I was given my first journalism award last week. It was the first time I was recognized for my work in public health. As any awardee would do, I thought back to the people who made this possible for me and thanked them.
There were the usual mentors, grant funders, respondents and colleagues to thank, but I knew that another person deserved an equal place on this roster: our Yaya Remz.
Actually, my daughter stopped calling her “Yaya” some years back and started calling her “Ate”. Because that’s what she is to my daughter—an older sister who takes care of her, watches over her and when I’m not around, prods her to study and do her homework.
To me, I joke that she has become my “wife”—or at the very least, my alter ego in a parallel universe. I bring home the bacon, she manages the house and well, kid. I am the envy of many friends who have begged me to find a twin Super Remz for their own household.
Once, before leaving for her annual vacation, Remz told me she found a relative to be her “reliever”. I didn’t think of asking her to do that, but when I realized with great terror that I didn’t know where half the things were in the house, I was glad she thought of it. When Remz asked for permission to have her reliever over a few days before she left so she could orient her on daily tasks, I knew she wasn’t just our housekeeper. She was a “keeper” period.
In the 7 years that she has been with us, she has taken on more and more responsibilities. She checks on homework, gets to know teachers and coaches, texts me to remind me about coming due dates and approaching Parent Teacher Conferences. She has come to anticipate my needs and that of my daughter’s with uncanny precision. But more than that, she has seen my daughter grow up from toddler to kid and now, to what my daughter proclaims herself as: tween. Remz and I have cheered at football games, have spent many sleepless nights worrying when the Little One was sick and have collectively (can you say that even we’re just a twosome?) stood up to bullies.
On many occasions, she has shown that she is as invested in our success and well-being as any family member would be.
I know with great certainty that I would not know what to do without her.
I also know that in ways she may not have realized, Remz was an invaluable part in my getting this award. It was because I could entrust my child to her that I could focus on other things at hand–like bringing home the bacon.
As a token of my gratitude, I took both my daughter Reesey and Ate Remz out to a simple lunch to celebrate my award. I asked the server to take our picture as I realized that we have never had a picture together. It has always been either her taking a picture of me and Reesey or the other way around.
I looked at the picture in the camera. It wasn’t the best picture, truth be told.
But it was our first picture together. And to me, it was a picture of my family.