Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Autumn Flashbacks

Fall 2014 - Harlem

It's so interesting how autumn has a smell to me.  It smells and feels different from other seasons.  It smells fresh and oddly feels hopeful and new.  Every. Single. Fall.

I feel like I'm reborn in October every year... Though those that know me well also know that I lost something five years ago in October.

When I was in Nigeria, I remember seeing my mom furiously packing up all our belongings.  For months she seemed to have been scurrying around, scheming, trying desperately to get us to America.
I didn't even know what "America" really meant.  I just knew that it was where my (always sleeping) sister had moved to earlier in the year.  It was the place where my brother disappeared to the year before.  And the place where my dad was living for longer than I could remember...

America seemed like a vacuum.  Like the place where you went to get away and start a new life.  The place where you traveled and never needed to return.


Where was America anyway? The location didn't matter to me much.  Knowing I could reset my 13 years of living in Nigeria meant the world to me.  Maybe I would no longer be the tiniest or youngest person in my class? Maybe I could finally have friends that didn't know me as "so-and-so's sister"? Maybe I could stop keeping so many family secrets... I wouldn't have to tell my neighbors that my dad was still in America because my dad would be right there with me. I can just be.

I forgot that we would need to leave mama and Aunty Oye behind... And my pet cat. How did I forget?  I remember seeing them peel away in the danfo loaded with memories.  The childhood pictures I enjoyed poring over on rainy days when I couldn't play outside went with them. Memories of making my aunt reenact stories from my naming ceremony for hours.  Memories of eavesdropping on arguments between my mom and her sister; I wasn't supposed to listen but I did anyway.  My mom always seemed so tough and Aunty Oye always caved. She was so sweet -- I was never going to be that sweet to my big sister! Hmph!!

When they left, it never occurred to me that I would never see them again...

We weren't allowed to tell a lot of people that we were emigrating to the U.S. But I remember being allowed to tell a few friends that I was leaving. I remember that a few of my friends wrote me letters; when I had difficult days adjusting to high school in America, I would read those letters and remember that there were people who loved me and thought I was normal.

When I left my friends, it never occurred to me that I would never see them again.

You know what else Autumn smells like? Loss.

Fall 2014 - Harlem

But maybe it is good to lose certain things to make room for other things.

Can it stop being so cold though? It's Autumn for crying out loud, New York!