hey, love. did you know that? i love you. maybe you do know that, but even if that is so, i still think there’s room for me to tell you more often. i am writing from a nostalgic bliss. i am blissful, because you are growing – in ways i longed for & in ways that my mind cannot fathom. i love writing & i wanted to write something that you could put your hands on, because on this day, your sixth birthday, we cannot hold hands. your dad is a place that has become very special to him in a very short amount of time; i am writing this from the continent of africa, residing in its most southern country. i find it so beautiful here. there are many sights & scenes my eyes have held onto & will hold forever. i wish nothing more than to be holding you here, this time is changing my life. i think you would love so much about this country. there is beauty & love & joy, chief among many other things.
i spend lots of days seeing things that draw me right back to you & the love i have for you. for example, there are a surplus of beautiful young boys & girls that look just like you – some of them act just like you, too. remember this summer past? i loved when we would do the whip & nae nae together. you would twist your arm & neck in this very goofy way that makes me laugh every single time i picture it. also, you looked like you were waving from a throne when you did the nae nae. i bet you truly are a queen in the making. i bet that you still love that song. the kids here, young & old, play that song all day long, because they also love it. every time a few of the kids i visit often see me, they immediately start to dance. in fact, i find myself dancing here more than anything else. they gave me the name jabulo which means happy, because i always have that goofy smile on my face, just like the goofy smile that you have.
i bet you’re wondering why i’m not here for yet another birthday party. i spend a lot of time asking myself that, too. i have only been to two of the six you’ve had. that makes me sad when i am by myself & take time to think about it. for the majority of your life, we’ve been in different places, with very different things on our mind. the sad reality is, you haven’t always been my focus. when i left a little over four years ago on this wayward journey, i told everyone who cares about us both, that i was leaving you because i needed to create a path for us. i also told everybody that even though we wouldn’t be physically together that i would always keep in contact with you. i had convinced everyone, and sadly, i convinced myself of this the most. i’ve always been really good at saying the right things, but not matching it with action. it’s because i have never believed in myself, so that meant it was impossible for me to believe in you.
i don’t know if you were fully aware, but when i was getting on a plane that august four years ago, you were the last person i held. you were sleeping during that car ride to the airport, because it was still early in the morning – four in the morning to be exact. when it was time for me to grab my bags & head to my flight, i had to pass you to your grandma; you clinched me tighter. that moment was more symbolic than i would like it to admit. over these four precious years in your life, i tried to pass my job to be a father to you over to your grandmother & you tried to fight for me. grandma knew so well that i was giving life to a cycle. she knew my father left me, because drugs felt more important to him than his family did. she remembered when her father left her, too. she knew there’s so many father’s leaving behind precious flowers like you. grandma knew she raised me to live beyond those cycles. i knew it, too. unfortunately, there was a drug that i put above you – me. . when i wouldn’t call for weeks, you would lie & tell people that i was calling. you send me letters, crafts, and the like, even though you got nothing in return. every time i would come home for a holiday break, you ran into my arms & treated me like your best friend. i was so confused – i’ve always wanted to know why you love me so much. i’ve never really felt worthy of your love. maybe that’s what grace is, though.
kenadie, you are my mbali: my precious zulu flower. you are sprouting, both physically & emotionally. i’m frightened at times that you are growing up so quickly. not only do you tower over everybody, because of your height, but you are so mature, too. you carry such a gentle spirit, but you know when to stand up for yourself, too. when you speak, you command ears & attention. i wish that time would slow down for us to have an eternal moment in the sun together. as much as i am beyond delighted to see you continue to rise up, sometimes i want you to be young forever. of course, that is not fair to you – this day marks another step closer to the unbelievable things in store for you; did you know this world needs someone like you? you are such a wise girl & you have this incredible gift of love that blows me away. in fact, without you, i couldn’t even begin to define what the word love means.
i would be lying to you if i didn’t also tell you that i’m afraid for you too. our country is still hunting down those of your pigment & gender. kids both younger & older than you are losing their lives or the lives of a loved one, because of hate that’s been around far too long. kenadie, you carry a great strength that intimidates a lot of people. i’m pains me to say it, but to get ahead, you’ll have to work infinitely harder than most others. you rarely will be given the benefit of the doubt, even for the smallest of mistakes you might make. you have a target that sits on you, despite the fact that most who put it there know little to nothing about you. i don’t want you to ever be ashamed of who you are because of this, baby. people are going to attack you & question your worth, because they want to break you down, it’s all a part of this larger system i can’t wait to talk to you about one day. you are strong, though. your mother is incredibly strong herself & she would never send you out into this world without everything you need to survive. i am beyond grateful for your mom; please don’t ever forget that she has so much love for you & that she would do anything in her will to see you keep growing, my mbali. & when she can’t carry the load know that you have a wide family that is there to carry the slack. both of your grandmas are very strong, too, so is your papa & all of your aunts & uncles. i can guarantee you one thing; in this life, you will never be alone.
there’s one lesson i’m really thankful for in my time – understanding more of who you are to me. i’m learning that you are my core; all of the things in my life must flow from taking care of you & not the opposite. when we found out you would be coming into the world, i was still a child & acted as such. i let fear get the best of me, because i was overwhelmed with the expectations of others; i never took time to make my own expectations & decide that you are of top priority to me. for a long time, i’ve been pre-occupied searching for a meaning to everything under the sun. i was searching through relationships, public opinion & words that did not come from my heart. this time has forced me away from that noise of my everyday life & allowed me to tune into the voice inside of me. i now realize you are the meaning of life, kenadie. in my life, you are the reason i’m allowed to wake up & see another day. you are the reason i’m still standing, despite my mistakes. i fight for human dignity, because i live in a world that is trying to take yours from you, right before you even have a chance to explore it.
i’m so proud of you. i long to see your smiling face again so badly. more than anything, i wish i could hug you for as long as we’ve been apart, but i know that the best thing for us to do is to make the most of the time we have right now. i can’t wait to have time as sacred as that with you. remember when you gave me a poem that told me slow down? well now, i find myself wishing the same of you. you’re growing older & now you have dreams, hopes & desires for tomorrow. can you just promise me you’ll do this one thing for me & i’ll do the same in return? always feel free to express who you are to the world & do it with love. that’s a lesson daddy has had to learn over the course of his entire life & i never want to see you struggle in the ways i did. i know you’ll have your fair share of trails in this life, but if you love yourself first, you’ve already gone a long way, baby. also, please never lose that smile – at all costs; the world needs that smile, too.
kenadie, here’s to a happy birthday & many more. this is the beginning of something even you can’t dream of. i am speaking for everyone when i say that we love you more than life itself. the world is your oyster, princess.