The day I made the life changing decision to return to Nigeria had started out just like most other Tuesdays in New York, an endless stretch of hours completely occupied with boring routine activities.
I was seated at the dining table in my two bedroom apartment, sipping from a glass of inexpensive red wine and staring at the screen of my MacBook. I was halfway done with a presentation for the midweek meeting at work the following day and listening to music from my favorite Nigerian online radio station-my love for Nigerian music was all that was left of what was once a strong connection to my motherland.
When I first got to New York, my indomitable love for my Nigerian identity had made me insist that my college colleagues and professors learnt the proper pronunciation of my full yoruba name-Anuoluwapo- when I could have easily introduced myself as Anu or even used my Christening name-Rebecca.
Back then, I was very determined to remain unchanged by my new environment. I would wear dresses made of ankara fabric to my school campus, check for updates on happenings in Nigeria daily, listen to only the latest Nigerian songs on repeat on my disc-man and source far and wide for the ingredients I needed to cook the same delicacies I ate while growing up in Lagos.
Unfortunately, as time went on, America subdued me like she had done to so many others. She seduced me with amazing sales at the beautiful malls, addictive pop music and McDonald’s cheap burgers and soda-oh sweet delicious soda-that was even sweeter than the coca-cola I used to buy at break time in Our Lady of Apostles secondary school.
It was during this period of the great American seduction that I fell in love with Dokun, my ex-husband and first love. When I first met him I could tell that he was just as enticed by America as I was, even more. It was probably what made me find him so irresistible.
His sentences were filled with words like “ain’t” and he used phrases like “it was totally awkward, like, totally” even though he had only arrived in NewYork a year before I did. It was obvious he was a pretender, but I pretended not to notice.
My elder sister, Olamide, was-totally-clear in her disapproval of my relationship with Dokun. She had first met Dokun on one of her business trips to New York to import expensive designer dresses which she sold to Lagos celebrities-sometimes on credit. It was this business of hers that had paid for my visa, flight ticket, accommodation and tuition.
“I hope you are not taking this one seriously”
She said after having joining Dokun and I for dinner. I had prepared Eba and Okro for the occasion, it was the first time I had cooked or eaten a Nigerian dish in months, Dokun preferred pizza to amala.
“I don’t know, I think I like him”
I replied without facing her directly.
“Anu!!..he is obviously no good for you, the guy is shallow, too pretentious, I know his type… ”
She was right, she, my mother and everyone else who warned me to end things with Dokun but I was too stubborn for my own good. I ignored all their warnings and all the obvious signs of Dokuns debauchery until it was too late, until I was pregnant with Labisi.
By the time Labisi was born, I had fully transformed from Anuoluwapo to Rebecca, and my relationship with Olamide and my mother had hit rock bottom. I avoided their phone calls because all they seemed to want to talk about was my relationship with Dokun and how it was bad for me.
I made silly excuses and went as far as to stand Olamide up at the airport when she came to NewYork for the sole purpose of visiting me and the one year old daughter I didn’t tell her about. She eventually had to spend the night and her hard earned money at a hotel, it was the last straw for her. After that night Olamide and my mother both stopped trying to reach me.
Two years later, It was from my youngest brother Mayowa, that I found out about how bad things had gotten with my mother’s health. He was afraid that her hypertension would take her at anytime but I still didn’t call her, or call Olamide or visit home once in fifteen years.
It was when things began to go wrong, when I found the texts on Dokuns phone, the condoms in his pockets and discovered that I had been deceiving myself in thinking he was the only family I would ever need, that I fully realized my foolishness.
I filed for a divorce weeks later and full custody of Labisi and he agreed to the terms easily. He didn’t want her, he didn’t want us, I had finally set him free and he never looked back. He won’t even pick up his daughter’s phone calls or reply her texts and Labisi chose to blame me for this.
It was this Dokuns inconsiderate abandonment of Labisi that drove her to the wall. It was what transformed my little angel to the rebellious teenager who skipped classes, vandalized school property and kept cigarettes in her bedside locker.
It was a difficult period, it was all too much for me to bear alone with no one to share with. I had alienated everyone for him, my family, my friends and was left with no one to talk to, but still I persevered.
I read books on tough love for delinquent daughters and attended expensive therapy sessions with Labisi twice a week and thought and looked like I had it all together until that fateful Tuesday.
As I added finishing touches to my presentation, the Dj on Gidilounge-my favorite Nigerian online radio station- decided to play the first track from the “Illegal Music 2” mixtape, “Home Coming-MI Abaga ft Tomi”.
The fist four lines of the song’s intro felt like they had been written specially for me and as I listened to them over and over again -after downloading the whole mixtape immediately-I felt Rebecca slowly crumble and return to Anuoluwapo.
I was still weeping on the table two hours later when Labisi found me. She had never seen me cry before, not when I divorced her father five years ago or when my credit card was hacked and all my savings were stolen some months after the divorce. So when she saw me sobbing deeply on the dining table, her usual disdainful attitude instantly dissolved into pure worry.
She rushed over and hugged me, her eyes filled with tears she tried not to shed, alternating between asking if everything was okay and telling me that everything will be okay. I hugged her back and when I finally
found my voice I said, with tears streaming down my face,
“I think we need to go back home”
I cut her off before she could finish what I was sure would be one of her trademark sarcastic sentences,
” I mean Nigeria, it’s been too long, I miss my mum and Olamide and Mayowa, it doesn’t have to be forever, maybe just a holiday, I think the change in environment…..”
It was Labisi’s turn to cut me off, she replied before I could finish my sentence
“Yes Mum! Yes! Let’s just go! Let’s go home”
And then we were both giggling and crying and hugging for the first time in years while I felt a nervous mix of excitement and joy rush through me as I realized that I was finally going back home.
//*The return is not as easy as I thought
The years have taken toll and been unkind
A thousand memories which I forgot
Now resurrect and march across my mind*//-“Home Coming-MI Abaga ft Tomi”.
Photo Credit: Viator.com