Have you ever had a friend or maybe like me it was a favorite cousin that seemed aheadof their time? I mean there was something about them that was just a little bit out of the ordinary…something special. While watching a performance by the remarkable vocalist and musician Rachelle Ferrell I found myself reminiscing about an extrordinary woman I had the pleasure of knowing for too short a time, my cousin Deborah Jean. I remember going to the corner store with my cousin and watching in amazement as she purchased cigars for her enjoyment. The year was 1976 and my cousin Debbie was all of seventeen years old. Debbie was without argument “supah dupah fly”! Her hairstyle denoted bravado, she wore a short “blondish” red afro and big silver hoop earrings, while most of our friends were doing all they could to get that Farrah Fawcett feathered flip worked out. On this day she rocked a gold silk form fitting very feminine blouse over jeans and platforms and her look was set off with a playfully loosened mens silk tie around the collar. She was comfortable with putting a “ya digg” at the end of her emphatic sentences and not only did she speak the latest slang, she was known to be the one to make it popular. In my 12 year old mind Debbie was my very own “Cleopatra Jones” and “Coffee”. Her laid back confidence is what todays generation would call “swagger”. My cousin was incredibly artistic and her clothing and hair would often be her canvas, she once confided in me that she nourished a dream of designing clothes and living abroad. This same bohemian could morph into a construction working boot and hip belt wearing “Bad motha, shut yo mouth” when an opportunity to work in a non traditional occupation arose as a result of a teen parenting program in which she participated. Debbie told great stories that made you feel like you were there and you were special because she was making you a part of her adventure (I mean she took the time to talk to a goofy kid). She was the girl who all the boys in high school wanted to be their girl or their best friend. Debbie never made it to Europe, in fact I think she spent all of her life in one town in one State. Her life seems filled with lots of contradictions like myself and so many other young women who are often torn between pursuing our passion and longing to be the object of someone’s passion, chasing one’s own dream or trying to encourage a beloved man to have one of his own; between believing in her inner voice that said “you are better and bigger than this place, this situation” and the voice from the one that hurts you saying ” you make me want better please don’t leave me.” Debbie did not have the accolades or even some of the material things that the world uses to affirm success, but BOY did she shine in this little girls eyes! Debbie, you protected me and let it be known that I was your little cousin. Your life taught me to explore and create and to never let others (even loved ones) opinions regarding my life and my choices define my opinion of my “self” I was shy, chubby and awkward and you gave me the valuable gift of being cool by association. In a kid’s economy that was worth a million dollars in social capital! You are DOPE! and Kind! and even though you may not have lived abroad and created that amazing clothing line; you live in my Soul and you helped to design “my swagger”(for you old folks I’ll say persona) and I wear it everyday. Your left us so soon, but you left us so full!
Now loved ones your turn to tell me about that special someone who showed you how to march to your own drum. I look forward to hearing from you.
wanting you to feel loved like only mamma can,