#37 The Davis family
Even though Dshawn spent an hour telling me about his siblings, his mother and his stepdad last night, they are still a far cry from what I expected. For starters, they are all little bundles of energy, running around the house like they’re on fire, even the parents. On top of that, his stepdad Terryl is six years younger than Dshawn’s mom Asia. That’s not the biggest age gap ever, of course – just look at Caroline and Nathan who have seventeen years between them – but it’s rare for the man to be younger than his wife. That means that back when he met Asia, he was only 20, while she was 26 and had a 10-year-old kid already. That’s… intense.
Asia and Terryl immediately make me feel welcome. I get hugs from every single family member and I’m put to work immediately to help Asia out in the kitchen. The rest of the family will be over soon, so I’ve got about an hour to get used to the hustle around me, before the garden and house fill up with aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews, nieces, grandparents, neighbors and friends.
“It’s my birthday!” little Nia keeps shouting excitedly. She’s turning 10 today and I’ve never seen someone so excited at the prospect of chocolate cake.
“Do you do this for every kid?” I ask Asia while I fill thermos after thermos of coffee.
“Of course!” she says, then suddenly turning to yell at one of the youngest kids. “Pierre, stop hitting your brother! I don’t care that Creed took your toy. No hitting!” She rolls her eyes at me. “The joys of being a mom. And yes, I do this eight times a year. Once for my birthday, once for Terryl, and of course for all my kids. Although Aliyah is only six months old, so she hasn’t had her first bash yet.”
“Wow, that’s a lot of parties,” I mumble to myself.
Asia laughs. “That’s just the birthdays, baby girl. There are so many other things to celebrate. Let me guess, you’re an only child?”
I nod. “Is it that obvious that I’m not used to this much activity around me?”
“Not to be rude, but yeah, it is. Plus, Dshawn always manages to find himself a girlfriend who hasn’t got a big family.” She winks at me. “I think he wants to make sure all of her attention will be on him. Or maybe it’s just a coincidence.”
When our work in the kitchen is done and we’ve turned the dinner table into a birthday buffet full of coffee, tea, chilled soda cans, birthday cake and an assortment of snacks, Asia pulls me with her to the garden where we find the oldest kid Marcus playing badminton with his sister Nia. Terryl is sitting in a chair with baby Aliyah on his lap. Dshawn is right next to him, looking a little lost, to be honest. I guess he wasn’t kidding when he said he has no idea what to do with his siblings.
“Shawny?” 4-year-old Pierre asks, using the nickname all the kids use when they talk to him. “Can we play soccer?”
Dshawn gets up and stretches out his long limbs. “Yeah, sure.”
Right before Pierre rushes to get a soccer ball out of the shed, he turns to me. “You’re white,” he states, running off right after.
I blink a few times, unsure what to say to that. Asia laughs and points to the chair that Dshawn was sitting on seconds earlier. I sink down, looking around at all the kids playing. The house is quite small, but the backyard is huge and it’s connected to the backyard of one of the neighbors, who are also sitting in lawn chairs. They wave and smile at the Davis family. Asia immediately gets up to bring them and their two kids a slice of cake and some coffee, even though they are technically sitting in their own yard.
“It’s been a while since Dshawn last brought a girl over,” Teryll says, taking a moment to look me over. Not in a creepy way though, just for a second. He hasn’t really talked to me before now, because he’s been moving around like a madman, just like his wife. Now that Aliyah is asleep in his arms, it seems he’s finally taking a break. “How long have you been dating?”
Oh wow. That should be an easy question, but it’s not. Not really. “Erm… three months, I guess.”
“You guess?” Terryl laughs. “Oh, to be young again. Don’t tell me that it’s complicated, please.”
I grin. “Nah, not complicated at all. I’m his girlfriend. It’s just kinda hard to decide when to start counting. First official date? Or first time we had dinner together? Or maybe later, when we put a label on it?”
He nods. “Okay, I get it. So, three months give or take. What do you think? Did we do a good job raising that little brat?”
I love how his stepdad talks about him like Dshawn is his own kid, instead of the son of the girl he started dating when he was in his early twenties. Dshawn feels the same way about him, so it’s nice to see that the feeling is mutual.
“A great job,” I assure Terryl. “He’s really good to me.”
“Of course he is, he takes after his mother.” His eyes follow Asia, who is now changing Creed’s shirt in the middle of the yard, insisting that he can’t spend the entire day in the shirt he slept in last night. “Time to talk about you now. Tell me about yourself, Shaughna.”
“Erm… I’m 25, and I’m a waitress and a bartender.”
“Two jobs?” he asks. “Wow. Intense.”
I shrug. “Pays the bills and then some, so I’m not complaining.”
“And how long have you been working?” Terryl asks. Dshawn warned me that his parents would try to figure out if I went to college or not without actually asking me. I guess this is the question that his stepdad is going with to get the information he wants. Even though Asia and Terryl both started working fresh out of high school and don’t have any further education, they want all of their kids to do better than they did. That’s why they’re so proud of Dshawn, I guess.
“Seven years as a waitress, four as a bartender,” I reply. “Just for a few hours a week back in college, of course, since I had to focus on getting my degree, but I pull as many shifts as I can now, usually more than fulltime is you add them all up.”
“You’ve got a degree?” Asia asks, joining us. “Dshawn didn’t tell us that when he called to say he was bringing his girl over! What kind of degree?”
“Business,” I reply, a little uncomfortable at how widely they are both smiling at me. “I specialized in marketing and public relations.”
“Then why are you a waitress?” Terryl asks with a frown. “Shouldn’t you be at a big firm like Dshawn’s?”
Oh boy. Do I really have to defend my decisions to my boyfriend’s parents? “I just… don’t quite know what sort of job I want,” I reply after a moment. “And I like my job just fine, I can pay my rent and save some money while I figure out what I want.”
“Yeah, Dshawn did that too,” Asia says while she watches her oldest son play soccer with her youngest. “He worked in a phone store for a while before he got the job he’s got now. We’re so proud of him. He’s such a genius.”
“He’s very smart,” I agree, thinking of how easily he catches onto everything I teach him about how to start his own business. He spends hours poring over documents after work, trying to come up with even more ideas and the best way to present them.
“Aston in tha house!” a loud booming voice suddenly calls through the yard. Grinning like a hyena, Aston jumps over the fence that surrounds the two linked backyards.
“Aston!” Creed cries out, running over to him for a complicated handshake fist bump thing that involves a lot of loud noises.
Terryl hands baby Aliyah over to me to greet Aston, who used to live three houses down the road back in the neighborhood they both grew up in, which is how Dshawn and him became friends in the first place, even though Aston is two years older than he is. I’ve heard the story a million times. Dshawn lost his frisbee, Aston came to bring it over and they’ve been friends ever since. It’s not the best story ever, but it’s the result that counts.
“Oh babe, you look so uncomfortable,” Dshawn says as he sits down next to me, grinning at how unsure I am about how to hold his baby sister. “Have you ever held a baby before?”
“No,” I groan, trying to make sure I’m supporting her head. She doesn’t look too happy now that I accidently woke her up. “Please don’t cry,” I plead. “Don’t cry.”
“Give her to me,” Dshawn says, rolling his eyes. He just puts the girl on his lap so she’s on her back, looking up. He takes her little hands in his and moves them up and down, making her giggle. “Aliyah is the least fussy baby ever,” he tells me. “You should have seen Nia when she was still little. God, she never stopped screaming. None of us got any sleep the first year after she was born.”
“Aston, it’s my birthday!” Nia is yelling right now at the top of her lungs. “I’m 10! It’s my birthday! Did you bring a gift? You should have one for me, because it’s my 10th birthday!”
“Yeah, I can see that,” I grin.
“The two of you look mighty cute with that baby,” Aston comments when he makes his way over to us after handing Nia her present. “Although your baby probably wouldn’t be that black. It would be one of those mixed-race babies.”
We all look up to see Dshawn’s cousin Chassidy, beaming at us. She’s right, if Dshawn and I ever have a kid it would probably have her light brown skin. To be honest, the thought of having a baby scares the shit out of me and I can tell by the looks on all of their faces that they know that. They’re just teasing me.
Now that Chassidy is here with her parents, it only takes a few more minutes before the whole house and yard fill up with people. I spend the first hour being introduced to everyone, but I have to admit I only remember half their names by the end of it. There are so many people. Back when I was little, my birthdays just consisted of my grandparents coming over, along with my dad’s sister. That’s it. No big parties, no yelling, no piles of presents or cake smeared everywhere. I like this better.