This is part of Thank You Notes, a series of letters offering gratitude to the people and things that inspire us most. Like many others, Allure has spent this summer looking inward — the place from where, as the saying goes, beauty springs. What we found was pain, love, humor, and powerful gratitude, for the people we know and the world we live in. Then we wrote.
Glimmers of our shared DNA have always shined through. The frustrated wrinkle of our noses. The squint of our eyes when we laugh. And our impressive ability to recall all the critical details that make up a person — until recently. When your dementia diagnosis surfaced, it rocked our family. We have a prideful Liberian heritage and ancestry-strong faith, and this was a devastating blow. You, foundation and fortress, were losing your memory. And your children were losing you.
Now you remember certain things at the most random times. But also at the most perfect times. Little reminders, like an old vintage tee I wear of yours or the styling of my dark coils in Bantu knots or braids ignite your recognition. “I remember wearing that to class” or “You have so much hair like I used to have…just not oily with sheen and Jheri Curl juice.” And we’d buckle with laughter and giddiness.
It’s painful when a parent’s health begins to decline due to old age, but I always remind myself to be thankful. It’s that stubbornness that never allows you to forget the recipe of a rich African meal, your love for roller skating, your glory years in the ’70s that I hang on to for hope that things will get better. How I wear clothes, how I listen to music, how I perceive beauty — it’s because of you. You tell me all the time how I remind you of my late grandmother, whom I never met. According to you, all three of us could’ve been triplets. “It’s the hair,” you’d say. The style of dress, you’d remind me, or that rebellious spirit that’s kin to our family’s legacy. With my curvy nose and my beautiful kinky Afro that you love to fluff, I remind you, I think, that she’s not completely gone after all.
Because of you, and because of her, I can trace our ancestry like running my finger along a page. I am your legacy. And when building my own legacy as a woman, that magnetic beauty in my blood goes beyond my caramel skin highlighted with Fenty, or my curly Afro softened with a dollop of tropical-scented SheaMoisture curl cream. It lives in the past and in the future, in you and in me.
Jennet Jusu is a writer and graphic designer in Brooklyn. A version of this story originally appeared in the August 2020 issue of Allure. Read the rest of our Thank You Notes here.
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