And yet in placing herself in that mold, Camille gave her youth away to her daughter. After getting pregnant, Camille dropped out of college, and though Camille never talked about it, Kenyatta would often get a vague sense that Camille had ambitions that went far beyond FedEx.
But that never affected Camille and Kenyatta's relationship. In college Kenyatta's friends would tease her because she talked with her mother for hours, like she was talking to an old girlfriend. When Camille came to visit us, she would hover around Kenyatta, plying her with tales of Chicago, aunts who were expecting, and cousins who'd had their cars towed.
I came from a different world than Camille and Kenyatta. Though Camille and Kenyatta are very close, Camille's family is large but scattered, and only slightly interested in each other's affairs. Camille seemed hardened by the distance in her family, as well as the general distance that having a baby creates between the mother and non-mothers her own age. I come from an equally large and disjointed family—seven kids by four women. But my father was a strong thread, making sure all the kids were tight and refusing to allow us to use the terms "half-brother" or "half-sister." I came to my relationship with Kenyatta believing in family. But Camille's and Kenyatta's experiences with their respective fathers left them suspicious.
Camille flew from Chicago to our home in Delaware twice while Kenyatta was pregnant. Her visits were pleasant and awkward, mostly because she spent half her time praying her daughter was not revisiting the sins of her mother. Always I could feel a dull discomfort emanating from Camille, and I often felt like an intruding guest. Our conversations were generally brief. We'd talk about food or Chicago. Whenever Kenyatta left the room, Camille would leave with her. I should be fair and say that I wasn't that social myself. Part of it is my nature, but a larger part was that I felt much of the difficulty in my relationship with Kenyatta stemmed from my in-laws, both the one who was accounted for and the one who had skipped out all those years before.
We Hear You!