“Daddy, did you ever notice all of the Disney Princesses’ moms died?” Cydney said in a matter-of-fact tone. As she rattled several of them off, I asked her “You watched this on YouTube?”
This was my dad-tactic to distract my daughter from a wormhole in which she would connect, identify, and feel sadness because this is her reality. It worked.
Weeks later, I remembered our conversation. I gave Cydney’s words some thought and said to myself “Damn, almost all of the Disney Princesses’s mothers are dead or never around. Cydney was right!”
On the Long Island Expressway, as I looked at the road ahead of me. With Manhattan in the visible distance, I paused my internal discussion because I had a thought. “Cydney, Princess of New York” I said to myself. My daughter is a Disney Princess.
I couldn’t help but laugh to myself. My immediate thought after my revelation was a flashback to the first time I brought her mother, Timile, to New York to meet my family. We weren’t an item for very long; but we both knew whatever we had, was for keeps. It was March 2007 and my nine-month-old nephew was Christened this particular weekend. In my mother’s house, I introduced everyone, one by one, to my new girlfriend.
Tyler, my only first cousin and goddaughter, who was five years old, face flushed with redness and she got very shy. She smiled at Timile, looked away with bashfulness, and repeated her actions. Her five-year-old eyes could not believe what she saw. Tyler continued to smile and said with coy confidence “She looks like a Disney Princess!” I’m not sure there is a better compliment in the world. In this one interaction, Tyler had become so enamored, she gave Timile a yellow toy Easter Bunny to hold onto.
A few months ago, at 18 years old, I told Tyler this story. She laughed and asked “I did?”
Long before Cydney and my nephew were thoughts, Tyler was my girl. A year and a half before she was born, I called my aunt and told her “I had a dream about you last night. You had a baby. She was light skinned and her name began with a T.” In January 2002, when I first met my baby cousin, I bugged out a little bit because she looked just like what I’d pictured when I was 15.
Because I lived in Atlanta from 2003 until 2010, every time I saw Tyler, she was a little different. Nonetheless, whenever I was in town, it was fun times. Chad was around, so there was rowdy kid shit to do. Tyler loved to do pushups with me and we’d bang and bang on instruments. She did very little walking when I was around because I held her on my hip whenever she wanted me to. In fact, it was a sad day for both of us-well me for sure-when I told Tyler “Ok, this is the last time I can pick you up” because she’d grown too big for the both of us.
When Tyler turned 14, she once said I always made jokes she didn’t understand. I told her “In about two years, you’ll understand everything I’m saying and think I’m hilarious.” With youthful naiveite, she couldn’t envision what would happen in the next stage of adolescence, where this seemingly unfunny guy to her would make a lot of sense; but then it happened.
Tyler is now fluent in sarcasm and dry humor. I don’t know her to be an outwardly silly person. However, her deadpan quips, so quiet you have the be the person right next to her, make me laugh out loud.
Over the years, I have watched my little cousin mature into quite the creative. Through her Instagram account, I have observed her find herself and develop her ideas into skills. She has taken a liking to music: she sings, writes her own raps, makes beats, and has begun to teach herself to play a couple of instruments. From time to time, I send her a compliment and-I hope-words of encouragement. I attempt to assist minimally because I am familiar with the incubation process.
Over the summer, I gave Tyle a copy of all 40,000 drum files I had and some sample packs to play around with and see what she comes up with. I saw someone who was ready to develop, still a little from a distance, but it was time to peek into her world a little more.
Two weeks ago was my aunt’s birthday. Towards the end of the celebration, Tyler brought out her guitar to sing a song for the attendees-turned-intimate audience. As she strummed and performed “The Best Part” by Daniel Caesar and H.E.R., who I once climbed up and down in the same place, was no longer a little girl. She’s a young adult, ready to find her way into the world.
After the applause, I told Tyler to meet me upstairs, in her room and to grab her guitar. I gave her a 20-minute rehearsal session, told her how to practice for a performance, and we ran through “The Best Part” as a duo. After four or five times of run-through, I asked her “You ready?”
During her encore, Tyler looked and sounded like a performer, for real. In fact, I was the one who missed a word (I have my personal reasons for blocking out the words and melody). I could say we killed; but she killed. I was there mostly to give confidence and make her performance a little cooler.
In time, there will be more. She’s ready to get busy.