Birthday Kisses

It was 11:59 PM.. The countdown began. When the clock hit 12, I made a wish, blew out a pink and white striped candle, and screamed, "It's my birthday!!!" as we threw back the last of the White Hennessy that I had from my trip to St. Thomas back in 2012. Normally, I don't drink ..but for my birthday celebration, I made an exception. 

After a night of sitting in my window, in complete awe of the most terrifyingly-beautiful lightening ever, Taylor jumped his little 6 pound body on my chest and kissed me all over my face. It was almost as if he was saying, "Goodmorning Mama! Happy Birthday!" His paws tickled my stomach, making me laugh as the sun rose, gleaming through my window. It was a symbolic cliche of my life thus far, "After a storm, the sun will always shine."

I made a pot of tea before I stepped onto my balcony and softly spoke to the sky. "Good morning Lord. Thank you for letting me see another birthday. Thank you for the rain last night. Thank you for the sun today." 
I removed the plastic from my new Deniece Williams record and blasted my favorite song, "Free". I let it play as l laid on my couch and wrote my last journal entry of my 27th year.  

Then, I threw on my favorite Harvard sweats and black Birkenstocks, grabbed my bags, and headed to NYC with Taylor. I didn't quite know what I wanted to do once I got there but I knew I had to be there in an early enough time to get one of the few things that was on my birthday list: Magnolia's banana pudding. 

I told the guys at the bakery that it was my birthday and one of them handed me a pink gerbera. It was perfect! Now I had my pudding and a beautiful flower. What more did I need? 

Finally, I took the metro to White Plains to visit my grandparents. 

My big bro, Troy, picked me up from the train station and I was excited to show him my new Nikon. He's been telling me that I need to be a photographer for years. He even named my perspective company, VALid Photography.. too funny! 

We ran into one of my greatest childhood friends, Phylicia, who gave us a few more things to laugh about. It was delightfully copacetic. 

When I finally went upstairs, I snuggled on a small black futon in the room that I shared with my sister as a child. I was in complete nostalgia, thinking about 10 years ago, on my 18th birthday, in the same exact room, packing my belongings, and preparing to leave for Morgan State University the very next day. Who knew that 10 years later, I would still be in Baltimore, doing what I love.  

I pulled my journal out of my J. Crew bag and began to list my most proud moments of the last 10 years:

18 Earned a 3.5 after my first semester at Morgan- finally realized that I am smart
19 Got my first apartment
20 Bought my 1st car, Spotty, for $1350 
21 Graduated from Morgan; 
watched Angela Davis speak at Towson
22 Became a pioneer teacher for Baltimore Freedom Academy Middle School; 
watched Nikki Giovanni speak at Morgan
23 Founded PYNK; 
founded Blossom Girls; 
Met Sonia Sanchez at the Reginald F. Lewis museum 
24 Awarded teacher of the year; 
traveled to the Dominican Republic to learn about my roots
25 Service learning trip with Blossoms to Puerto Rico; 
earned my Masters from Hopkins; 
traveled to Jamaica; 
backpacked around Europe; 
road tripped to Toronto; 
was a guest speaker at the first Tea Takeover in NYC
26 Facilitated my first Master class for Expeditionary Learning; 
traveled to Africa; 
explored Amsterdam; 
fully incorporated both of my nonprofits 
27 Started a vintage thrift shop; 
road tripped to Montreal; 
started a blog; 
started my second masters from Hopkins; spoke as an arts advocate in front of the BCPSS school board; 
traveled to Asia; 
facilitated my first Baltimore Teacher Network professional development; 
was a two-time panelist for the White House Initiative for African American Educators; became a Certified Facilitator for Expeditionary Learning

I looked over my achievements and proudly left 28 blank. I looked around that room and remembered every prayer I prayed, imploring The Lord to get me out that house, out of that town, and into a better place. It was a true reminder for me to never forget where I came from and to never doubt that God can change anything. At 28, I have come such a long, long way. I let my tears fall but quickly wiped them away before my gran came to sit on the futon with me. I didn't want her to see me crying, even though they were happy tears. We sat in the dimly lit room and split my little bottle of Martinelli's Apple Juice as I began to read all of my birthday text messages. I read them to her as if they were each written in their very own cards. I loved them all. 

"Here. This is from me and Dad.." She handed me a card. I opened it to find $28 dollars.

"Thank you!" I got up and hugged and kissed her. I know they don't have it to give, so I just felt extra special. 

"You're welcome. I am proud of you... Mama's little angel."

As she left the room, she turned off the lamp, like she always did when I was child. Before I laid down, I turned on the red fan that my sister bought when we were little girls. I said a prayer for her and let the fan's breeze hit my face. It was 11:59 PM. My day was over but the start of a great year had only just begun. 

Birthday kisses,