“My momma said to ask you if she can have some sugar?”
And then I’d stand there with my cup in hand and wait for my auntie Thomasine to tilt her head and gaze at me like I was the reason my momma didn’t have the good sense to plan ahead to have sugar for whatever she needed it for. I’d wait, respectfully of course. And know that no matter how long auntie took to answer, the answer was always yes.
The answer was yes when I was six and I needed to live with her to get out from under the roof of the man who abused me.
The answer was yes whenever I needed a place to lay my head as a teenager who thought she knew it all. And I didn’t even have to ask. But if I did, I’d know to wait for the head tilt and the yes I knew was coming.
The answer was yes when I received the worst news of my life and immediately went to her house to be surrounded by family to start processing such a loss.
The answer was yes when my momma needed some sugar. But only actual sugar. If you try to kiss auntie Thomasine, she will pretend not to like it and shoo you away. She’ll always let you land one on her cheek though.
All the cousins have our Auntie stories but I’m her favorite. The cousins are born haters so they will deny this if you ask. But they know.
She don’t know it but I often refer to her and her sisters as “The Aunts” or “The Tribunal” when I talk to other folks. Their word is something to stand on and truth be told, I still move around this world with their thoughts and opinions in mind. What would The Aunts think if I did this? What would The Aunts say if they knew I was doing that? That guide rarely fails me. If I make a move I know The Aunts would approve of, I know I’m making the right move.
Auntie is a woman who has only ever loved me. I’ve never heard a word from her mouth that made me believe I was anything but valued as a person. Auntie was one of the first to show me that Black women will always make space for you. Even her chastisement lands softly. Even if I’m working her nerves. Even if I’m being a trifling niece and haven’t called her in forever.
It’s her birthday today. And more than anything, I want her to know that her saying yes did more than provide some sugar for the kool-aid. Her saying yes is a guide for showing up for folks you love. Even when they ain’t got nothing to offer you but the cup in they hand. Her yes was a guide for how to love Black girls and women who sometimes need to be called in for not properly preparing with a head tilt that says everything without making them feel bad for needing help. Her yes is the understanding that no matter where I am in the world, no matter what is happening, if I need a yes, it’s just a head tilt away.