We were fifteen minutes from departure when the familiar gold Lexus pulled up the stone driveway. Felicia went out to greet the driver and passenger:
Our sisters were here from Maryland, Gloria and Kristen.
Gloria and Mom are not really sisters but they were roommates in college and in grad school. They met on the campus of Hampton University (formerly Hampton Institute) in 1969. Gloria had come to Virginia all the way from Indiana and she didn’t like it. She arrived early and spent the first night in the dorm alone. By morning she was ready to pack her things and head back to Indiana. She called her parents from the one telephone on the dorm hall and it was settled, they were making arrangements for her to come home.
An hour later a beaming social butterfly walked through the door with a bright kool-aid smile and said:
Her roommate had arrived. Mom plopped her stuff down on the bed and said: “What are we doing in here? Let’s walk around the campus and see who’s out!” Mom had been at Hampton all summer in a pre-freshman summer program; she felt like she knew a few things.
The pair spent the next eight hours walking around the campus and socializing. They had a ball and soon Gloria abandoned those thoughts of going home. When they finally made it back to the dorm that night, somebody rushed up to them and frantically said: “Are you Gloria? Your parents have been calling the dorm phone all afternoon looking for you; they got you a plane ticket home!” Gloria had to call them back and let them know that she changed her mind; she was staying at Hampton with her new friend, Margot.
Gloria and Mom have lived parallel lives since then, and they have a very special bond; they are truly sisters. Beyond going to college and grad school together, they pledged Delta together, they got married at the same time, had babies at the same time, got divorced at the same time. And several years ago, Gloria’s daughter lost her fiancé in a tragic accident.
Gloria lives in Maryland and she had been trying to get to us in New Jersey all weekend. She decided that she would come up for the day on Sunday and she would bring Kristen.
Kristen is more than a friend to me, she is my sister. We grew up together in New York City..
Kristen and I both went to Spelman College and we met there three weeks prior to graduation. She is from South Carolina and I am from Ohio and both of us were planning to move to New York after Spelman.
We graduated in the class of 2002, eight months after 9/11 and in the midst of the Enron corporate scandal. Because of the changing climate, there were not as many people hired to wall street jobs as there had been in past years. Both Kristen and I were looking for roommates but neither of us had friends that were heading to the Northeast. We were introduced by a mutual friend and we agreed to live together.
Kristen and I are polar opposites. I am impulsive and she is contemplative and methodical. When we looked for apartments I wanted to make decisions based on feeling and energy while she had a list of requirements that needed to be met. Thankfully we found a place that we could both agree on.
Over the course of our sister-friendship, Kristen has taught me two important lessons: how to slow down and how to have a good time.
Kristen is slow. It takes her a long time to do most things. But slow is not always bad. Kristen is also slow to anger; she’s slow to wrath; slow to judge; slow to jealousy. She is a calm and patient person with a flexible approach to living life. Her attitude and flexibility have been blessings to me.
Kristen also knows how to have a good time. Prior to moving to New York and meeting Kristen I was a boring college co-ed. Most of my Saturday nights were spent in the living room of my apartment engaged in passionate debates with my close-knit circle of friends. We would vehemently argue over who has it harder in America: black men or black women. However living with Kristen taught me how to let my hair down and not take myelf so seriously. Kristen and I had fun. We partied. We partied in different area codes. We kicked it. And in the process Kristen became my sister.
Kristen had been trying to get to me ever since she heard the news about Kesner. It worked out that she would come with Gloria. When she came in the house she gave me a hug and said, “I made a treat for you: Haystacks.”
A Haystack is a homemade candy that consists of Chinese noodles, melted butterscotch chips, and peanuts (optional). That’s it. Haystacks are Kristen’s specialty and they are my favorite snack that she makes.
Kristen was so sweet to bring me my treat. But I didn’t want any. I didn’t want anything that tasted good. I would only eat Felicia’s chicken salad and only when I was desperately hungry.
Kesner was still dead.
Mom asked Kristen and Gloria to meet us at the country house and then the four of us would drive to our next comfortable place: Qiyana’s condo.
Mom got in the car with Gloria, and I got in the car with Kristen.
We didn’t talk much in the car on the way to Qiyana’s. What was there to say? Kesner was dead. The radio was set on a gospel station. The frequency was low and there was a lot of static. But we kept it on the station and drove from Hopewell to Princeton in silence – static gospel playing in the background.
Qiyana lived in a comfortable two bedroom/ two bathroom condo in Princeton. Her condo had an open concept with a balcony. Her living room had an over-stuffed L-shape couch that faced a 62 inch flat screen television with surround sound. And her development had tennis courts, a resort style swimming pool, a fully equipped gym with racquet ball courts, and locker rooms with saunas. There were also a bunch of man-made lakes with benches, gazebos and walking paths along the way. I had decided that I would live comfortably forever and Qiyana’s was the second comfortable place where I would stay. I was glad to be anywhere but home, I didn’t want to go back to my apartment. It was all too sad.
When we got to Qiyana’s I settled into the corner of her couch and sat there for five or six hours. I wasn’t moving. There was commotion in the house though; and deep inside, I was glad that Kristen and Gloria were there. They couldn’t tell though, my face was blank and expressionless. I was silent and miserable looking.
My line sister Katrina stopped by and so did my dean of pledges, Latriece. Latriece came by with a rotisserie chicken, with which Felicia could make chicken salad. We had a cool Delta moment. Mom and Gloria, who were line sisters at Hampton, started singing the Delta Sweetheart Song in two-part harmony. It was beautiful and brought a little peace into the painful moment.
Around that time, Talithea and Felicia arrived with a bushel of live crabs. Mom and Gloria were going to take us all out but when Gloria saw the crabs she said:
“We’re not going anywhere!”
Felica and Talithea steamed the crabs right there in the apartment and they also made clams and steamed shrimp. Mom and Gloria were happy. Mom is from Virgina and grew up eating crabs and Gloria has an annual seafood party were Crabs are the hot item. They didn’t think we had whole crabs in New Jersey but people forget our proximity to the Atlantic Ocean.
They spread newspapers over Qiyana’s dining room table and the five of them: Gloria, Kristen, Mom, Talithea and Felicia sat around the table and ate. Mom and Gloria told stories about their friendship. Gloria talked about how bossy mom is and how she made her become a Delta and she made her become a Link… They talked about the dynamics of having a forty-year-old friendship in a way that was particularly inspiring to Talithea and Felicia.
While they ate, Qiyana and I went for a walk outside in the rain and we sat and talked under one of the Gazebos. Qiyana was going to go away for a few days. She was going to the beach in Maryland with her best friend, Pierre. All of this had been a little heavy for her and I think she needed to get away. She would be back for the funeral. In the meantime she gave her condo over to Mom and me for as long as we needed to be there. I was thankful.
That evening we said goodbye to Kristen and Gloria; they got back on the road around 6PM to return to Maryland. Kristen would be back for the funeral.
Later that evening, as Mom and I settled into bed, mom said:
“I know you don’t want to, but we need to go to your apartment tomorrow… I need to get your clothes organized for the Links Convention.”
I thought to myself : “Right… The Links Convention.”
© Copyright Thank You Very Sweet, 2011