Stories of Home I – Afrobloggers WinterABC2022
“Kwanu nkwanu, mthengo mudalaka njoka” – Chichewa Proverb.
(Your home will always be your home no matter where you go)
My grandmother constantly told me things about my early childhood. They were stories I often didn’t remember. Some of them, my parents still claim to be false. A few of them, I somehow remember very clearly.
“When you were a child, you were always restless. Always on the move, always mumbling about one thing or another. And then one day, you fidgeted so much, your Pa had enough, he sent you outside. Something must have happened to you while there, we don’t know what. Because you came back a different child. God must have sent an angel to calm your spirit. Because you came back a very placid child.”
I try to always remember the stories in her voice, but after so long, it gets so hard to remember her real voice. Some days I hear it. Rich and vivid, with all her power and feeling. Some days I can barely remember; it can feel as if I never heard her speak. The days I can’t remember her voice, I feel unsettled.
“One day when you were just a little girl, you run away from home! You decided you didn’t want me playing with your hair anymore, so you packed some dresses, a book, and a pen, and left! Thank God for your uncle Kwame because he was the one who brought you back home!”
This, I vaguely remembered. Or maybe she’d told the story so many times I’d imagined it happening? I will probably never know.
You see, my Nana brought me up. Being the first of us four, Mama and Pa were often out there working to bring something home. The first twelve years of my life, Nana was my person. She told the most amazing tales! And they were always interspersed with random songs. While she was an excellent storyteller, she was a terrible singer! But she sang anyway.
She taught me Twi, and cooked élite local dishes – dishes that kept us hours and hours in the kitchen. They made me wonder why we slaved so long just to get food into our bellies! But I enjoyed it, because it meant Nana and I were often doing things together! The one meal I can never forget is her green soup with bush meat. I have still never tasted better!
Nana smelled of oranges and shea butter, and till today, shea takes me home, to the warm feeling of knowing love. And oranges will forever remain my favourite fruit.
I grew up thinking that Nana was the only person who loved me. For in my tender heart, the person that loved you, was the one that stayed and spent time with you. The one that cuddled with you and told you the strangest stories. She was the person that sat and watched you do homework even when she had no clue what it is you were doing. She loved it when I talked to her, no matter how much I talked, or what I said. In my small mind, Nana was the only one who loved me. Oh, how she loved me!
It didn’t help also, that by the time my siblings were born, my parents could afford to spend more time at home and provide more luxuries. It always felt as if the kids had the things I wanted, and I was too old to be asking for those things anymore.
How could I want hugs from Pa when I was already twelve, with budding breasts? Why would an almost teenager want to be tucked into bed and have stories read to them? I wanted Pa to lift me to my bed when I fell asleep on the couch, the way he carried Mansa. He never did. He would always wake me up and ask me to go to bed. I wanted Ma to ask me what I wanted when she returned from her many trips. She never did… she only asked the kids. I wanted to sit and talk with Ma, about the boys at school, and how they stared at me. I couldn’t, she was either at work or playing with the kids. I just wanted Pa to talk to me sometimes. But if it wasn’t about dinner, we hardly held conversations.
When Nana left, we moved into this house. Maybe that’s why I never feel at home here. She was never here. Home to me will never be the four walls I live in. Home is the heart that loves me. The heart that makes me feel safe, wanted, valued.
Don’t get me wrong. I love Ma and Pa. I always will. They did the best they could, with the little they had. They created this good life we have, out of sacrifice and sweat. I love them a lot. But they will never be Nana. They will never be my home. Nana is my home.