Meeting My Family and Why It Matters Now
On Saturday, I am introducing my mother, sister, and niece to the other most important woman of my life.
The significance of this introduction has very little to do with the traditional meaning we attach to meeting family. I am not seeking approval of Gina from my mom. Gina is a grown woman and my mother is fully aware of who she is and how much she means to me. As a matter of fact, none of this is about either of them. It’s about me.
In October, 2013, my mother, sister, and niece came to New York City to visit. This was the first time since I moved here that they would be making the trek “back East” as my mom would say. When my mother surprised me with the news, that they would be coming, I sprung into action to make arrangements for a large gathering of my closest friends and the three most important people in my life. The two parties — friends and family — represented me in important ways. My friends were a reflection of the man I had become in New York City, a network of people who supported me in various ways. I wanted my mother, sister, and niece to meet the people who were there for me in the darkest days and happiest moments of my time in the big city. My family represented who I am as a son, a brother, and an uncle, the man from Seaside, California. I wanted my friends to meet the woman who brought me into this world, my sister who not only I protected but protected me as well growing up, and my niece, the little girl I live for.
Gina and I still had yet to meet.
When you live 3,000 miles away from home like I have been doing for the past 15 years, meeting family can often boil down to logistics. Cross-country travel is expensive, especially for a blue collar family like the one I grew up in. When my mother traveled with me to help me move into my dorm at Howard University my freshman year, there was a reason she stayed longer than most other parents. It’s because we knew once she left, for the majority of the rest of my life, seeing each other would be relegated to once a year during the holiday season. What I didn’t know was the challenges I would have conveying that love to outsiders the remainder of the year I was separated from my family.
In general, the majority of us have an undying love for our brood. We are born with a level of devotion to them that needs little to no explanation primarily because we all feel the same way about our own. But from the moment my mother and I said a tearful goodbye in front of the Howard University bookstore, I have wondered if anyone truly, truly understands how much my family means to me even though I see them a couple of weeks out of the year.
It’s a challenge in ways that go beyond flight itineraries to get people to understand how much the women I call “my girls” mean to me, and how close we are as a family even though we live so far apart from one another. When people see me refer to my mom as “Ms. Rita” on social media, they might not understand that reference is not for me, that’s for folks who might meet her and an homage to her. Growing up, that’show she preferred to be addressed and ain’t shit changed. If you’re not family, she is Ms. Rita to you. Some folks might judge how my sister and I don’t talk on the phone every day, not even every week, but when she was pregnant with my niece, I was the first one to be told, even before she told our parents. No one was around to see the tears I had in my eyes when she told me this news.
Not having a woman to introduce to my family wasn’t on my mind when they visited in 2013. My primary concern was bringing together the people who represented a fully formed version of love in my life – getting them to know each other so they can know me. That to me is what introducing family to outside loved ones is all about.
Anyone who knows me knows how much my family and my friends mean to me, and nobody knows me better than Gina. Nobody also represents both those types of love more than Gina. She is the woman with whom I want to start a family, she is my best friend. But it’s hard for me to say she knows me completely if she hasn’t met my family. On the other side, my family has known how much I love Gina. I’m a big believer in representing your partner well to the family, and I’ve done that. From the very first date Gina and I had, to the day Gina moved in with me, my family is very aware that Gina is the one I have been waiting for. I’ve already instructed my niece to properly address her as Ms. Gina when they meet.
But knowing about each other isn’t the same as seeing one another and seeing one another is not going to involve some feeling out process between either party. They’re meeting so they can all finally say they know me completely.