Just in case you're wondering, I celebrated my birthday a month ago. The Monica I'm wishing a Happy Birthday to is one who is no longer with us, but is still very special to me in my heart.
Her name is Monica Monet Holloway-Barrett and she was born on this date in 1962 in Mobile, AL.
So how did a native Houstonian get to meet this Alabama girl? Her grandparents lived in Houston and during her spring break in 1980 she traveled to H-town to visit them. HISD was still in session at the time and my classmate and her friend Virginia Tucker lived next door to Monica's grandparents.
Virginia invited Monica to hang out with her for the day at Jones and Virginia was in my trig class. When she and Monica walked through the door she had my undivided attention that day instead of my math teacher Mr. Stevenson.
Intelligent people tend to gravitate to other intelligent people and I picked up on that. My 'twin' liked smart sistahs. Monica was about 5'6", had a flawless light caramel colored skin tone and shoulder length jet black hair framing her face.
We exchanged contact data and I was even more smitten with her after I discovered her birthday was June 4, which also happens to be my late Grandmother Tama's birthday as well.
Through the summer of 1980 we traded letters but as the demands of my census enumerator job increased and her summer classes at Rensselear Polytechnic Institute demanded more of her attention we gradually lost contact with each other. When my own freshman year at UH approached and subsequently my transgender issues demanded resolution during the spring semester she faded from my memory for a while.
Over the years I wondered what happened to the girl I met during the last months of my senior year and developed a serious crush on. One day I was flipping through the Houston Chronicle and stumbled across her wedding announcement that her grandparents had placed.
It caught me up on her life up until that time. She'd graduated from Duke in 1984, pledged AKA and had become a doctor after graduating from medical school in 1990. I also discovered that she was now living in Houston. I'd seen the announcement too late to attend the wedding, was a little jealous of the guy she was marrying, but at the same time was pleased to know that things were going well for Monica. I was also happy to know that she'd found someone special to spend the rest of her life with.
In April 1998 I was once again perusing the Houston Chronicle when I was shocked to see something I didn't expect.
It didn't mention how she died, but Dr. Monica Holloway-Barrett had become nonetheless an Ivy Beyond The Wall. That obituary also updated me on the final chapter of her life before she was called home April 9. She'd given birth to a daughter in 1993, was teaching classes at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and was involved in a long list of local organizations at the point of her untimely passing.
I cried for a few moments after reading it and realizing that she was only 35 when she died. Once again I was seeing it too late to attend and pay my last respects and I was a little upset about that. It's also ironic and frustrating to me that our paths could have crossed before she passed away. One of the schools that we used to do Trans 101 seminars at was Baylor College of Medicine and the first one I was part of took place in February 1998.
I took some time to remember the beautiful girl I met in my math class that day who'd become an outstanding woman. I clipped that obituary, scanned the picture (which is on my other computer, darn it) and stored it in my high school memory book.
She's one of the reasons that when it came time for me to choose a feminine name when I transitioned in 1994, I chose Monica.
My name today is a reminder to myself on multiple levels. I wanted to honor her memory, so I strive to carry myself in the same way that I remember her as a classy, beautiful and intelligent woman. It's also a reminder to myself to make every moment count and make quality use of the time that you're allotted.
Unlike the Cylons of Battlestar Galactica, we only get one shot at living our lives and you don't get multiple practice runs until it's perfect.
Happy birthday, Monica. Say hello to my grandmother Tama for me.