There are a lot of things to be thankful for in life, being alive is probably the first thing – being able to run, walk, hear, see and appreciate the opportunities that life has given you are some others.
One big one, for me, that I think a lot of people would share – is knowing your grandparents. Although I never got the chance to meet either of my grandfathers, I’ve been lucky enough to know two beautiful, amazing women. There is something about grandparents, they often exude wisdom, calm and make you appreciate beauty in new, almost humbling ways.
I’ve been thinking about my Nan quite a bit lately, I’ve had more than a few conversations where her name (Nan, not her real name Dorothy) has come up. I have so many beautiful and funny memories of my Nan. One of my favorite memories, which still makes me emotional is a hug she gave me when I was somewhere around the age of ten. I’d had a horrible, horrible day and everything seemed to be falling apart. I remember walking into her lounge room and making a beeline for her chair, which sat in the same corner for all of my childhood, I climbed up the side of it and curled up in her lap. She wrapped her arms around me and I just lay there and cried. It is the best hug I have ever had in my life – it was the feeling of security, warmth, family and love in a single gesture. I don’t know how long we sat there like that, but I just remember that feeling, I can still feel her arms around me in a way. I hope that one day I can give my own grandchildren a hug like that. Before Nan passed away I spent a lot of time with her, sometimes I’d just spend long stretches of time sitting with her, holding her hand and telling her I love her. I feel that I got the chance to tell my Nan all the things I needed to, and when she passed I knew and felt her physical absence, but not emotional – that I still feel.
And my Mma, my Nigerian grandmother. She is so beautiful. Although I have only met her once I definitely saw a fire in her eyes that is rare in older people. We have this immense language barrier between us, the only word we really have a shared understanding of is Sanu, which is hello in my mother’s native language. I have also seen a cheeky nature in my Mma, she is quick to chuckle. I spoke with her the other day over the phone. I said Sanu Mma and she responded with a cascade of words that make no sense to me. My mothers native language is beautiful, it sounds like music so I just sat and listened. Afterward my Aunty Uni translated and said Mma says she loves you. I told Uni to let Mma know that I love her too. Although I’ve never had a verbally communicative conversation with this woman I feel a strong connection with her and I miss her hugs too, they were different to my Nan’s. When my Mma hugs you, she stoops so that the hug is contained to your upper body. It took a while to get used to, but I’d love to have one of those hugs now. If I could tell my Mma anything I would want to say a lot of things, I’d want to tell her all about my childhood and my life now. I’d want to ask for her advice like I was able to with my Nana. I’d want to discuss decisions I’d made and silly things I’d done and ask her so much about her life. I’d want to tell her that I feel like I’m not connected to my Nigerian roots but that I want to learn. I’d want to cook with her and learn her skills, I’d want to hear her talk and connect the emotions I can see in her eyes with what she has to say. But I guess if I could I could say anything that really communicated all I want to say it would be Ina sonki (e-na son ke), I love you in Hausa. Ina sonki, Mma.