Nnwa, you have brought her home

She is finally here. My wife is finally mine. Nnwa, you have brought her home.

I have not seen her sleep like this in years – without her thinking face. As if the people in her head are still up and working on assignments she will need responses to when she awakens. Master of her league of minions. You are in your cot, not far from her side. Your mother was afraid she would turn and crush you if she let you sleep by her. Seeing as she is out of practice on these things, she said. So I sit in between, sharing my stare with you both. Mine.

Adamant. Your mother is adamant. Because of it, I love and often hate her in the same magnitude. She knows this, and she laughs because she can tell when I am on either side or in between. When we were younger, and I had just convinced her to give this dream a fighting chance, she would always ask – every day, like clockwork. She would always ask “Are you sure?” every time I would say that I loved her. Which was every time we spoke because I was afraid that if I did not say it enough, someone else would say it more. Someone else would steal what I was certain had to be mine. So I answered,  every time I said, “Yes, I am sure”; ” I am very sure”; “Absolutely sure” until I got comfortable, irritable even and demanded to know why I was interrogated like a child. What nonsense kind of question was this? What kind of woman asks these questions? Was I not man enough to know what I was saying? She was silent. You will soon know that such moments are few and the fewer, the better for us all. She hung up. That was the last time I raised my voice at your mother. And the last time I asked nonsense kind of questions.

It was five years after that she finally answered me. Five years later when Winston’s wife came knocking at our door at 2am. Eyes swollen. Not the kind that is caused by fist fed flesh. But the type worn by a woman who has cried every tear from her past to her future. A woman who had, in a split second, been broken and put together again. She had stayed for a week during which your mother helped her scout for a new apartment; begin to set up the foundation for a new life because she had run out of tears to cry. Winston had not chased her from his house. He had merely brought another wife home. Many weeks after she was gone, your mother finally answered me. “I wanted to be the first to know. If you stopped loving me, if you change your mind, I want to be the first to know. That is why I ask.” Just like that. She is like a puzzle, your mother. Sometimes the pieces do not fit when you are frantic, and all you want is to finish the set. Sometimes they fit later when you are staring at your past and your future at the same time. Winston’s wife, she didn’t know until she did.

Your mother is adamant. I don’t know why it is this memory that plays in my head when all I could; should be doing is breathing your scent – your heavenly scent. Or sleeping beside your mother again; finally. I don’t know why. Maybe it is because it has been a while since she asked – so long it takes rememberence to know I did not imagine she did. Or that the last few years have been so heavy on us we lived with bowed backs, only hoping to survive and so many things went unspoken. Perhaps it is because the storms have chipped away her resolve so much that she is not docile, but she is not her. Maybe it is because I want her to start asking again. I want her to ask me, even if once so that I can say yes; I would give my life over if that was the price of my surety. I love her – your mother. Nnwa, I love her. If I was not confident before, the years have taught me lessons that have stripped me bare and there, left me before truth. And now that you have lifted this darkness from our eyes, maybe she can see me again. Really see me. Perhaps she can ask me again. And when she does, I will be ready to tell her what the sun has been scorching before it leaves my lips. Your mother. My wife.

My wife.

Him #1



Finally. You are here.

I have been counting your toes all night. You have ten, and I do not know why this awes me but it fills me with so much joy – it does. I have been having nightmares that I would have a child; a bundled version of every one I have lost – which is why I keep checking to see that you only have one set of everything. I am not insane. Not very much. You opened your eyes and for a minute, just stared into mine. I have not stopped crying since. They had to fight me to take and wash you and I am glad they finally left us alone. Finally, you are here and my walls burst. It feels strange, this shedding away of layers I did not know I had. It would seem I have always thought I knew what love was when I didn’t really. If I had it all along, why do I feel like my heart has just started to breathe?

Forgive me for choosing not to push. My body has failed you before. I could say that I could not risk it again, but in truth, I was just tired of it all. I just wanted to wake up and have you here. Do not tell your people you were pulled out of me, let us keep it between us. Their knowing would only mean I have missed another qualifier for what it takes to be a woman.

Most women think about nothing but the relief; happiness of having their child with them. You are the girl that chose to stay. You will become a woman, and I find myself already planning what altar to sacrifice to so that you do not inherit your mother’s curse. Your father laughs – he, for one, thinks this is funny. The poor man had finally lost it. Dear Lord, still me enough to enjoy this moment.

You have unveiled me my little one; now I am no longer invisible. If it not a dream, I find myself wondering how long this will last, but you chose to stay; so I will want to hope. But now your father is here so I can sleep. Be here when I wake up. Please – stay.

Do not say to me, “God needed her more…”

Your foot is still stuck between my ribs. Again. I have resorted to lying on that side, hoping the weight will cause you to shift, but I always give up after a few minutes, just as I have today. It is me that will feel the pain, not you. Certainly not your little foot. I cannot sleep. So I have to whisper to you.

Your uncle has not been around the house for a while. I see your father ignoring his calls and for the longest time, I did not know why. They are close. He does not shut people out. That is me. So I asked and I pushed. He only speaks when he is ready. I know this but still…so I stopped. It is just today that I learnt why.

We were at Kwaso’s today. Remember her? She was here the last time you left, madam instant-pregnancy-just-add-water. I still marvel at how fast she is able to catch a child. Maybe in my next life, I will ask her. Perhaps; but not today. Not soon.

We were at Kwaso’s today. She lost her youngest. They say it was pneumonia. She did not know, she said. Maybe if she would have paid more attention, he would still be alive, she said. Kwaso is not my favorite person. Yet at that moment, I looked at her and saw myself. They say only the corpse knows the torment of the grave. What they say is true. I sat by her side, and we held her, you and I. I said nothing because I know not to say. But we heard everything. Everything at least until Sister Florence said it. God needed him more. And your father slapped her out of the house.

People have asked, in whispers, slipped in during prayers as they plead for the fortification of our marriage and once in a while, as a sigh. Something said seemingly to end a conversation. A question even. “I do not know how you do it…how have you made it through?” Not once have I ever answered but because it is you, I will tell.

Your father and I, we have a synchronised dance. I think of a raging storm. Striking hard and precisely at the core. Not numbing but consuming it all that, so much that you can barely breathe. I think of lightning, striking once, twice. Trees crashing. Hard pellets hitting down on swelling rivers bursting banks and sweeping everything in its path. First the massacre. Then the ebb. Then the silence. Breathing again. The storm, having done what it came to do, stops as suddenly as it began. Maybe the following days will be cloudy still. Maybe the sun will dare to find its way through. It usually depends on many things. But that is what it is. Your father’s turn to lead the dance moves fast. And then it is mine. We do not lead at the same time, we cannot. That is how we stay alive. He feels, then he breathes. He does not park thoughts until he feels ready to explore them like I do. He is first to lead the dance, then I will follow. I did not know it was his turn. Which is why we had to head home.

Your father’s brother had said the same thing to him. He can’t remember which time it was, which time you had left. But he remembers feeling stabbed. As though Koja had taken a knife of some sort and dug it into his heart.

Why do people feel the urge to say this? He asks.

The raging storm. I listen.

Him: God needed him more? For what? FOR WHAT?

I listen. Kwaso’s child.

Him: Do not say to me God needed her more. Because God had sent her to me…to us. She was ours. OURS. No one has the right to say that. Not when I have lost my child. NOT EVER!

I listen. It is you.

He hits the wall. Crashes the lamp on his bedside. Reaches out for something on the table then stops.

I listen. Trees crashing, river banks burst.

He says he is sorry. I hold him.

We cry. I am not sure if it is for Kwaso’s pain or for something more familiar – leftover pieces from ours.

The storm has done what it came to do. We will cry, then we will breathe.

I will go by Kwaso’s in a few days. Hopefully, the mourners will have trickled down. We will not attend the burial. I am not allowed. Tradition. He will not go. Pain.

Him: I know they mean well. But if only they never spoke words they did not understand. So many ripples come from just one drop. It is not some part of a grand plan to lose a child. It is not. Do not say to me, “God needed her more…” Not unless you are God. Because I will want to know why you’d have thought we needed her less.

We pick up the pieces of what was the lamp on his side of the bed. He hardly used it anyway. We clean up. He holds you, makes you promise you will add another day. He sleeps.

I lie awake.

Kwaso, tonight, my tears are for you, for your loss. As for Sister Florence, she should now know better to keep away from my husband and me by now. We do not mean to scatter the words off her tongue, but then she opens her mouth and someone has to stop her nonsense. Maybe this time we will apologise. I do not have the energy to think of that now.

We do not wish for death. Still, it comes. Burying one’s child is taboo. I cannot speak for myself, it is clear even the gods make exceptions. But tonight, I will pray for you. God did not need him more Kwaso, but may he rest with the angels.




Nnwa. I write because it is easier speak what you cannot say. My walls now have ears. It is not the same. I had thought your coming would be the shove that would finally let me be. It would seem it had only begun. What do they say about seasons and each coming with its own winds? The things I will see in this world are too much.

Did I mention that your father’s mother has taken to ensuring I drink this ugly concoction 4 times a day? It tastes no better than it looks. She says she will die before she lets me spit it. It is supposed to build your bones or something or other. Honestly, I cannot keep up. I just want to breathe and wait for your father to tell him how many times you kicked that day. If only the doctor did not insist on this bed rest nonsense, I would not have to suffer this invasion. Or perhaps if I had my own mother…

The woman means well. Maybe. If I am not sure it is only because she monitors everything that goes into my mouth like a hawk. She has somehow convinced herself that I cannot feed us appropriately, so even the water I drink is from her hand. It is almost as though I can no longer be hungry or thirsty of my own free will. The unfortunate thing probably thinks I have been eating poison because I do not want her son to hold his own. She should move back to her own house. That is all I am saying. There is a reason why she did not marry her son. But who am I to speak in the presence of fertile wombs? It is not once I have been reminded in my own house that a childless woman’s voice is carried by the wind. It would seem your people take pleasure in telling me it is only one that has suckled a child that can speak before others. If this thing does not kill us both, I will not shut my face.

I stay mostly in my room because at least then, it is mostly your father that I see. Your father that I talk to. At least then if I am asked how we are doing, it is because of love. Not on suspicion that I secretly eat my own children.

She is knocking on my door now. If ever I thanked tradition, it is at this moment because she will have to leave that nonsense by the door today. I will wait and bring it in quickly. The sink shall feed on this midday treat. It has been a miracle that she has not realised the plumber keeps coming because “my hot water will not work for me today.” If it clogs the pipes, whatever it is, it is surely not for us. Your father tries it the other day. He has not asked again why I keep clogging the sink and I am getting too swollen to be the polite drinker of anything that comes in a flowered glass. I think the flowers are supposed to make it more endearing. But it continues proving political, this moving of people back to their own homesteads and me, I am getting to that place where all the energy I have, is to breathe and be happy. I pray you come before I commit one form of something or another.

And you, you are my escape. Like how your tiny feet seems to be lodged between my ribs and no matter how gently I try to nudge you out you insist on wiggling it right back. How it is a sharp, beautiful pain to know that you are there. To know that there is hope. I do not know if I could be happier. Feeling you has been a welcome distraction these past weeks. Like how your tiny feet seems to be lodged between my ribs and no matter how gently I try to nudge you out you insist on wiggling it right back. How you seem to come out to play when you hear your father’s voice. To feel you. To know that there is hope. I do not know if I could be happier. Yet some parts of me are still afraid that I may wake up from this dream.

Remind me to ask your father to call the plumber again. My hot water may need some more help after all.

If you will Stay, Stay

You are 20 weeks old today. I told the doctor to stop with this ‘weeks’ nonsense and tell me how old you really are. He laughed and said twelve weeks. I smiled. Not because I am happy with his insistence that he will say what he says even when he knows our ears count months and not days. But because maybe this time, he will convince you to stay. Me? I refuse to Nnwa. If you come, come. If you will insist on leaving, Can I stop you? Thrice I have tried. No more.

I should be calling people like your father. See him beaming the room into a shine. I find it irritating. This celebration of uncertainties. You would think he has not lost children the way he is calling everyone and sending your picture everywhere; even when I have told him he is feeding evil eyes like a blind man. But he will not stop. You were never this old before. You have given him something I thought he could never build again. I want to say it is hope but it seems like it is so much more. You are giving him back pieces of his heart. So I let him dance. At least that way when the beat changes, he will already be standing, and there will be no need to stop.

They flood in like clockwork. Every drive for the next check-up is a drive through memory lane. Even the people in my head sit quietly because when it rains, it floods. I have willed myself to forget the parts where you exist. Even if in the slightest. Those ones I could not bear to re- live. But the voices will not go away.

Your father’s sister: But will you cry until you die and kill my brother for me? It is just blood, you will get another.

Let him drown in my tears if he can…it is just blood…just blood…

Mama Nena from two doors down: Life must move on…it has happened eh, but we must move on

We? Shut up. Do we share a womb? Did we lose my child that I carried? Shut up!

Mama: It is all God’s will…all that happens is on God’s will. Take heart, my daughter.

Eih! I wish you had not spoken because now I do not know what to feel when I look at you. For long time I will think of my mother and think of these words.  It is God’s will that my child dies three times before I can see them, eh? It is God’s will? It is only because you are my mother that…

And then there was Kwaso. Bouncing her baby number something or other on her hip. I saw what she was doing; staring at your father  with eyes promising she could get pregnant for him if he just passed by her side. ‘Tried and tested!’ I heard her whisper not so quietly once. She has been chasing him around for months. She seems to forget that I am childless, not blind.  Instant nine-month pregnancy, just add hot water. I almost smile at the thought. It would be funny if it were not so sad. She can keep children but no man. I am the other. This life. I want to ask her why she came because is she not the one that said your father should stop wasting his time with a ‘woman that cannot prove her worth’. Is she not the one carrying wine to a drunkard’s house? I look at her and smile. Because that is what you do when guests come to your house. And I have no energy to swat off flies.

…Maybe he should marry again…just not Kwaso…isn’t loving someone letting them go? Ah! Too many thoughts.

Father: Let her be. She will mourn until she is ready.

Say it louder. I want to beg you to say it louder. I cry more because for once, someone sees that this is my own…can’t they listen to you and let me be?

Drink this, it is good for you. No, eat that…are you supposed to be drinking that this early?

…go away…please…I will mourn how I will mourn. Can I not even do that in peace?

She really should let someone carry her load ah ah! Why does she keep trying when the signs are clear?


Sister Florence: …but is she the first woman to lose a child? I am just saying she has mourned enough…

Mourned enough…mourned enough…

They go on and on; rolling into one another until my head aches and I sleep dreaming of how good it felt to slap Sister Florences’ face. I remember because she is now here. They are all here. Because it is God’s time, they say, they have come to greet you. I told your father not to call them but here they are with gifts I will burn when they leave. I do not want their words soaking through the sweaters they have knit and choking you; stirring you to leave again.

I know you can see my thoughts. I don’t know if I care. Not anymore. Thrice you have ripped my heart apart. It has become our dance, yours and mine and it seems I will only be happy when I die. For even if you stay, every waking moment will be spent keeping you; ensuring you do not leave.

You will consume me Nnwa. You have destroyed me. You are the fire that burns me and the fire that makes my tea. To kill the fire would save me from burns but yet kill me with hunger. If you stay, stay. I know it is not for me – that much we have established. Is there an altar I did not sacrifice, gods I did not pray to? Stay, at least for your father. If only so I can wake up to see the way you fill him with light each day.

You are twenty weeks old today. If you listen to your mother, listen. Stay, if only for your father. But this time, I will not beg you. If you will stay, stay.

Nnwa, Remember to Breathe

Nnwa, you would only think it has been a minute if you were not an extension of my existence. And so I am glad that you have no doubt that I have been thinking about you even when it has been a while since I last wrote to you. I am glad I do not have to explain things because you are your mother’s heart.

It is a new, sunny day. I can tell because there’s light streaming through the shutters and I sit on the carpet writing this because it’s always so much easier to think when I’m sitting close to the cold tiles with my back against a mountain of pillows by the sofa’s side. I don’t know why, it just is. Did I tell you there was a monkey on the balcony when I woke up? It had all but eaten all of the butternuts I had thought I would have made soup with by now. So I let him be. It is my fault. I should have made that soup yesterday.

I do not think I will leave the house today. So much to do, so little energy. Also, it’s true – hormonal nonsense gets more real as you get older. And the sun seems jeering. Unforgiving of this dull soul. I do not have the energy to shout it back behind a cloud so I will stay here; where the coolness of the floor seems comforting. No, I am not depressed. I am just drained. Nothing some reading, some tea and some popcorn cannot fix. I will be okay. And I want you to know that when you have this feeling; I like to say it feels like you have been hit by a bus even when that is not an idea I want to send out to the universe. Even then, you will be okay. You will be okay because it’s okay to take a breather and not seek permission for it. It’s okay to stare at the ceiling for hours if that’s what it takes to reboot and it’s also okay to walk into the sunshine and have an outside day if its warmth is what will heal your soul. It’s okay.

It is easy to be overwhelmed in this day. Especially when it seems one always has to have a sense of control even when one knows that it cannot always be. It almost seems like life is becoming a continuous race but only this time, the finish line keeps shifting. I can only imagine how much more so this will be in your time. Don’t run so hard you forget yourself. If I have learnt anything nine months into this year is that we have everything we need even when we think we have nothing. Taking a minute, an hour or a day won’t change that. You will have everything that you need Nnwa. That is why your happiest days will be those before you are taught that there is something more important than being able to wake every morning, being of good health, being loved. Just being.

Don’t run so hard you forget yourself. If I have learnt anything nine months into this year is that we have everything we need even when we think we have nothing. Taking a minute, an hour or a day to breathe won’t change that. You will have everything that you need Nnwa. That is why your happiest days will be those before you are taught that there is something more important than being able to wake every morning, being of good health, being loved. Just being. So when you need to, do not apologise. I was taught that rest is for the feeble. Yet now I know even the gods need to rest, how much more we? I will not lose you to this life Nnwa, remember to take as many moments as you will need. Take some time to do whatever helps you breathe. For we are nothing without the air that fills our lungs.


Nnwa, What if You do not Come? #1

There can be no children, Nnwa. Not now. Not ever. We have had the tests, we have had more second and third opinions than I care for but nothing changed the diagnosis, they said. They stood there and said there was nothing they could do. Any further treatment would only open us to more hurt and more financial leakage. There was nothing they could do. We figured perhaps it was a matter of faith. Some displeased ancestors or some tied up juju buried under the roots of a tree somewhere. Anything to give us even a sliver of hope. And so there is no altar we have not knelt at, no sin we have not confessed or offering we have not given. But still. Some said that perhaps our faith is weak and cannot be rewarded any divine intervention or that there is still some confessing we need to do – something big, some sin we deliberately forget to tell the man of God. I will not even begin to tell you what that sort of response can do to an already bleeding heart. They have said perhaps we should start thinking about the possibilities of adoption. But even the thought of it feels like a betrayal, like faithlessness. Five years later nnwa, but still, no matter how hard we fight, everything seems to confirm it; your aunt cannot have children of her own.

It is for a man to hope and for the gods to decide. If this is in any way true, then I am afraid. Afraid that although I hope that you will be mine, you may not be mine to have. The bones may be shaken well before they are thrown down, but neither the man nor the ground on which they will fall knows what picture they will paint. What fate they will spell. In that split second, when we all hold our breath, and everything is in mid-air, maybe then will we be able to speak the last of what we will think will skew the move to our favor. But even then, it is not up to us. Not up to me.

I spent the better part of my day yesterday on the phone with your aunt. No, not your aunt – my sister. Another I do hope you will meet. We talked a little bit more than we cried. It was not a yellow hour Nnwa. It has been years of trying to have their own. Something about a complication they cannot find a way around. If ever there was a race for the most likely to be the best at motherhood, your aunt would beat me hands down. Which is why this hurts in a way I cannot describe to you. The thought that this is the life she will have, something we had no way of knowing or preparing for, is hard. Nnwa, I think and pray for you, I plan and think and think and plan. But what if, you are also not meant to be mine? I have never felt as broken as I did yesterday. Now all I think about when I think of you is that maybe you will never be mine either.

It is not easy having to re-dream your life Nnwa. It is not easy being the only white flower in a sea of blue. That is what your aunt fears this will be. A constant reminder that she is not ‘woman enough.’ Whether we plan on having children someday since the time we knew we could because we want to or because it is just how things are done is one of those things we can argue about forever and again. But to have always seen your life pan out a certain way only to be told it cannot – that is cruelty. That is torture. It is one’s children that sit by their hospital beds, and it is one’s children that will carry one’s name. It is how it is, how it should be. It felt like all they said was that your aunt would be the tree without branches amongst even those burdened with more that they can bear. It is not fair. It is not right. Ours is a land where a woman is known by her name only because she is yet to have her child. ‘What will be my name?’, she asks. I cry because I do not know what to say.I am inconsolable, your aunt even more so. Fate has robbed you of your best friend, Nnwa. And there is nothing I can do about it.

It is too early to go for any tests. Not because it is too soon but because I have never been one to go finding things out unless they needed finding. And if I were not to have you, if I too were to have any complications, I would rather not know of them now. I would rather blissfully talk and plan for you. In this instance, I would embrace ignorance. If it gives me the hope that you are mine, will be mine, I will take it. I have seen what hopelessness can do and Nnwa, your aunt, she is strong. I would not survive it. Talk to the Big Oga there for me if you can. I like to think that you are closer to him than we are. Speak to him about your aunt. Ask him to change the way the bones fell. Ask him for a miracle – anything that can make this right. And while you’re there, ask him to let you come to me when the time comes. To come to me, and to stay. I would not survive this life any other way.

You will Love Bear Crawls

Nnwa, as I write this, only my mouth and my fingers are able to move. No, nothing is wrong – nothing at all. In fact, I am happier and more relaxed than I have been in a while. I went to my first Taebo class the other day, and if I had thought your aunt mad for insisting on taking the stairs every day while living on the sixth floor, it is because I had not known madness. Everything ached but the fun we had! You would have loved the bear crawls. I could almost see you scurrying away as your mama pants, laughs and sweats along trying to keep up. We should go someday, and you can be my partner. I had my second spin class today, and I must admit, I was a little low on energy, but I kept at it. I did serve massive amounts of side eye to the guy in the corner because who pedals that fast with maximum resistance? Who? Ah ah! I did not know I could hold a jealous thought for that long. So now I am all over the net searching out ways to keep my energy up, how to beat the resistance and what not because I want some side eye too. See? Appeals to human vanity almost always win.

I hope to keep this up, I really do want to repair my never existing relationship with health and fitness. Yes, non-existent Nnwa because the more I think about it, the more I see that I actually have given very little thought at best to the entire business.

I was born and raised in the ‘Home of Champions’ Nnwa. Everyone and their mother was a runner. Literally. Eldoret back then had its healthy dose of rains but then the second term at school would come, and you could feel the air light up because, at the end of it, we would have our annual sports event. The only reason we came to believe some children had people was that on this one day the track field was green, and everyone’s everyone showed up because athletics was the main sport. The students prepped all term, but the main event was the parents run. Yes, Nnwa, there was a mother’s and a separate father’s race, and I will never forget the sight of these ladies and gentlemen volunteering to go for 100m sprints or full relays because that was when the party started. You did not have to call for volunteers twice. Brown leather jackets were put down, shoes cast away, skirts gathered – this was serious business. The starter would go off, and the running began. See, everyone and their mother was a runner.

I was not particularly good at it, but I made the 100m sprints for a while (until I realised it needed a bra I did not have to keep up with) but even then, only because I had to. Sports and I never had a comfortable relationship. Physical education classes were a bore because you can only run around the field unsupervised, in uncomfortable, mandatory bloomers so many times. No one really told me why – not the ‘exercise is good for you, and that’s that’ version but, really why I needed it even when I did not want it. There was no Google access back then Nnwa (not for me anyway) and the only people that told you things that you needed to learn were your teachers. But they were book teachers. I don’t even think it ever crossed their minds to actually sell the idea behind the PE classes to us or for us to ask and when it did, it was probably a rant on how that time wasted could have been channelled into an extra math class. I can’t help but wonder if it could have been different perhaps if we had discussions on what our bodies are made of and how it all comes together. Talks about different exercise routines and sporting activities – something other than running – and how they build our bodies to function better so our minds would be at their best too. At the end of it all, maybe they would have dangled a carrot – images of what fitness would look on a body ten, even fifteen years from then. And what it would not because if all else fails, appeals to human vanity may just have tilted the scales for a better-adjusted lifestyle. I don’t know if it would have helped Nnwa, but it would have started a conversation that would have been interesting to have at the back of one’s mind every time one hid in the sick bay to evade another games period. One that would have probably gotten us into a habit that would save us from a lot of catch up later.

I think it’s the same with food as a concept. Of course, I knew what food was and what was not Nnwa, but that was basically the end of it. I had a weakly emphasised understanding which went mostly along the lines of ‘don’t eat so many fries and that much of carbohydrates’ but with the offerings always leaning towards different versions of both. I really didn’t think much of it. In retrospect, I don’t think I knew I needed to. It did not help to already have a bigger frame than others Nnwa and a sweet tooth to boot. Having fast foods, snacking on sweet treats and the escape from exercise were just fun things to do. I did not think about this stuff much as I did them because I was a child. I was a kid that ate because I liked to, skipped exercise because I could and didn’t have any concepts to challenge my little self’s understanding of either.

Years later, I am working on rewiring my brain on these matters. You will be here soon, and it would not do to pass on habits that you will later need to unlearn. Not if I can do something about it. I hope we will have a better approach. I don’t think the rising numbers of children affected by childhood obesity are really mostly as a result of suburbia living, fast food culture and the fact that ‘couching’ is now a thing – a major thing. Parents could cut off as much of this and that as they want but without actually teaching the little humans the reasons behind the choices, the effect will only be felt for as long as they were small enough to only eat what you plate. We need to have it go further in the future. Apart from exercise, it is said that diet plays a significant role in the management of health issues, body weight included and I believe the fact that not many children are made to understand what food really is, what our bodies need, what portions are and so forth is really the puppet master behind what we see. What they know first creates a buffer that feeds later, feeds into the habits they form. We can do more than up the vegetables in our menu’s, we can change this story. Nnwa, I am changing mine, so I can change yours and you can change that which will follow.

It is also said that children learn best from what they see. I want us to curl up for a movie marathon and stay at home all day Saturday and I also want you to see me get up for a morning workout, go for walks, maybe even a run. I want you to come with me for some bear crawls some day. I want you to ask why I do these things and I want to know enough to tell you and show you what your body is made of, how your muscles work and what each needs to keep active and healthy. I want you to eat pizza and fried chicken and chips and know that there is so much more. I also want you to try out oats, eat vegetables, salads, lots of fruits and water because you will know what each food gives. You will know it is all about the balance. I don’t want you always reaching out for processed snacks because there is no better option in the fridge or the pantry. I want to know enough to make sure you always have the options you need to make the healthier choice. It has taken a while but when you realise you will literally shape another person’s foundation in life, you really want to be able to give them the best head start you can. That is why I am relearning this now.

Rock, Paper, Scissors

Scissors cut paper, paper covers rock and rock breaks scissors. Such meaningful simplicity. The kind you search for many times (several times on Mondays) but never really fully come to again. I miss the ease that was childhood. Although I do recall several times, I believe it was a fearlessly selfish era laced with just enough doses of cute and cuddly to blissfully be self-seeking, unforgiving and indispensable all at once. Oh, the bliss and the tyranny of the free era. With the years comes a weight of thought that is hard to escape from at best. Life is clearly not a walk in the park. Yes, all those lyrics lured us into bubbles that cannot hold in the gravity we live in now.

This lane is not so bad though. The greatest irony I am coming to terms with is that there is no such thing as running from. Only postponing the time it will take to come to full circle. In retrospect, I recall my running phases with a lot of amusement. I am not much of a runner. The few times I have tried to pull off any such exercise have led to devastating effects. Not kidding – I have fractured my foot once, massively sprained it twice and get this –  almost got run over a  couple of minutes after leaving the gym. I kid you not. I should have taken the hint – I am not meant for running. But yet I still do. I particularly remember this one phase where I just kept running from the obligations of religion and all that I perceived to come with it.

See, I grew up in the nineties when ‘revivals’ were in plenty. Though I still do not fully understand what that truly meant (or why just that one word? Why not a declarative sentence right after it? What was a revival anyway?), I knew enough to know it supercharged atmospheres. Caused many a parent to leave their children behind (or worse, go with) to an unmentionable number of church services. If your folks were really into it, your friend list would be reviewed and cut down to the chosen few that were ‘aligned in spirit.’ Revival things. I am not sure I understood much at the time, but it was planted in me right about then that religion was necessary. So important that it had the single unarguable pass to shatter one’s axis and claim one’s attention so much that children grew up unattended or on their own much like weeds would and life continued even in the bursts of one’s absence. So I feared it increasingly until I did what I know not to do, run. And in that time I still thought a lot of what I did not want to become – detached. But as all troubled souls are prone to do, one thing is replaced by another and work was what I poured myself into. The circle was still coming to. I just did not see it coming. I did not see that in running, I was becoming exactly what I did not want to be. I left myself unattended and life, as always, moved on.

From my childhood’s eyes, religion was the problem – but it really wasn’t. I have memories of babysitting myself and watching a massive amount of Oprah. I remember reading through too many books and copies of the readers digests and collecting recipes (Also running up the electric bill with all that experimental baking). I remember being alone a lot but somehow, I do not remember being lonely. I have been ‘diagnosed’ with a dwarfed social IQ by some and a massive by others, so I think it is safe to say it all turned out alright, revival and all. I am now trotting across many lines trying to make a life I can live in, and yes, I do wish I had had more time to spend with my family. Not at revivals, but at home. Learning who they are and just being a child – attended to. Not alone. But I am slow to cast blame because no one wakes up every morning wanting to make the worst out of their days or anyone’s’ at that. One does what one knows to be best at the time.

I am learning that life happens and I can only try to unravel the foundations that underlie mine in the hope that I will understand myself better, and be a better version of me because of it. That is all we have strength to do at the end of the day, no? Rock, paper, scissors – today I got paper, so I cover the rocks and wait for tomorrow. What it will bring, I will use. I will not run; the universe apparently frowns upon it. Do the best you can to learn, to forgive and to keep afloat. It may be hard as hell. Or it may just be as simple as a game of rock, paper, scissors.

You Will Be Enough

You may not believe this, but I have never had many friends. I am friendly with many but friends whose connection last? Those I have always had a habit of having a few at a time.

When I was younger, I was a pretty intense child. Though no longer a child, I think I still am. I always had a lot of what I wanted at a particular point figured out by or for me. Somehow, I still do. I know that may sound strange, but then I have always been a thinker and a bit (okay a lot) of a worrier, and so yes, I kind of always did. I also have always taken life a little bit, well a lot, too seriously; mostly because I heard at a very early age that you only get one shot at it and for someone who always wanted to get it right, I guess many forms of paranoia set in. And because perfection was demanded of me and I successfully delivered albeit most times. But friends and friendship? Those are concepts I came to really understand and appreciate much later in life Nnwa.

In retrospect, I think I lost the idea of these words when as a 4th grader or thereabout, my then teacher asked everyone in my class to write about their best friend – which I did. Only to find out much later, when everyone had to read a bit of his or her essay aloud, that I had written about someone who had written about someone else. I was a bit confused, of course, and now that I think about it, later hurt not because I claimed sole exclusivity of any sort over this human but because the sniggering that followed told me something I had not known before. I was a friendly child that had no actual friends – at least not in the 4th grade understanding of the word.

You see, I was almost always surrounded by people that found me aloof in some way. Perhaps it was even because I always had a brother or two around watching over me and that, I suppose, scared the little humans. Maybe it was because I was almost always buried in a book or too much television and sometimes thought or spoke as though I belonged to other realms or maybe I was just not as good at making friends as I thought. It could have been any of these things or none. I don’t know. I remember wanting to fit in and wanting to be the one with the best friend.

It may be different in your time, but in mine, that was a 4th Grade necessity I thought. I wanted to morph into someone more acceptable. Someone more relatable. Someone they would find worthy. (See? Intense child right there) Maybe then, I thought, I would be that kid. I also remember your grandmother saying to me, often after my rants, that I was enough. Overdrive imagination, stubborn personality et al. That being liked is not something a child needed. All I needed was to know that I was enough she said. To young ears, she sounded like she lacked empathy at the time but I am glad she did not cuddle me to believing otherwise. Because I was just a child becoming many things and to have felt at that age that I needed to sate this natural craving to be liked by everyone saved me from myself. She believed many things, but she did not find that likeable was something I should have strived to be and so I did not. I was kind when shown kindness, smart because I was my parents’ child, tough because I learnt too soon that there are really no teams – I was on my own, and that was okay too.

Much later I began to understand what friendship meant, and I made a few. It was at this time I also learnt that I was doing it wrong in many ways before. I understood that it was not about having someone to write about in an essay, someone or someone to queue on the lunch lines with. I learnt friends were not people that stood by you because they felt, somehow, that they had to but because they chose to. My 4th-grade self-did not know it was a choice. She pretty much figured it was a right that came with the school package I guess. As I grew older Nnwa, I understood myself, understood others, and I have met some rather interesting humans. Some have come and gone, and that’s okay. Their season came and bloomed, and I am forever thankful for that. Some came and stayed. Those ones you will meet. Your aunts and uncles they will be.

I wrote this for you because I will want to give you so much that in doing so I will forget to give you even much more. You will be your mother’s daughter. Perhaps your own will be a more carefree spirit free of thoughts and fears of what lurks in the places we cannot see. Maybe you will be spared the curse of the overactive mind. But then again, you will be your mother’s daughter. So I tell you this: likeable is not something you need to strive to be. Be kind. Be patient. Be honest. Be loving. Have empathy. Those are things to strive for. Be you – you are enough.  The friends will come and go. Sometimes in different proportion. You will have some for seasons and some for a day. So just be, some things you will learn along the way. And one of them is that a lot of stuff top being likeable. And one of them is choosing to be you. Every day.