I recently flew down to Portland for training in my new luxury business (and engage in new friendship-making). I was in a hurry and feeling flustered. I was already annoyed at having to fly standby (hubs is a pilot so we never buy tickets anymore, and I’m going gray at just thinking about the stress I go through to make a flight, all while smiling, and making sure I never leave the gate to sneak a mimosa). I sat through three flights of getting bumped before I could make the 48-minute flight from Seattle. (It is not lost on me that I could have driven down to Portland in the same amount of time.) After exiting the airport and what felt like a three mile hike, I found the public transportation area. I felt late, disorganized, and cranky (I was hangry—that’s what I call my middle-schooler).

I had to catch a taxi because my Uber app wasn’t working. Along came Abdi. (Our trainer was also running late from California, so I did exhale vociferously once inside the taxi).

I asked where he was from, as I examined the interior. It was dirty, had a slight odor of intensity, musk, sandalwood, and diligence. Abdi is Ethiopian. He has a wife and 3 children. After telling me, I said I was from Washington, north of Seattle.

I didn’t offer much more than that. I was texting my parents, who were in charge of my babies, that I arrived safely (I’m 42, and my parents still want to me to call when I get somewhere safely. Guess the worry never dulls). Abdi asked what I was in town for, I explained. He asked if I was excited. Sure. Silence. It became a scavenger hunt of thoughtful words to say to this man. I was irritated, without reason, without apology.

After too many miles, and my legs sticking to the ripped gray-brown leather seat, leaving me a souvenir scratch mark on the back of my leg, we arrived at a swanky hotel where my training was. I paid as he asked if I needed a ride back to the airport. Sure. I was now early, but still late, since our trainer was absent still. Why was I being short? I’m known for talking to anyone, anywhere, about anything. In fact, back in the day, my girlfriends used to tease me because I always wanted to sit in the front seats of the taxis in Las Vegas, just so I could talk to the driver, asking inane questions.

Thank you. Goodbye.

I took his card with his cell phone number, knowing I wasn’t going to call. Just being polite. Clearing my head.

We had a delicious training—emotional, yet intentional. I was carrying a heavy load of new and lovely information about my top shelf skincare line, the vision of my already successful company, and the many tips I absorbed. And then came the friendship making part. Breathtaking.

I had a soul sisterhood moment. Gin and tonic (with a heavy lime twist of course), laughter, and learning. I was happy and satiated. And I was disappointed with myself. All at once. I hadn’t practiced kindness today when it was difficult. I allowed my self-involved hectic self to be in charge and I felt embarrassed.

It was time to go. I found Abdi’s card. He answered, happily. After hugs and goodbye-ing, I hopped in his cab. Funny, I didn’t notice the smell. I didn’t see the dirt. I saw the driver. And this happened…

2131702677_62e1c78813_oMe: Teanaste’lle’n (“Hello,” in Amheric. My parents taught me some of the language when I was little).
Abdi: Ahh! Teanaste’lle’n! Dehna nesh? (How are you?)
Me: Really good, the training was great, and I feel focused.
Abdi: You are feeling happy, yes?
Me: Yes. I am. I wasn’t so sure of myself today. (… searching for something to offer…) So, are you a Coptic Christian? My mom collects Coptic icons. My parents lived in Ethiopia for a while, and loved it there (true story).
Abdi: No, we are Muslim.
Me: How has it been for you lately? It must be hard sometimes on you and your family.
Abdi: It is. My god is good, just like yours. I respect your god.
Me: Tell me more…
Abdi: I see a man or woman, they need something. I give it. If I can’t, I’ll search for it and then try and give it. That person needs me. And I need him.
Me: How do you mean?
Abdi: I’m a Humanist. Every man is another man’s salvation. Only we can save each other. Our gods are one; therefore, we are the same. I am not judging you for anything right now.
Me: I love you and your family Abdi for being here, and for staying in America, and holding faith in us. We aren’t all hateful.
Abdi: And we aren’t either. Humans are love. Anyone who truly believes in their god, is only about love.
Me: That’s very beautiful (tears welling, my heart swelling, my pride shrinking.)
Abdi: Thank you for talking to me Amy. Safe travels.

No, thank you, Abdi, for showing what humanity is all about. If you need a cabbie in Portland, I know a good one.

I was once given a Cherokee medicine stick by a woman. I gave it power, because it gave me power. I was Cherokee. I was special. That infinitesimal amount was enough to make me feel connected to something earthly and sacred, a tribe of my very own. I belonged.

I am only child, Einselkind, a lone wolf, a gang of exactly one. Because I’m also a military brat, I did a lot of hello-goodbye-hello-ing. I had a lot of lonely days, but being Cherokee gave me a connection, a talking point, roots—a tribe. A history.

Yet I often longed for someone to sit with at the lunch table on those lonely first days of school. A sibling would have been nice.

I used to crave siblings so badly that every Christmas I wrote Santa, begging for an older brother. Not just any older brother, but the one from the mid-80s Folger’s Coffee Christmas commercials. He wore a striped rugby shirt and a scarf, looking preppy and young man-ish. You know the one… He’s coming home from college, sneaks in early one morning to his perfectly decorated Cape Cod-style home and brews coffee that delicately fills the whole house with the nuanced, magical scent of Folger’s, permeating every inch with a decadent warmth and love. There was a little sister in the commercial and I wanted to be her. I imagined how much he’d love me, give me all sorts of advice, and let me hang out in his room while he dished all about college life. I dreamed of what he was studying, how he smelled. It was my fantasy, to have a brother with whom to bond, and complain about my mom and dad.

(I married a man with three brothers. I take back some of my wishes for siblings. Ha! Be careful what you ask for. Moving on…)

I lamented my loneliness to my parents, and they let me know I had many people close to me, they just weren’t “living.” (I see what they did there.) So I forced myself to own and even be proud of the family gone before me: a confederate soldier in the historical landscape (not that I like the side he fought for, but it’s still a unique story); Great Aunt Ida, who was an electric chair lady (I’m just going to let you think on that one for a spell. Yes, she was a circus act); my great-great grandfather who was kicked out of the state of Arkansas because his gun accidentally went off in a saloon (evidently, concealed carry was illegal back then… who knew? After the incident he packed up Grandma Maggie and their handmade bread bowl, and moved to Texas. Guns were welcome there); and finally, I had Cherokee blood in me.

Wow. Now that was special.

I remember the day my father phoned with news for me: I was no longer Cherokee.

Poof. Just like that, a piece of my identity disappeared.

My father had DNA testing performed to see what his ancestry contained. There was no Cherokee. Not a drop. Never was. A family story my father was even raised to believe. I didn’t have a tribe any longer. Mic drop. It actually knocked the wind out of me, and I struggled to say I love you before getting off the phone.

I was angry, as if this had been done to me personally. It wasn’t. I started examining my life, and really thinking about the tribes I do belong to. I may not be a Cherokee, but I do belong to other groups. I took to social media, to a private group to whine about something. The ladies are all military brats.
FYTWait… I am, too.

Hold on a minute… they are a tribe. I am similar to them. We don’t see one another on the regular; (in fact, there are a couple I’ve not seen since high school graduation in Germany).

I am a military brat. The brat tribe is huge and special and proud. We live around the world, and we bloom where we are planted. And likely if you have ever met one, they are gregarious, adaptable, and strong.

I am a mom. Wow. Now there’s a tribe. When you become a mother, there’s a piece of your soul that never stops crying, and that is universal. We raise humanity, we celebrate love and experience unimaginable pain at the same time. We have the strength of an ant, and the perseverance of a cheetah. We protect, nurture, and manage to do so with grace and sometimes good hair (we drink a lot of wine too!).

I am a mompreneur; a mom who owns and cultivates her own business, to help the family, to gain sanity from the laundry, to raise awareness of something bigger than ourselves. That takes sweat equity, love beyond measure, and an inhuman capability to manage 422 tasks at one time, again, while wearing mascara and serving something resembling homemade for dinner (sometimes!). Show me a mompreneur, and I’ll show you a superhero.

Okay, so I’m not Cherokee. Pity party over. It was something I thought I’d passed down to my own children. However, I’m swimming in tribes! I don’t need identity running through my veins to connect me. I do not need a sibling. I do not need to rely on family history alone to feel grounded.

I can reach my hand out and somewhere, there will be many hands awaiting my grasp. It may be virtual, over the phone, over wine, at a meeting… but it’s there. I am not alone. I am never alone. For that matter, neither are you.

(Incidentally, the genetic mapping indicated that there is Icelandic heritage. You know what this means? I’m related to every Icelandic now!)