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What's Life Like?

By Kathy Y. Wilson · October 8th, 2003 · Your Negro Tour Guide

Deadlines ticked closer, looming with loser status. Responsible parties called the party line wriggling loose from respective responsibilities.

One person wanted me to know he's not racist and that there's no reason to fear him. (Even if he is, I don't.) Another wanted a "positive story."(The truth always is.) Still others put in bids for their agendas. (Mine is the only one that counts.)

The morning mocked me by leaving. "Meet my friend, afternoon," she said.

And my time wasn't mine. Never was or is.

It's what Mondays do. They slide downhill, and I get caught up clawing up.

Then I met Kennedy.

It should be a shame that my first encounter with my days-old niece, Kennedy Anne Wilson, was via an electronically transmitted gallery of photographs sent by her father and my brother, Kenny. It's not so much a shame as it is a sign of the times.

Grown folks handle their business in whatever ways that work for them. It's true my two brothers and sister and I don't all congregate, communicate and fellowship simultaneously.

Sometimes it's Kenny and I. Others it's Randy and Devin. Still others it's Randy, Devin and I or Randy, Kenny and I.

And it goes like that, and that's just the way it is.

It doesn't mean we love, admire or nurture one another any less. Family is first in theory and around third or fourth in reality.

Would I have preferred a Hallmark commercial moment like this: Sitting in the hospital hallway waiting for Kenny, clad in scrubs, to explode from the delivery room, teary-eyed, holding his new child? Well, of course.

Truth is, my crib is phoneless and, in true colored fashion, the cell phone gets only minutes on weekends -- more on paydays -- so it's tedious getting through to me.

Our mother, like most mothers, is communications central. All major developments -- births, deaths, loss of and promotions on jobs -- come through and are disseminated by her.

Her series of sometimes whispered messages piled up in my work voicemail: "Kaaaathyyyy ... you've got a niece. Kennedy Anne Wilson. She was premature, but she's doing fine."

Other families swarm the new mom and the new baby -- all gold, frankincense and myrrh. Our family is as normal is it is abnormal.

All the births in our immediate family -- the untangled branch comprising children born of our parents, Clarence and Gladine -- have so far been courtesy of Kenny's wife, Kelly. And they've gone like this.

Kelly gets pregnant. There's the requisite joy and then speculation -- boy or girl, who'll he/she look like?

Kelly has the baby. Kenny puts the word out. We wait.

Then we queue up for visitation.

The first, Kenneth Vance Wilson Jr. (KJ), is all Ken Sr. That is, he's all nerdy brains, hyperactive energy, wise cracks, big head and big brother bad as in good. KJ's the acrobatic future architect.

Kyler Edward (KEW, pronounced "Q") came next, about 18 months after his brother the same way Kenny followed Randy. It's no secret that Kyler was a pleasant surprise.

It took Kelly a minute to adjust to pregnancy and then motherhood with a toddler in tow. Kyler is as different in temperament and personality from KJ as I am from Kenny.

They're both brilliant and rambunctious, but where KJ is a whirlwind of KJ-ness Kyler is sensitive and empathetic. He prays. He shares. He's as big as his brother is but he's very much a little boy who giggles and tells bad jokes.

And now there's Kennedy, a girl among boys. Just like I was.

That makes two boys and a girl for Kenny and Kelly. Just like the offspring who sprang from Clarence and Gladine.

My heart fluttered with hope and relief just like this when my sister, Devin, was born and rescued me from the sameness of all that maleness. And here I sit squirming in a mass of adult schmegma scheming over how I'll connect with this little girl, this little me, this little Kelly and little Kenny.

I keep going back to those electronic photographs. I keep studying her lips, her forehead and that swirling black silken wrapping her head in a newborn comb-over.

I wonder what she's dreaming behind those new eyelids. I wonder what she'll be.

Kenny labeled the last picture "Kennedy Daddy look-a-like."

Actually, she looks like life. I can't wait to see what it looks like to her.

Hear Kathy's commentaries on National Public Radio's All Things Considered.


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