I didn’t know how powerful the Daniel family was until my Dad’s surprise party. To celebrate his birthday, my siblings and mother worked hard to plan the celebration. Months in advance, my aunts, uncles, and generations of cousins booked tickets and hotel rooms, purchased fly outfits. We distracted my dad when a caravan of family members appeared an hour early, dressed fit to kill.
But the madness was worth it when we ushered my dad to a room packed with family members, many of whom he hadn’t seen in years. His surprise and joy was deeply etched into the permanent smile he wore for the evening. My family members are beautiful, graceful, even with big plates of food, jumping up and down to soca. We laughed. Fought over who the funniest family member is. Made fun of each other. Swapped funny family memories. Thankfully, I saved my tears for the next morning, when I spent time with my Dad. I couldn’t express then, nor can I now, how much he and his investment into my future means to me.
During the weekend, I sidled up to my aunts for advice on how to be a black woman who will soon enter her 30s. In them, I saw different models of womanhood, but their strength, compassion, and deep joy resonate with me, even now. My uncles reminded me of my worth and told me not to take nonsense from any men. My older cousins are like bigger sisters and brothers–successful careers, happily married, amazing parents. I admire their hard-won success and the happiness they have achieved in their relationships. We holed up together, in small rooms, in corners of a big house, to chat for real. We discovered one another beyond the Facebook posts, the pictures, the degrees. I laughed harder than I have in a long time. I felt that I walked away with my cousins as friends.
So my little cousin drew me a black Superman behind bars (even as a kid, his art has a social commentary). We promised to finally visit my cousin in California, and everyone is trying to figure out how to flip houses like L. A. is still rapping, although less so now that he has two kids and is about that grown man business. A.M. told us a hilarious story about Bill Cosby getting fresh with her on the track years ago. (yes, that Bill Cosby). And don’t you know, she still looks like M.C. Lyte? T. and I traded dating horror stories. My younger cousin Al. is busy doing hair and makeup for fashion shows, video vixens and Vh1 housewives, but she took time to hook me up, all the while trying to figure out why I’m still single.
I helped with my father’s surprise party because I love him so much. But I didn’t expect to be the recipient of so much love, and joy. I didn’t expect to be reminded of the power that courses through my blood. My future is, as ever, uncertain. I’m single. I don’t have children. I will graduate soon, and I’m not sure what the Lord wants me to do next. During this magical weekend with my family, I shook off the crippling fear which clung to me.
I carry the strength, the power and resilience of my family.
So proud to be a Daniel.