You ask me to sit awhile with you. Instead I open your windows; talk about the rustling plantain tree leaves; about doing your laundry; ask what you would like to eat for dinner. All the while, still standing.
I don’t know how to sit with you. I sat rubbing your legs that one evening when you had that severe gas bubble that wouldn’t let go. But before that and after that our skins have not greeted each other. I don’t know how to interact when you are not angry at me, gossiping about me to strangers and neighbors, or complaining bitterly about my ashawo lifestyle. Do I have amnesia or is it true that you didn’t care for me tenderly so I don’t know how to do so for you?
I’ve been given bear hugs by my American family and friends and wicked hugs and squeezes by my aunts that leave me playfully squirming and squealing for rescue. But from you…nothing!
You hold out both arms the minute I come near you. Not to embrace me, mind you. Even on that very first day when I arrive after living abroad. It could be 5 years since you saw me and you would still hold me at arm’s length, sideways, so any attempt at hugging would result in a shoulder pat at best. You didn’t teach me how to hug or embrace, to forgive mistakes, to encourage and cheer on, to celebrate and acknowledge success, to be tender. I’m my own biggest critic and stumbling block because you made me think it was the only way to exist.
A-s and B+s were met with a “Good-Keep-it-up!” or a “Good-Do-better-next-time!” Not squeezes and squealing that I had survived yet another rigorous semester. Not a “let’s-go-celebrate-right-now!” Perhaps the latter was due to the tight reigns you had to keep on the finances, but I’m sure if you wanted, you could have finagled something. New discoveries were not met with an equal sense of awe and delight when I shared them.
My physical memory fails me at times so I have no proof that you didn’t care tenderly for me. What I have is my body memory over the years which, like silt, has become like sediment; this is all I have to go by.
You give hugs, make room for bisous on the cheek, administer kisses on the back of white hands, give warm and enthusiastic ‘good mornings’ to the friends I have brought to visit Ghana. You ask fondly about high school friends you “approved” of. You tell those I bring home, “I love and Bless you!” To me, you say “ayeekoo” when it suits you. You don’t apologize for disliking some of my friends even as you embrace others. You don’t ask after my painful moments; you just assume life goes on so I should too, and fast.
The disdain for the me I have become/the me I am becoming, is palpable. You suck your teeth, roll your eyes and say, “tso! What would you go and do that for?” when I ask you gently to please stop referring to me as Melody Ann. You say in sadness, “Such a beautiful name…and the Ann, I added it so you would have a saint name…now why would you go and change that?” I leave the room unable to assert my choice to return to my Ghanaian name.
You demand I excise the locs that have “attached” themselves to my head. You protest, “ you’ve ruined your hair! They are unsightly. Only insane people, those Rastafarian ruffians, and wee smokers keep dreadlocks.” They are a disgrace to you. The family. I cut them with the scissors you angrily hand to me. You watch satisfied that you can whip me into shape once again. I save the locs for years. I cry so hard I get hiccups.
I start locs again in defiance. I cut them again after visiting you. I cut them myself this time because I can’t love them into complete existence. Somehow at 3o I still seek your approval.
I wonder is this how you were raised. Was your mother anything like you? Are you just living up to her expectations of you? Is this the only way you know how to be in relation? I wonder why. What happened to you to make you turn out this way?
Are you able to be different? How can you be tender to a foreigner and not to your own blood?
I guess you practice tenderness with them because that’s only for a short time and me, well me…im forever yours. Kinky and nappy-haired, black in all the places that matter, defiant, and strong-headed. Me? Yes, Me…I am yours forever because sadly, we are blood.
Do you have it in you to do forever? This kinky-hair-loving, bright-colored-African-dress-wearing, bold-assertive-chocolate-skinned-woman is here to stay. Claim me or not, this new me is forever.