Thoughts from “N”
As an only child raised by a single parent some may find it baffling when I say I was blessed with an
enormous family. Let me put it in perspective for everyone.
The first few years of my life I was lucky enough to live with my great grandmother. As my mom went to
work I was left in her loving care. Those years taught me to truly appreciate family. My great
grandmother, or as we fondly referred to her Koko, is probably the most charismatic person I’ve ever
met. People always seemed drawn to her. The single roomed house we stayed at always had visitors.
She was the binding force to all her grandchildren and their families. People were always coming to look
for their friends, her grand children, and would always stuck around for a chat even if they didn’t find
the person they were looking for.
A memory I quite can’t seem to get over is the first time my Koko travelled. She went upcountry for a
few days. I was in preschool at the time not sure exactly how old I was. I had gotten so accustomed to
the routine where regardless of where she went during the day she’d return before it gets dark. I had
other people taking care of me, I think my uncle’s and a babysitter. My mom eventually got back from
work and she was in the house. I left everyone in the house and went to wait for Koko, my best friend, at
the gate. When it got dark eventually and there was no sign of her, they tried to get me to go back to
the house. I was an inconsolable mess sobbing and screaming. After exhaustion got the better of me I
was finally able to be convinced to get back inside and they assured me she would be back within a few
days, of course bearing gifts.
When I think of family I also think of food. As an African my relationship with food is a special one. I
hold dear the memory of Saturday night dinners. The small room would be filled with people sitting on
every available sitting space as my mother and my aunt made chapatis on the table. My cousins, my
uncle’s , my mom’s cousins and some friends would all come together on those special nights. The room
was always full of hearty laughter. We weren’t the richest monetarily but we were rich in love. The
cooking on those days would start at around 6pm and we’d eat at around 9pm while watching the
evening news. After eating we’d play cards and unwind and occasionally we’d also have tea. People
would start leaving for their houses at around 11pm. This was probably the one day of the week I’d eat
my food nicely without throwing a tantrum. As a child, like most children, I didn’t quite see the
importance of food and sometimes mealtimes would turn into a shouting march with my mom pleading
with me to just eat my food. This coming together and sharing a meal is what I think of when I think of
That is the family I was born into a chaotic beautiful mess. Then there’s the family from strangers I met
later on in life and formed lifelong connections. The friends who became family.
One of the hardest things I’ve had to face was being outed as a queer person. The bullying and
homophobia I experienced following that incident was insane. Luckily I didn’t have to go thought that
completely on my own. A few friends stuck by me and helped me get through it. They were with me
every step of the way. The friend that let me break down in tears on her bed and comforted me through
it. The ones we shared late night snacks with in the cubicle as we tried to study. The ones who were
ready to listen when my thoughts were getting the better of me. That’s my chosen family. The ones that
stood up for me when people were saying all sorts of atrocious things about me, those are the people
who chose to become my family.
One of the people I can say impacted my perception of what family is, is the fictional character Santana
Lopez from Glee. She helped me accept and come to terms with my personal sexuality. She was
confident in who she was and she started her family with Brittany.
Family is all the people you can count on no matter how bad the situation gets. The people who love you
and accept you unconditionally. You may not have a say on the family you are born into but you can
choose your own family to go through life with as well.
Thoughts from “N”