i knew you before i knew you.

There are certain bold names that I associate with my Dad. Sidney Poitier. James Taylor.

ali in Ghana2
Image courtesy of here.

The Beatles. Milton Berle and Lucille Ball. Aretha Franklin. I associate these people with Dad because growing up, his appreciation of their art and talent was long discussed in our household, and he never shied away from showing us kids visual (and audible) examples of why he thought they were so cool. And what I love about that, among other things, is that it opened the window to generations and people way before us. We fell in love with music, film, performers, etc., of another time and I really treasure that. One of those bold names I grew up hearing about was Muhammad Ali. I knew his bio from early childhood, it seemed. Before I saw his face, before I heard his voice. That he was Cassius Clay before he changed his name to Muhammad Ali, following the change in his religion. That he floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee. That he called himself The Greatest. That he fought this guy and that guy and won. And above all, that Muhammad Ali came to Ghana in 1964.

Ali in Ghana
Image courtesy of here.

My father spoke so many times of Ali’s visit to Ghana in ’64 that I imagined I was there. Never mind that I was hardly a twinkle in anyone’s eye in 1964: my father was a swinging single then, and wouldn’t meet the lady who would bring me into this interesting world until 10 years later. But trust me that the man could invoke excitement from a story: how he saw Ali, how the crowds were going wild, etc. I would observe the grin on his face and his wide, luminous eyes, and wish, so much, that I could have been there to see this larger-than-life man that had whipped my Daddy into such a frenzy. Needless to say, watching his interviews and marveling at his bravado when I was older was always a treat. I knew this guy. We had been introduced so many, many times.

Hearing about his death on June 3 was so sad. I thought about his children, his wife. I thought about how that confident, cocky, and cool man became slower, less mobile, less vocal as he bravely dealt with the effects of Parkinson’s syndrome. I thought about the grief that comes from losing a man of stature, of such significance, especially in the family unit. So many parallels that hit close to home. I thought about those, too.

Ultimately, however, I’m glad I knew him. Even though I didn’t.

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Throwback Thursday: The Scowler.

SquarePeg1

Meet your Square Peg, a.k.a., me.

I found this photo in my mom’s “secret” stash of photos one evening last week. I should tell you that my mother’s things–her clothes, perfume, shoes, etc.,–have long fascinated me, which means that since I was little girl, sneaking into her room to see what I could find and gaze at lovingly remains a pastime. Don’t worry: I leave most things undisturbed. Except the clothes. Anyway, I love that she keeps hidden photos and mementos that we don’t have access to. When I found this, I snapped a quick photo and placed it back into its hiding place.

This was taken in August 1983 in Accra, Ghana. I was 4 years old. I’m 100% sure my Dad was the photog, being that he loved taking photos of his children and family, even when we were sullen teens and refused to smile.

My birthplace and my home.

That Mustang, which was my mother’s. (Yep, Mama Square Peg rocked a Mustang!)

Those fat braids. (This was obviously was my go-to style.)

That dress.

Those shoes.

That face.

Oh, that face. Most photos from back, back, back in the day rarely found me smiling. I was a serious kid. I discovered those teeth a bit later, as you can also see from that ruffled, picture day photo. Other ones are of me coolly staring into the camera, as if we’re moments from battle. Ah, memories.

Happy Throwback Thursday.

i was cryin’ when i met you…

Look, I’m going to say it: This Square Peg sheds more tears in a day than your average baby. While this troubled me in the past, primarily because I was rarely a crier, I now fully accept the soggy fact that I weep at the drop of a dime. Hardly an exaggeration–I’m sure

crybaby
They sure do.

I’ve watched many dimes fall to the ground and wept over my inability to loosen my back in order to pick them up. Anyway, so, so many feels. Let me go over some of the things that invariably get me:

Children being cute/wise/happy/every emotion. If a video is posted on a social media platform about a child being all of the above, I will sob. I’m the worst babysitter known to man (the refusal to change diapers is a clue), but little kiddies just get me. Maybe it’s because I long for the days when I didn’t know what a bill was or what taxes were. Mostly, though, it’s because of their innocence and joyful discovery of life.

Daughters and Dads. No surprise there. I miss my dad. When I see girls or women interacting with their fathers, the lump in the throat is unbearable. One of the reasons I distract myself with an assortment of things at wedding receptions–the tablecloth, my drink, the ceiling tiles–rather than watch the new bride dance with her father. Le sigh. Within the tears, however, there’s hope.

Cute animals. Yes, when pandas try to take baths or elephants roll around and pretend to be lap dogs, I smile and dab at the tiny tears forming in my delighted eyes. (Can I just add that this is one giant hint that I’m just getting older? I was a former side-eyer of all animal life. I blame YouTube. Not sure how many videos of dogs protecting newborns a woman can take.)

This Story/Nothing at All. When I was 19 years old and worked here, I worked with a bunch of fantastic, fantastic people. One of them was an awesome woman named Kate. Kate was a mother, a teacher, and had such an intriguing take on life. One afternoon, she told me how she found herself sitting outside at a cafe, having lunch, when she simply burst into tears. “I wasn’t sad. I wasn’t depressed,” she told me. “But I let myself cry. Because sometimes a woman just needs to cry.” As she went on to describe the healing and cleansing her tears brought to her soul, I was both horrified and fascinated by her tale. Horrified because remember that I wasn’t a crier back then. The idea of sitting outside while tears streamed down my face, as strangers passed me by, was nothing short of terrifying. Fascinated because I envisioned this lovely woman sitting at a table, her food abandoned, grinning and laughing as she wept. Needless to say, I remember Kate’s story often, particularly when those strange, incited by nothing tears envelop me from time to time. To her point, sometimes a woman just needs a good, long cry, apropos of nothing. When those moments happen, I let the tears come. I’ve yet to experience spontaneous tears at an outdoor cafe, but should you be driving and see the chocolate lady in the car next to you weeping, nothing is wrong. It’s just me and I’ll be fine.

C’est la vie, right? Sometimes we cry. Even if it’s because a baby elephant wants to be a puppy.

Are you a crier, my dear? Or are you a soldier like I no longer am?

I Didn’t Forget.

In July 2005, my family lost my beloved father in death. Naturally, all things suffered because of this loss, which meant my overall desire to do anything. One of those things was writing. desireSignificant because writing has always been my tool for dealing with personal pain; my longstanding avenue for catharsis. But I didn’t want to pick up a pen or type a few words on the computer. I didn’t want to do anything. And yet, because writing chose me and not the other way around, my art didn’t thoroughly abandon me. I found myself penning a few poems here and there, some about my father; I started a short story or two. But by 2007, I was done. Even if your art chooses you, you have to feed it with inspiration if you want it to remain by your side. There was no inspiration. I was blocked, absent of ideas, and basically a functioning griever, going through the motions of life and work and all that came along with it. At that time, I was temping at an architectural design company. Eventually, they decided to take me as a permanent staff member. One afternoon, I mentioned my two-year long writing block to one of my supervisors. She asked me if I blogged. I replied that no, I didn’t. She said the following. “Blogging will help you get the ideas and your creative mind flowing. Believe me. Try it. It’ll work.” Well, This Square Peg tends to be obedient when given suggestions. (Don’t confirm that statement with my mother. She will refute it.) That very evening in 2007, I started my first blog.

ecoI knew that there wouldn’t be fiction or poetry flowing from these fingers. Not yet. No, I simply began to document my thoughts. Having kept a journal since I was 13 years old all the way through college, I knew how to pen the endless sentences that ran through my mind. (I still have those journals and I still read them from time to time and oh, boy.) So I began to look at blogging like journaling, except it was online and open for a few people to read whenever they found my little corner on the web. And I wrote and wrote and wrote. About my days, my adventures at work, my sadness, my goals and dreams. I wrote with the intent of merely occupying my mind. That happened and then some. It was also a great source of accountability–whereas a physical journal could just sit there, hopelessly ignored by me, each post I wrote helped me to be accountable to my goal of writing regularly. Eventually, the blog became almost like a friend who was there to listen while I talked to myself and whomever was reading. For six years, I blogged faithfully, even after the creative side of my mind stretched its arms, did away with the cobwebs, and began to churn once again.

My first post on that blog was entitled “So I Don’t Forget.” Blogging/journaling so I don’t forget my love of words, the utter joy of stringing words together. Needless to say, that little blog restored that joy exponentially. After a slight break with blogging, I came right back to my old friend through This Square Peg. I didn’t forget.

Shout out to that former supervisor who gave me that advice years ago. And everlasting thanks to my father, my Daddy–he was Daddy from the start and always will be–who loved the arts and generously gave that love with me.