You ask me to sit awhile with you. Instead I open your windows; talk about the rustling plantain trees; about doing your laundry; ask what you would like to eat for dinner. All the while standing.
I don’t know how to visit 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 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. 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 be tender, to forgive mistakes, to encourage and cheer on, to celebrate and acknowledge success, to be tender.
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. Recognitions and new discoveries were met not 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, have become cemented; this is all I have to go by.
You give hugs, make room for bissous on the cheek, administer kisses on the hands, bellow out 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 the friends I bring home, “I love and Bless you!” Me, you say ayeekoo when it suits you.
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 beautiful hair! They are unsightly. Only mentally 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 we are blood.
Do you have it in you to do forever? Cos this new me is here to stay.