My memories of Nigeria from when I lived there (between the ages of nearly three and six) are pretty dim, but a few things come to mind, and I will be sharing them over the next while. I’m not sure if it’ll be once a week or more often, so we’ll see.
When we lived in Nigeria, we lived about an hour and a half away from my paternal grandparents, and every other weekend with few exceptions, we would travel to their home (the other weekend, we would travel to my maternal grandmother’s home). My grandparents had a really cool house: two stories high with plenty of places for kids to run around in, and I remember vaguely running up and down those wooden stairs, and up and down the long hallway upstairs with my cousins. I can’t recall now if my cousins lived in that house all the time, or if they only visited on the weekend like we did. I know each of my grandparents’ children (and there were five), had a room or two in their father’s house, and each family would sleep and keep their things in their room while they were there.
My dad’s mom is a frail looking woman, delicate as a bird. I’m convinced she’s never raised her voice in her entire life, that delicate voice of hers. I remember her giving me little round balls of sweetener (saccharine, perhaps?) for my garri. She always did it like it was our little thing, and I remember feeling like we were conspirators because I got this treat. A simple memory, but one that I associate with her. I felt positively doted upon by her.
Sadly, I don’t have any strong memories of my dad’s dad, thought a part of him is with me as he gave me one of my middle names. Less than two years after we moved from Nigeria to Canada, he passed away. It was difficult for my parents as neither of them were able to go back for the funeral, and an opportunity to pay those final respects didn’t come until seven years later, which brings me to my last memory of that house.
In 1994, during our visit to Nigeria, I remember attending a tribute to my grandfather. I remember tears and prayers and it being very emotional. I remember a goat was killed, and I remember sitting in the back seat of our Volkswagen Beetle (that miraculously was still operable, seven years later) with my sister, the goat bound at our feet. I remember all the cousins, the grandchildren, sitting and squirming and not really understanding what was going on, yet knowing it was something important, so trying to sit still and pay attention. I was the one recording most of the activities with the video camera, and I remember many tears being shed.
The next time I thought about that event was five years later, when we learned that my dad’s youngest brother had passed away. I found it especially sad because my last memory of him was his tear-stained face, his emotional tears as he remembered his father. Who knew he would have so few years left?
The years since have not been easy for my father’s side of the family; there have been other unexpected deaths in the family. I know when we go, there will be emotions to deal with that will not be pleasant. However, it will be nice to express them with my family, instead of from a distance. Sometimes, nothing beats in-person interactions.
(Edited to add: we are not traveling to Nigeria for a sad reason; in fact there will be much celebrating! What I meant is that over the years my father’s side of the family has dealt with some tough losses and it will be nice to be able to see the people we have mourned with from a distance in person as opposed to being distant from one another. When you’re far away from your loved ones, and something bad happens, you can feel like those people who aren’t actually there aren’t mourning and feeling as sad as you feel when that isn’t the case.)