...I am the super happy one in the middle. My name is Carla Joelle Brown. I am 38 years old, born and raised in Baltimore, MD. When my sister and I were small, we would spend a lot of the summer with our cousin at the Grahams. This was always the highlight of the summer. Since the Grahams retired when I was 5 years old, we had their full attention. Often, we would “go up to the country” to Jellystone, and stay in their trailer, where it was stored there when it was not in use. This was normal to me because we did it so often. This was the ultimate summer for us as small children; we weren’t under our parents’ rule. Our grandparents let us do things that only grandparents would. We had free roam of the campsite. There was a pool teaming with other kids. A camp store always stocked with the latest Mad magazine, and ice cream. Best of all, it was an adventure for us, that was always capped by a night time sit around the warming fire, fueling my sweet desires for roasted marshmallows.
I always considered myself to have a normal upbringing, or at least within the context of my environment. Growing up in Baltimore County, I was like the majority of my peers. I am the product of a two parent, middle class home. My parents met when they were teenagers and have been together since. Growing up, I always thought my grandparents were unique. I knew my paternal grandmother was the source of my creativity and my maternal grandparents (the Grahams), jointly, were the source of my curiosity of the world. Specifically, with the Grahams, I always know I can arrive to their home unannounced. No call needed, no excuse required. Every time I will be greeted with a smile and embrace. It never even matters what time it is. To me, the Grahams are by far the smartest and most intriguing people. Always well versed on any topic, every conversation comes with a sense of unassuming authority. Even to this day, my grandmother is proud to boast how progressive she still is on current events. This is why it is always easy to want to go over.
Showered in a mixture of humor and facts and eventually stories of their travels, the verbal exchange is as worldly as any being had in any cosmopolitan city. You can either choose to participate or be just as pleased to observe. Almost always guaranteed is the mention of the phrase “We’ve been there Carla,” boastfully mentioned during anything that they have seen on television.
On first glance, the two couldn’t seem any more different from each other. This has always been the family joke. How did the two of them find and stay in love for so long? Visually, my grandmother is as fair as any African American could be without being white. My grandfather is of a dark complexion that always incites some comment about him being a direct decedent of Africa. Benjamin has not met a curse word that he has not liked and to this day, I have never once heard Frances curse, not even remotely close to it.
As my eyes finally open to the age that has graced them, I no longer see the same static, un-aging faces that have stood still in time. With the significant decline of my grandmother’s health and ultimately, mobility, over the years, I understand with urgency how important they are to me. I understand their legacy and how, by just their union, they have singularly affected my view of the world.