever we went to her house, she had books everywhere. She had to use public transportation to go to work and usually took something with her to read.
When she returned home from work, I would try to read her lengthy novels of intrigue. She introduced me to Stephen King and V.C. Andrews. I think she had connections with the bookstore because as soon as a new installment came out in a series, she somehow always had it the next day.
I loved the way the small thick paperbacks felt in my hands and the smell of paper mixed with her perfume always gave me a feeling of comfort as I was oftentimes scared out of my wits reading about children kept in attics and gory tales of horror and blood. Every shadow cast on the wall as I held my flashlight steady told me that I should really be sleeping but the pages just willed my fingers to keep turning.
I just adored my Aunt Barbara. As she is beautiful as well in a earthy, sexy, cool kind of way. Every year for Christmas, the girls in the family got a subscription to Essence magazine. I learned a lot about products, finances, famous people, not so famous people and just plain old good advice. She sent a subscription for years and I am not sure if she realizes the impact that it had on me as a young girl.
Our love for reading collectively, helped me as a young college student while taking care of my niece when she was around 2. She is now in her late 20’s and getting married. Times flies and then you remember funny things when you realize that little people grow up.
Recently, I posted this message on facebook:
“My niece Janal Sanders (yes, my birth sister's daughter... yes, I have an amazing sister) is getting married. I just wrote her a letter about how she taught me that I was going to be an amazing mom! I remembered my fights with the stroller and the number 1 train in New York City (the RED LINE) and the day the snake got loose at the Bronx Zoo and I had to take her through the whole zoo. Our time at the Metropolitan Museum of Art... dang she was two... but I was a Mommy in training and I adored her... and yes as I held the handle on the train and the lights went off and on... she was mine if only for that moment and now she is getting married and I thank her for being there for me... as I was there for her. I thought about Janal at the Creole Gallery as I showed my first piece of art recently. I thought about me and my stroller with the cutest baby on the face of this earth as I talked to her about Matisse and how fluid and brilliant his colour is. At 2, she helped me study for my masters level art class at City College ... she is grown up now and getting married. Taurian better take care of her... the Carrington Clan is crazy but in a good way. I love you Janal... you just remember that!”
I was overwhelmed by the responses from my "friends". In the middle of it all was Janal’s response.
Janal replied, “Aww, how sweet Aunt Rina ...well you helped me love to learn and read books and now I teach the same things to my students ;-).”
I was all smiles. I left New York City over 20 years ago. Janal was about 2 when I was active in her life and her response made me think about the parents who are not making their children read. My sister did an amazing job raising my niece but it does take a village to raise a child. My sister instilled in her that she should get an education despite any challenges. As family members, instead of being critical, be helpful. You are indeed being watched.
This was printed in the September 23, 2012 - October 6, 2012 Edition