“There’s my blackness!” Jay would bellow when she saw Enzo in the apartment hallways, in our apartments, out in the park, on the way to the grocery store, out by the turtles. It didn’t matter. Her boisterous, joyous voice would fill up the space and elevate the energy of any place.
Enzo and Lily would go running towards her, often as far as their leashes would let them go.
Jacquetta Bronikowski was as charismatic as she was opinionated, as loud as she was reserved. And she fought feverish, both to and fro, for everything dear in her life. That was, as we knew her, “Jay,” a three-on-the-tree with the shifter snapped off in first gear. All, “Go.” All soul. All fire. Fierce and unabashed. Flamboyant and celebrative. Abrasive and receptive. Loyal and protective. Oooh, so damned loyal and protective. Beautiful.
Jay and her daughter Aloysia were the first people we met in Bay Area who weren’t a part of the apartment’s management company or Katie’s employer. They lived across the hall from us. Before too long, we were going over to Jay’s for Sunday family dinners & Wii bowling. Jay told Katie the best place to shop for a wedding dress (and took her for the first visit), told us her dentist & vet and pointed us to HabitBurger – the burger you should turn to if you crave In & Out. When our first apartment had water overflowing from the water heater leak two floors up and we had to stay at a shitty Extended Stay America, Jay would snoop by our patio every day, taking pictures and sending them to us to make sure we got the proper mold remediation treatment.
She was also the last one we hung out with in Bay Area before we moved to the Oregon Coast.
Jacquetta gave us family when our immediate families were still two time zones away. She’d watch Enzo & Lily when we were on the road. We’d have each other on page one of our Christmas gift lists. She nearly flew back to Duneland to watch our church wedding, if her PT would have aligned. We were on the list to pick Aloysia up from school if she had shift conflicts at BART, and would have to play, “parent” to make sure math and spelling homework was finished. It was also during these homework times when we first learned that Bay Area kids went to visit, “the snow,” as if that’s some mystical far-away place up the mountains.
From her, we met friends in her BART family, friends we still today keep in contact with.
In fact, it was one of them who texted us to let us know she had passed away.
Otherwise, we might not have known till late. It allowed us to tell others and make plans to go down this weekend to attend her funeral. It was about the last reason we wanted to make our first trip back to Bay Area since we moved, but there’s no place we’d rather be on that Saturday.
It still hasn’t hit that she’s gone, but little things keep getting me misty.
Katie & I were in Eugene last week to be on hand for the birth of our niece. We found ourselves thinking about the life our niece could create, and who could and would be there. It had us thinking about Aloysia.
Aloysia, if you ever read this, know…
Sometimes the demons win, but that doesn’t mean your mother wasn’t, too, surrounded by angels. Legions of them, and they watch you all-the-more now. Believe-you that.
Also, Auntie and Uncle Finn are never too far away.
I’m gonna miss My Blackness’s Auntie.
I still find myself going around a corner and expecting to her sing, “Hiiii,” and raise up her arms or croon “How you doing?” and change her walk into a slowstep. We’re not taking the dogs down because Blaise’s apartment still doesn’t allow pets, but I hope Enzo & Lily know what happened. We tried to tell them. Tried to hold them. Enzo got soft and cuddly. Lily wanted a treat. I’m pretty sure that’s how they’d grieve.
Speaking of, “Auntie,” Katie’s taking on the name, “Auntie Finn,” for our newest niece.
She’s doing it in honor of Jay. And we say it just like Jay did, with the pronounced, “U.” “aun-tie.”
Here’s to you, Jacquetta Bronikowski.
For the family she missed dearly & fondly reminisced, and the loved ones left behind, I salute you, Jay. You kept us from losing our shit in Bay Area when the haste of the place was overwhelming. You crash coursed us on California and reminded us that family came first.
I’ll try not to lose my shit this weekend at your party, but I’m probably gonna fail miserably.
Like Katie & I, I don’t think the angels knew what they got themselves into when they received you, but they’ll never have it any other way.
To you, Jacquetta. To you.
And all the people said, “Amen.”
By the way, Friends & Family are picking up the tab for Jay and are putting the extra into a scholarship for Aloysia.
If you can, drop a little her way.
We had travel plans to go, then #Campfire ripped through Paradise, CA. I-5 was the evacuation route. Either we would have to go through Nevada, and risk other fires growing, or take US 101 / 1 – which would have been close to a 24-hour drive. The flight were filled with resales costing more than our pocketbooks had in them, fresh off the house purchase.
We’re still making plans to go out there and say respects proper. The family calls Katie “Auntie Finn” when our baby niece is in the room. It’s a role they’re both growing into.