Sunday, August 22, 2010

Celebration of my grandson Jamal's birthday in photos and history

The above photos are about when I started to tend my grandson Jamal when my daughter Ronda returned to college when he was 17 months old and I started tending him. I continued to tend him until he was five years old through kindergarten when his mother moved in with Chad, her husband-to-be and went to live in his house, too far away for me to tend any more except on special occasions.
There we are asleep. I always tried to get them to sleep in but they rarely did, my kids or grand kids. I think we sort of bear a resemblance to one another in this sleeping photo proving the genes will out somewhere no matter how different we might look from one another. Jamal's father was a university student from Khartoum, Sudan. He had Arabic blood as well which shows I think in Jamal's face. He was fun to tend because nobody could figure out what he was, Greek, Mexican, Puerto-Rican (sp). Blacks always talked to me when I had him with me. People were fascinated with his hair. Even my other grandson Dante who came along some years after. He was just a toddler and at the time Jamal's hair had grown out until it was practically an Afro. His hair grew very fast and his mother would be too busy to give him a trim. Dante eyed Jamal's hair for a bit and then rushed over and grabbed his Afro and messed with it as fast as he could while Jamal yelled to shake him off. People sometimes had to be physically restrained from touching his hair.

Here the cousins are at an older age. Dante's hair was every bit as distinctive. We called it the little Mutt hair in this photo of the two of them.
Anyway for years Jamal was his mother's favorite camera subject as he was mine, when I could afford the expensive prints of those days. So we have got tons of wonderful photos of him. He could appear so different in each one, he was fascinating in photo. Still is.
And he was the quietest little child. He had almost unearthly quietness in his nature that was quite foreign to my noisy family, raised in the country and never having to subdue themselves. And he had a great attention span. I recall him watching TV programs like construction and house building with great concentration, to say nothing of all the movies he loved. He naturally became a great game player, and I was his favorite partner. We played games for hours. I taught him to play poker just to get away from games like monopoly I hate. Jamal was absolutely fascinated when he discovered poker video games. One time he bugged me unmercifully to ask the owners to fix a poker video game because it was broken. I am surprised he did not turn into a gambler he was so devoted to this game as a child. But lots of other video games came along to capture his attention. He still loves them and I am sure plays them very well.
But the most remarkable thing I saw him do was systematically teach himself to read by focusing on words displayed on signs wherever he went. He would point to a truck when he was around 4 and say, "Grandma, that says Frito Lay." TV taught him to tie the words to the product. I always took him to the public library with me where he always got his books, so I was reading to him, and eventually he was reading his books by himself, once he had learned enough words and could recognize them. He was the only one in the family I ever recall really learning to read before he went to school. I would take him to my coffee klatch at Fry's Supermarket and have him read one of his books to them, so they could give him the praise he needed to outdo himself. He had just shown a big interest in learning words and put it all together a little ahead of most people, including myself. Course I was always so stressed when I was his age I could not concentrate on teaching myself to read.
Jamal and I always went to the thrift store where we would buy a grab bag of toys to see all the surprises in them. Once we bought a crane that really worked, and the little kids in the neighborhoods all had to work the crane when they came over. Once his older friend from upstairs was down playing with him, and after he went home I saw that about 10 of my videos were missing. I looked everywhere and asked the kid's mother if he took them home. She stopped letting him come and play over the implication he took them. Months later I discovered them in a big pot down in the cupboard with the lid on it. About the only place I forgot to look! Remember that Jamal? I learned a lesson about suspecting anyone without proof. Look for some other explanation if the kid does not seem like a thief!
But I always felt safe walking with Jamal around the neighborhood. He was my connection. Everybody smiled when they saw him. He disarmed the neighborhood. And it was a tough one, too.
Ronda and I tried to raise Jamal as stress free as possible, despite the gun violence that was always going on around that neighborhood. Jamal learned to run and crouch down in the hallway with me as I called 911 when the bullets went zinging around. The only time I saw him shaken was when a fight between 2 women next door broke out when we were watching Cops once during the day. We went outside to look and when we came back after the police arrived, he said, "Grandma, let's not ever watch Cops again!" I think he thought we somehow landed in a Cops show just by watching the darn thing on TV.
Everybody in the family loved him and made a big fuss over him. When Jamal left my care, I knew I was going to miss him a lot but I was satisfied his new step father-to-be was a kind man and he would continue to be raised with a lot of love and that is what happened. And best of all, he would be going to a much safer neighborhood. No gun fire! He was soon joined by little brother Ethan who looked very different from him, but with whom he shares many traits.

Jamal continued to do well in school in the gifted program. His goal was to earn a scholarship to college with his grades which he did. He distinguished himself by having a near perfect score in math on his SATs, so he proved to have an aptitude for math. In fact he is in his second year of the business college at ASU and has continued to maintain his scholarship with his grade.

Another recent photo of Jamal and his brother Ethan now ten years old with me on Mother's Day.

The last photo is one of my favorite photos I took of him after he graduated from high school. I will continue to take a big interest in his life as I do in all my grand kids if I can as long as I live. And I am hoping he has a very Happy Birthday today!


LaRena said...

Loved all these photos of cute little Jamal. He was one of the cutest little boys I have seen. I remember so vividly when I visited and the minute I stepped in the door he said, "Do you want to hear me read?" I praised him profusely and he acted so happy. It is always quite astounding when these little people teach them selves to read. Terry was about the youngest of mine. When he was about two when I would read to him if I skipped anything he insisted I go back and get it in. Mason followed our family tradition by reading very young. Don't you just love thinking about those days when you tended? said...

Great blog on Jamal. He is unique and I will be interested in just what he decides to do. You have some great pictures.

Cheryl said...

I love this entry about Jamal. It really takes us all back to remembering him as the cute little boy he was until becoming such a handsome and intelligent young man. I always loved to have Jamal come and visit because he was so easy to have around. It does make me miss him. I think its been two or three years since I last saw him. Glad to keep up a bit on facebook through Ronda. Happy Birthday Jamal!!

Gerry said...

Ann, did you recognize the quilt that is tucked around Jamal and me? It is the anniversary quilt you made and I won at the reunion, and guess what it still covers me at night winter and summer and keeps my legs warm! It is as great a guilt as you ever made!

Amrita said...

Very sweet picture s specially the one in bed with Jamal. H e is a handsome boy.


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