Blogtober #16: How it started/How It’s Going.

Started on the left, Going on the right

This is the latest trend I’ve been seeing on social media, the how it started and how it’s going challenge. I don’t do the trend thing, by and large, but this one I like. Seeing your growth, seeing your changes. I’m all about that self-assessment life.

Your Square Peg was about 8 years old on the left. Newly arrived to the US, about to start school, grinning for her Dad’s camera. On the right, still here, missing Dad but hopeful for the future, still grinning. I’ve come a long way. Happy to be here.

Bon Friyay.

Blogtober #15: Abbey Road.

Five years ago today.

In London, mid-autumn, travelista-ing, crossing the same road that one of my favorite musical groups walked on and named an album after.

Yes, I squealed.

Thanks to my beloved Daddy for introducing me to a love of traveling, of music, and of the Beatles.

💜

Blogtober #11: Sundays.

Sundays were my favorite growing up.

Comics. Some of you out there remember newspapers. I still love them. When I was a wee Square Peg, my pops would buy the giant Sunday version of The Washington Post, which meant a voluminous comics section, which meant a color comics section, at that (the weekday comics were black and white), which meant me spending hours upon hours in our basement, reading and laughing at the antics of Beetle Bailey, Blondie, Cathy, and breathlessly seeing the latest in Peter Parker’s unrequited love for Mary Jane Watson. It was glorious. I also loved reading the Style section and perusing others parts of the paper, filling my mind with facts and people and stories. I’d wait for my Dad to finish reading and then he’d over a section to me. These were our moments and I remember them well.

Coffee. This didn’t only happen on Sundays, but the memory of Sundays and doing this is vivid: my mom would drink her warm cup of java and leave a little behind for me. I’d “sneak” into the kitchen and finish it up, swooning over her masterful mix of coffee, cream, and sugar. Glorious. These days, I can’t handle the caffeine like I used to, but boy, did I love standing by the kitchen counter and taking in that warm sweetness.

Feeling nostalgic today. Did you have a favorite day growing up?

It’s Hanging On.

He’s been a longtime favorite of mine. I was attracted to his quiet intensity, I think. When I saw the previews for Black Panther, it was always this thought for me. Wow. He’s kingly. He’s regal. I want to see him in this movie.

My friends laughed when I asserted in conversations that the depth-y aspects of the film, whether Killmonger was truly a villain, didn’t matter to me. Even the non-depth-y parts (“can we talk about how fine Michael B. Jordan is?”) were inconsequential. I was thoroughly in love with King T’Challa. After stalking interview after interview following the movie’s release, it was clear that Chadwick Boseman had stolen my heart.

Intelligent. Beautiful. That smile. Special in a way I couldn’t isolate.

And that’s why this one seems so hard to digest. Death is already a sting; being a deep believer in my Creator and appreciating the wonders of the human body forbid me from believing that death is a “natural part of life”; if it were natural, grief would be nonexistent. But thinking about how special he seemed, that indescribable aspect of his nature, gentle in a way but still strong—it’s a blow.

And certainly, the cancer is part of the blow. Having lost my dear Dad to cancer, I am tied to that disease in a way that is thoroughly unbearable. Learning that Chadwick had lived with cancer for four years while working…recently, I read that he had hope he would beat it. He was ready to beat it. My Daddy wanted so much to beat it. He nursed so much hope, even as radiation stripped him of strength, of energy, of life. I remember sitting in the doctor’s office one afternoon, infuriated with my father’s physician. Infuriated with him telling my father how well he was doing. Couldn’t he see how my Daddy was suffering? Couldn’t he?

So, yes, I see how it’s all wrapped up together. Mourning a man I didn’t know personally with remembering the grief of losing a man I loved with every fiber of my being. I see why it’s hanging on: this inability to stop thinking about Chadwick, to not shed tears when I read tributes about him, to let this go. I can’t seem to shake it right now.

My hope for the future is intact. I know, through Biblical promises, that I will see my dear father again. I also believe that for many we have lost. Even people we didn’t know personally.

But the loss of it all. It hangs on. It really, really does.

be our guest.

welcome

There we all are, sitting in our living room in our old house in Ghana, surrounded by endless laughter and fascinating conversations. My parents are there; also uncles, aunts, various relatives, and longtime family friends that might as well be kin to us, being that I’ve known them and have been around them for as long as I could remember. Some of my earliest memories involve evenings like this, where my parents hosted friends, family, our neighbors. The joyous faces and smiles. The gentle teasing and ribbing between my father and his pals. The beautiful women I observed reverentially. And the food. Ah, the food. Without really understanding it, my parents were establishing, for their children, a blueprint of hospitality. Things didn’t change when we settled in the United States. From our little apartment to the townhouse we later lived in, there were always people. Family, friends, relatives, all part of our immediate family of six. My parents never hesitated to help friends in need; if someone needed a place to stay, he or she was staying at our home. As I got older, it was incredible to see the generosity and love my parents showed to others.

This posed a bit of a problem growing up, however. Sure, my parents could invite loads of people over because they were adults and could do whatever they, the payers of rent, pleased. But their kid inviting other kids over without telling them?

nah

It happened more than once. I’m convinced my mother had moments of stopping herself from doing permanent damage to my hind parts. No worries, though: I learned my lesson at the age of 14. We won’t get into the details, but it was the last time I didn’t check with my parents first before making invitation. Believe me.

Here’s the thing (if you’ve experienced it or are experiencing it, you’ll agree with me): living alone is glorious. There’s really nothing like being the queen/king of your castle of one; laying about, doing whatever strikes your fancy. I moved out of my parent’s house and lived on my own in my first apartment when I was 24 years old. It was amazing. It was eye-opening. It was frustrating. It was the best. After that, there was an interesting journey of roommates and housemates and then moving back home when Dad got sick and then, a year and six months ago, leaving VA and moving to the Lone Star state and living solo once again. All that said, I’m happiest in the company of my own solitude. But I’m also the daughter of two people who kept that open-door policy we discussed above, and so it’s necessary to tell you I love a house filled with people.

I’ve hosted gatherings, game nights, movie nights, come-over-and-chill evenings (my personal favorite), girls-just-talking-into-the-wee-hours-of-the-early-morning events, etc. It’s thrilling to look around my living room and see people, to hear the laughter, to go deep into conversation. Last night, I hosted an impromptu dinner with friends. I actually cooked dinner–chili a la Square Peg–and we ate and watched movies and had a smashing good time. You can’t beat that on a Sunday evening. (But it was also nice when everyone went home and I resumed my relaxing spot on the couch and watching cheesy Hallmark movies.)

Can’t thank my parents enough for showing me how to love people, how to be generous, and how to say welcome.

What say you? Loner or lover of guests or both?

 

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.

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 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.