As the American Mother’s day approaches, i have a right to celebrate you as many times as i want to. So i am sending you this memo.
The older i get, the more of my “womanity” i understand and own, the more of your sacrifices i appreciate. I cannot begin to imagine the confusion that went through your head when you moved halfway across the world to a place you knew absolutely nobody, and did not remotely understand its cultures. In moments where you had to unlearn many things you knew and re-learn things that made little sense to you. When people mocked you and told you that because your bride price wasn’t paid you weren’t really married. The knowledge that you couldn’t call up your mother on a whim and complain about your husband or your in-laws, because you had to dial NITEL first and ask for an operator before you could be connected to the “overseas” before you could talk to your siblings and other family members. The knowledge that you couldn’t just pack up your bags and get on the next flight because you missed your family. The agreement was one flight every year to go see your family, and you always made the best of those few weeks. I for one cannot imagine being restricted to seeing you once every year. I don’t know if my marriage would survive if i was given similar conditions.
Growing up as kids, i am still confused as to how you managed four rambunctious children. All full of life, but you always had your own method of discipline. When you would try to break up our fights and we wouldn’t let you because we knew you didn’t have it in you to hit us. Instead your version of a time out was to lock the older child out of the house and make sure the compound gates were shut. lol. I cant imagine having the fours kids you have, i wouldn’t make it out. I remember when we used to make you upset and you would tell us you were running away, with the suitcase you left in the corner, and the day i discovered it was empty and i confronted you and said you weren’t going anywhere.
When i was in primary one and every-time you asked me why and i responded “because Y has two branches and a tail”. You started giving me that same answer as i neared my 30s because you still think its a funny response and that’s all i learnt in Primary 1. I am grateful for all the times you never hit me, as i know i was a helluva a child on wheels. Like the time i donated all my books to the school library in primary 2 and the teacher told you thank you for the books, and you were very confused. And on getting home you asked me why; and i said i couldn’t read the same book 2x. Thank you for understanding. And you reminded me i had younger siblings and i gave you an answer like, just buy more books..
In primary 3 when i wrote about my family, got into an argument with my teacher because he said you were white. And i said no, she is black and i came home and told you all about it. And you explained slavery and the Caribbean Islands and America to me. You also explained to me why you were black and fully identified with being black despite that being a small drop in your racial make up. And you tried explaining to me that only a person could define themself. And i asked you what i was.. and you asked me to tell you, and I said American, Nigerian and Jamaican – and you simply said ok.
The days where i frustrated you because i would cry because i was hungry and i couldn’t tell you what i wanted to eat. And how i hated Irish potatoes because it didn’t taste like McDonald’s- i don’t know where i expected you to get McDonald’s fries from in Nigeria, but you tolerated my shenanigans and would gladly make me sweet potato fries instead. And spaghetti and spinach instead of spaghetti and meatballs, because i said it looked like the worms were bleeding.
The times you would let all four of us sit on your kitchen counter and we would run up the house NITEL phone bill by inviting our friends to bake cookies and cakes on a Saturday. And you would let us make multicolored cakes and meat pie with rice inside instead of potatoes. The times we would make lemonade because we didn’t know you didn’t have extra money for fanta and coke. And how you made all our birthday cakes and the year baby bro decided he wanted all his toy soldiers on his cake and you simply sighed and said “ok gather them lets wash them and put them on the cake”. But we were happy none-the less. I remember when we used your curry and Marsala mix to make curry rice for Jack (our dog) and you were soooo mad and almost beat us, because you used to ration the curry grandma mixed for you all the way from Jamaica and you only got it when you traveled.
When i came home from boarding school and told you how i had to fetch water in buckets and that i “am half caste” because those were the things i learnt in school and you explained to me, why not to use the said phrase. You also didn’t believe half of the punishments- you just thought my imagination was overactive, till you showed up to my school impromptu and went home to discuss how appalling the things you saw were to my father.
I respect you for sitting me down at 13 and having a proper sex discussion with me. I respect you for encouraging me to share my feelings. I respect you for helping me understand the woman i am growing into. I respect you for going back to do a masters after you abandoned the idea when you had your first child 35 years ago. Now you are on masters number two at almost 60. I might not understand fully your actions and your choices, but i realize you didn’t have to stay in Nigeria for over 30 years, stay married to my father or even stay to make sure your children had the best you could give them.
Thank you for being the woman, my friend, my non-judgmental confidant. The woman who almost died giving birth to me. I worship the ground you walk on as i imagine your sacrifices and i cant see myself even making half of them. Thank you for your wicked sense of humor, even though somehow my father managed to ingrain his brand of sarcasm in me. Thank you for attempting to teach me diplomacy even when i thought i didn’t stand a chance. Thank you for always preaching forgiveness even when i couldn’t find it in me. Thank you for just listening when i need to rant. Thank you for never asking much of me, and always appreciating whatever it is i try to do for you.
I can never repay your sacrifices, but i truly hope in the next few years i can do something as large as life to show my appreciation. I LOVE YOU MORE THAN WORDS and I TRULY WORSHIP THE GROUND YOU WALK ON! like every other child, my gratitude may not always come through in all my actions, but i thank God for you.
To my mother, The Queen of everything.