Reflections for 9/18

My mother says I was the sort of child who knew what she wanted. When it came time for school, I enrolled in the nursery and primary school a stone’s throw from where we lived. The story of how I began is a little comical. My father and I had gone to the school at the close of day to retrieve my brother. Somehow, I wandered into the closest classroom and sat at a desk, agreeing to leave only when promised that I would return to resume the following day.

There was this red journal my father got from one of the banks he worked with, probably in New Year. That was where I wrote down my plan for my life. I have not set eyes on that journal in over five years, but I remember I planned a wedding on its yellow, lined pages and plastered its thick, leather cover with hearts and stars. For the wedding, I designed the invitation card using those my parents received and I had collected as a template. Not leaving any item to chance, I picked out the location and colours. It did not help that my mother and I had a tradition of watching reruns of weddings on tv on Friday evenings. At this point, I did not have a boyfriend. All I had was a crush on some boy who did not know my name. I was convinced that this future husband, whoever he was, would marry me in the church where my parents wed.

In that red journal, I wrote down my plan to be a doctor who lived in a six-bedroom mansion and owned seven cars; one for each day of the week. That red journal was my vault. It understood my tears and held my pain. It was where I documented the vivid night dreams I did not understand. I daydreamed a lot. Most of the dreams of a big, rich, fabulous life were inspired by the artists my father’s taste in music introduced me to. Luther Vandross, Handel, Celine Dion, Westlife. Also Oliver de Coque, Sunny Bobo. With my father’s radio, I discovered Anita Baker, Sade, India Arie, Jill Scott.

My parents had this unshakeable belief that excellence was our only option. They did not make too much noise about it but simply carried on as if we were all in agreement. I would come to find out how little of this belief etched into my consciousness others had. I would come to find out how necessary it all was.

I am a year older today and in many ways, I am still that child. I chuckle at how juvenile some of those dreams were, but I am glad I had them. Childish as they were, they taught me how to hope for more and insist that my life was in my hands. I know the kind of life I want to have, even though the particulars are hazy. I know the kind of person I want to be. I feel trapped sometimes because I am uncertain as to what specific steps I need to get there. And then, somehow, I remember that I am loved by a God who knows the way and leads me by the hand. That has been the story of my life; that I have stumbled into things and realized His hand was in it only in hindsight. It is this dance between me and God, between stumbling and strategy.

This new year will be a year of boldness, not for the sake of intimidation but for the sake of all I have to offer so many. This will be a year of quiet strength. Of poise with a bit of sass. This will be a year of living fully, of enjoying the things that seem like they will always be. This will be a year of giving myself the same measure of grace I give others. This will be a year of both adventure and reflection; of making space for the things that truly matter.

Ka ubochi ncheta omumu m buru ihe anuli mgbe niile. May the remembrance of my birth always be a thing of joy.

Open Letter to My Father

Dear Daddy,

My first day at school took you by complete surprise. I am told that while you dropped Nna off at school, I wandered into a class, sat, and refused to leave. You didn’t force me to come home with you and simply returned at the close of day.

You have always known this little girl’s heart. In that moment, you came to the realization that I would veer into many unchartered waters and you knew to let me be.

It was you who showed me how to be bold, to speak up, to ask questions. You showed me how to love God and persevere in prayer. You have prayed me into my destiny and covered me, as the priest of our home.

Your love made me unafraid, it made me sure of who I was. With you I was free to be me, to say what I thought. With you, I have known something I have never known with anyone else, security.

When you walk into a room, nothing could possibly go wrong. Your love gave me wings and your unshakeable presence taught me to use them. The gift of your name gave me something to defend, to uphold.

As my friend, you showed me the power of conversation and its ability to shift mindsets and transform hearts.

Your wisdom, your wit, your heart, and all that makes you who you are, I adore.

Thank you for surviving. Thank you for surviving and thriving through all life has thrown at you. Thank you for surviving the Civil War for me, for us. You are the rose that blossomed from concrete.

Because of you, I know what I deserve. Because of you, delighting in God’s love for me is easy.

For holding my hand when my heart was unsteady, for giving me jackets laden with your warmth and scent, for lending me your faith when mine vanished, I thank you.

For loving my mind just as much as you love my heart, I thank you. For trusting me to honor your legacy and your name far away from home, I thank you. For teaching me the virtue of hardships and their ability to produce resilient souls, I thank you. For holding me in my pain and tickling me to get me out of it, I thank you. For letting me play doctor/fashion guru/small mommy/lawyer/politician/journalist/personal assistant/banker, I thank you.

Because of you and mama, our tiny home has laughter baked into its walls.

May your spirit never fade. May your wife be a fruitful vine and your children like olive branches around God’s table.

May all the seeds of kindness you have sown in all directions, return to you bountifully.

And may you know, always and forever, that you are loved, honored, and will never walk alone.

Always your little,

Manma