Tia. Such a simple word, yet packed with meaning. In Cape Verde, children call their parents’ friends, or any female adult that plays a role in their life, tia (aunt). It’s how it should be, right? We should take an invested interest in one another, no matter our blood relations.
Children say “tia, tia” without even thinking — an unconscious act that displays an automatic conscious effort of caring. I’ve never known a more suitable word for this affection, this constant back and forth of giving. Without saying anything, Cape Verdeans know that their children will always be taken care — they will be fed, clothed and bathed by their community.
Everyone shares everything. Just the other day, while shopping in the market, one of my favorite vendors gave me half her ear of corn. Just because. If you have water, you share with the people on the bus. If you have money, you share with your sister who needs to attend school. If you have food, you feed the neighborhood children. Always. It’s never a question — it’s an automatic gesture.
They get it — they know the meaning of family. It’s so much more than blood. It’s person to person, neighbor to neighbor, friend to friend. Children are constantly walking the streets alone, supervised and disciplined by the tias all around them.
At the end of the day, after it’s all said and done, we’re simply people attempting to figure it all out. We learn, we grow, we share, we lose.