By Samantha McKenzie
I spent the past few days with family members who truly fed my soul. They traveled from near and far, rearranging schedules, making untold sacrifices and choosing to spend their summer vacation celebrating the 80th birthday of our dear aunt, Thelma Niles.
The McKenzie Clan originated from Georgetown, Guyana, located in South America, and then later immigrated to several countries around the world. This weekend we shared time with family who traveled from as far as London, England (Aunt Pauline, Uncle Mikey and a host of cousins) to celebrate this great milestone. There was Aunty Gus – the family matriarch and prayer guru – who drove 13 hours from Virginia to share in the festivities and managed to out dance all of us. I can’t forget Aunty Dolly, Aunty June, Aunty Daphne and Uncle Rags (and my mom, better known as Aunty Angie) – all who provided some level of love and guidance to me and my siblings growing up. Because of them, my first cousins and I grew up like brothers and sisters. Our childhood was a combination of made up games, endless discoveries and bits and pieces of mischief. And we bonded through those experiences.
We weren’t allowed to sit in front of the TV for hours. We played outside until the street lights came on and were perfectly fine with it. We all came from a household with the same rules. Guyanese parents in those days didn’t deviate from the script on raising children. They were a strict, hard working, God-fearing bunch with intestinal fortitude that only made our union stronger. Sitting in the midst of them this weekend made me realize just how much.
We represented three nations (Great Britain, the United States and Guyana) under one roof this weekend. Relatives traveled from New York, New Jersey, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Texas and varying cities within the Sunshine State. There were four generations in a room at any given time. We swapped stories, laughed until our bellies hurt and chowed down on the foods of our native land. We reflected on the loved ones who had passed away as well and it somehow brought more joy.
I soaked up the wisdom and tried to commit all of the family history to memory. I forgot about work and the things to do list that awaited me back home and allowed these people to feed my soul. This is what families do.
I loved the diversity we shared, the colors and hues, the textures and shapes that filled the room. We were Black and Indian, white and Portuguese and we were one. Together we made up a band of merry men and women, Christians and Muslims, believers and those who were still questioning this thing called life, but we were perfectly woven together and related by a natural union: We were family.
I feel blessed to have this time with people who share my bloodline. In some small way, they all contributed some extraordinary value to my life. They have all helped me to see this world through a wider lens and learn to embrace it. I don’t know when we will have this great pleasure again, but I do know, as I kissed the last cheek goodbye, it didn’t feel like the end.
Thank you McKenzie family. Our love has no end.
You feed my soul.