My Cousin is a Judge!: A Mommy-Boogie Trip to Baltimore

I took Carter on our first Mommy-Boogie trip to see my cousin Cathy’s investiture. She was sworn in as a Baltimore City District Court Judge – the first Chinese woman to become a judge in Maryland – because she is a total badass.

I’ve always looked up to Cathy, not least because she’s always done things her way. She’s never let herself be confined by others’ definition of success (or anything else); she made her own path and it wasn’t the same as anyone else’s. Let’s just say – and she shared this hilariously and openly at her investiture – that she’s played hard and she’s worked hard. She has always used her legal chops to help others.

I felt so proud watching Cathy become a judge. I was especially happy that Carter could see it too; he may not have really understand what was happening, but he understood that his Spicy Ayi is a powerhouse. I loved seeing the row of Cathy’s daughters, nieces and nephews (not to mention her parents, siblings and in-laws) looking up to her as an example of strength, perseverance and all-around awesomeness.

The whole time I kept thinking that Cathy’s investiture gave me hope for the future. She’s a mighty woman in power. I also told her I call dibs on writing the picture book about her when she becomes a member of the Supreme Court one day.

I was nervous and excited about going back to Baltimore. My mom, brother and I lived in Baltimore for a year when I was in fifth grade. It was the year after my parents divorced, and we moved in with Cathy’s family for a few months before moving into a small apartment on our own. I have some happy memories of Baltimore – I think it is where I became a confident student – but I tend to remember it as a place of pain. Going back meant revisiting places that have held memories of deep trauma.

I knew this going in, but I was unprepared for the emotional reaction I had as we drove through once familiar neighborhoods, and went to once familiar places. Nothing looked familiar. I remembered almost nothing, not the streets where we once lived, not the mall we used to frequent. At times, I was so overcome with memory and emotion that I had to hide in the bathroom and sob. I felt aware of an open wound in my body for much of the time I was there.

And yet, I felt like I was able to reclaim these once traumatic places and make new memories of joy. I always love spending time with my brother and cousins. I loved seeing old friends. I loved watching Carter make memories with his doting and goofy cousins.

I’m glad I went.

It was amazing spending so much time with just Carter. I loved being able to shower all my attention on him; and I think he loved being the complete center of all my attention too. A special kind of bonding happens when we go on adventures one-on-one, and after this trip, I’ve resolved to do more one-on-one trips or activities with my kids.

Also, we rode planes.

And, bonus! We got to walk out on the tarmac and board the plane from the back. Twice. Carter was in heaven.