I cherish the boisterous Black Angel that drives me. It’s ups and downs help protect the place where my power rises. Today, I let it rise beyond the sources of pains it’s leaves behind, sources of grief too. I let it eat, the few things that sustain me, like smoky hot party jollof rice and deep fried croaker fish. These details are not for you to be misled. They are for me to remember to keep what sustains me. To keep the memories from what passes through, the people who pass through too. This weekend, it was our bosom friend from Georgia, Tony. We met back in 2017, shortly after baby number 3 was born. He had a bad case of respiratory viral infection and he was only 2 weeks old. We met in the emergency room too. We have been tied in the hip ever since. This weekend he came all the way from Georgia to pay his condolence visit. To know him and his family, is to know love. A deep love, that is forever eternal between our families. We may not see for years, but when we connect, his love sustains, like smoky hot jollof rice and fish. These are the people that matter and this weekend I learnt once more to keep what sustains me. We are forever keeping Tony and his family in our hearts.

They were on the floor. All three brothers, head to head. Sister was in the room with her piano teacher Ms. Neva mastering the twinkling star, wondering what it was. I looked at the boys wondering why the floor. They rolled around and around, laughing and smiling away. Shining brightly too like rare diamonds on the ground. They twisted and turned, and twisted some more, oblivious to the dirt all around them, oblivious to the sounds of my pleas too. The ground was all they wanted. Getting up from it was all I wanted.

So I tried to pull them up from the ground, one by one. They all went back to the ground after each successful attempt. I kept pulling them away, trying not to lose my temper or my mind. I was afraid of the ground, afraid they would hurt themselves, afraid that they too would hurt the ground. The carpet was light brown. They are children, boys too. I hate dirt on carpets, on lightly colored ones, or any colorless one. They love dirt, big or bright, dark or small. Any that will make you curse under your breath. It’s the reason why we have no carpets in our home. We just removed the beige ones that came with the home we bought. The carpet lasted 20 years or so prior to our ownership. With us, my boys and their love for red volcanic experiments or any colorful merriment, it lasted 2 days.

Carpets aside, we are still in a pandemic. If you believe the virus is airborne, then chances are that no child should lay on the ground. Yet, my boys adored the ground. Laid on it too, like it was the finest of cottons. After my pleas to get up fell on deaf ears, I paused and looked at them, looked at the ground too with intent. I took in the moment, took in the laughter, took in the love fully on display. No wonder they were oblivious to my pleas. In life, we will pass through dirt, we may be on the ground too with dirt. Diamonds are all the time. But still, we can shine brightly even in the middle of all the dirt around us.

My boys taught me that, rolling and laughing on the ground. They call it black boy joy. I call it love. To see it on full display among boys oblivious to the dirt around them, oblivious to the ground, oblivious to the world, is breathtakingly magical. We need more love. Here, they are oblivious to the world. Here, they have defeated the world. Here, they have rolled away the ground. Here, they choose to listen to their laughter, listen to joyful sound. Here, they returned back to dirt, return back to earth. Here, they uncovered the beginning of knowledge. Here they use it to teach the power of love, the power of being loved. Here, they love, love and love, loves them too. Here, they love being together, laughing together too, even on the ground with dirt all around. Here, they love those around them, each other and that is all that matters. I will cherish this keep.

Love was in the walls and headboards. It triumphed beneath the floors where feet’s stomped and jumped to the sounds of Amen and Hallelujah. It was also in the faces of everyone who came to hold on to it longer. From as far as the US and her hometown Nimo, to as near as her brother’s Festac town, everyone who knew and loved Angie made an attempt to hold and pray for a divine miracle. It was all we had. Cancer’s power had revealed itself where her body had cracked and fallen to the depths of no return with its wide reach, impacting everything in sight. So love was all we had left, was in every face that met her eyes, every questioning gaze full of whys and how, every gentle squeeze and audacious pleas.

Love was in her mother’s eyes, her tears too were full of it. She was afterall her first born child, her first experience of creation, her first love personified, her first companion amongst men, her first every thing worthy of gist. Under the turmoil of Cancer’s reign, under moments of shared bliss, even in the middle of pain and despair, love continued to lean in deeply, gleam brightly too, as it tightened it’s grip around her. Through a storm of tears, that flowed for moments of slipping away, love continued to roar, continued to fight, continued to ravage the storms, refusing to turn and flee. Wherever love went we followed. We were prepared to go the distance, to do all we could, even to delirium, so long as love reigned eternal. Cancer’s grip was strong, but love was stronger, tougher too and ready to push any boulder up or down any steep hill. We were all held in captive and could not move for love’s grip kept our soul still.

Looking back to last week, we thought we had a day for love to stare into each other’s eyes, for mother and daughter to drown wildly in love once more. We got a week. Little miracles of what the gift of time can do. The gift of being together too in love. Something my hubby and I are forever grateful we gifted this to his mother. When we got the call that her daughter was unresponsive last week. We sprung into action. I have never purchased a ticket the day you travel. Surely not one for an international flight in the middle of a pandemic with its glaring requirements for Covid testing. We got the ticket at about 7am and kept moving. Lucky mama was up. She was even dressed for the day. We told her she was heading to the hospital and asked her to wear something comfortable. She did. We were initially preparing for her to travel later that week. Just the night before we were speaking about what she would travel with. She had been preparing to visit home last year for one of her son’s wedding. But the pandemic derailed all her plans. So I had an idea what she wanted to pack. I watched as she brought them out and arranged them in piles. She was also waiting for me to bring her suitcases from our storage room. We were supposed to pack her items together. I did it alone.

Angie at her brothers wedding last year that mama missed due to the pandemic.

While my husband took her to the hospital to get her Covid requirements, I began to pack. One suitcase was not enough. Not even two. I didn’t care as I didn’t know whether we had a day or six months. I packed everything she brought out. Then I grabbed all 4 kids and rushed to the airport. We saw mama off at the airport. She never came back to the house. She never even said goodbye to the garden she had started to grow and love dearly. This was also the first time I saw her break down and cry. She asked why the rush. I started to cry which made her cry even more. I told her to stop crying that everything would be okay. She cried some more. I prayed to God for a day with mama and Angie.

The first day was unbearable. Mama cried and cried and asked whether we knew it was this bad. I cried too saying over and over that we tried everything. I kept apologizing that we couldn’t help enough. She said then let’s pray. We started to pray fervently. God gave us an additional week. It was plenty. We are still processing this experience. Still making sense of how we got here. Still asking questions. Still crying. Still even being angry with her but we know that it is out of our hands now. No mother should go through this. The only consolation we have is that they spent a week together. A day or even a week together with those you love is a lifetime. Treasure every moment together. That’s the keep I’m keeping. Being together. With love, we are granted this grace.

We had a major appointment scheduled for 1pm yesterday. We have been waiting for this day for awhile. Yesterday morning, after he had gone to work, I texted my hubby to remind him of the appointment. He texted back that 1pm would be impossible as he had a surgery then. But then if we moved it to 3pm, for sure he would make it. I remembered that school ends at 3pm so I sent an email to move the meeting to 3:30pm. All parties agreed. And so we waited for 3pm. Prior to the start of his surgery, my hubby texted that I should wish him luck as this was a tough case. I texted quickly that luck is always on his side given his name which when translated to English means Gods saves. In fact, he was living out his name, a pure manifestation of why the names we give our children matter for their journey through life. With a name like Chizoba, he literally is being God’s servant on earth. Nonetheless by 3pm I didn’t hear from him. I started to go to our appointment and texted that I hoped he was on his way. No response. I called and his nurse picked up the call. My heart sank. When they do, it often means everything is canceled. She said he was in the middle of the surgery still and this case was proving more difficult than it seems. I immediately thanked her and proceeded to let the folks we were meeting know that an alternative arrangement would be needed. Right as I was finalizing the call, my hubby called and said today was impossible. He would have to cancel the meeting as he is still in surgery. I said no problem that I was taking care of it. I did as best as I could and finally moved the meeting to next week. I let him know that it was moved and went on with the evening.

Like most families with doctors, I forgot to ask how they surgery went. Until this morning. I remembered as he was getting ready to go to work and he showed me this card he received from work. “It always seem impossible” the card read ‘until it’s done.’ Despite how difficult the case was, how deep the clot was in the brain of his patient, with a surgery lasting over 4 hours, today, this morning, she is talking and doing fine. I stood in awe. God truly saves when you are his. The card went on to state that ‘it was the one to make you shine. Never give up.’ That’s the keep for me today. Things will always seem impossible until it’s done. And when they are done, that thing which seemed so impossible may just be the one to make you soar. If you know the week I had this week putting a proposal of a lifetime, something that seemed so impossible, you will understand why my hubby story, this story resonates deeply with me. Keep knowing that it may always seem impossible until it’s done. And when it’s done, you will shine.

I forgot to write. There was so much to do that writing wasn’t one of them. I wanted to still keep something down the moment I remembered hence my little post for now, meant for yesterday. It’s a reminder to myself that forgetting is a natural rhythm of life. It happens and will always happen. Sometimes it’s the minds way of making you think of other things that matter, other people that deserve your time and attention, four of them in my case that occupy every second of my time. Plus a genius mind that captures my soul whenever around. I forgot to write not because I didn’t have so many ideas in mind but because none of them was as significant as just being still and knowing what truly matters, my family. I forgot to write. But I didn’t forget what matters. That’s the keep for me. To keep remembering who this is for in the end, even when nothing is written down. Though I may forget to put things down, but those that matter, my family, my soul’s content, my hiding place, remain my ultimate goal, my ultimate strength, the reason for keeping everything, even moments of forgetfulness.

After 10 months of planning, my family and I moved to our new home yesterday. The start of the week was anxiety filled but by the time our two men and a truck helped move us from the old home to the new home, the anxiety I was feeling started to dissipate. In it’s place were emotions. Good ones, of dreams I had for myself 10, even 20 years before and compared to my today. A lot can happen in 20 years. I’ll give anything to tell my 20 year old self to relax. Nkiruka or according to the Igbo people of Nigeria, what is ahead is greater. As I looked through our new home yesterday, and I slept in it for the first time, I realized that I was literally living a dream come through, a vision manifested, in all the glory and light, so much light and happiness for the world to see. Keep believing in your dreams, they are greater than you can ever imagine. I promise to reflect on the house one day.

When we finally arrived to our new home.

If there is one thing I am thankful for with homeschooling during this pandemic, is that I am learning new things about my children everyday. Learning what makes them happy, what makes them sad, and what makes them curious about life. But what I love the most is the assignments from their teachers. My daughter’s 3rd teacher gave them an assignment focused on writing a narrative about their families. Toni Morrison once shared that ‘narratives are one of the ways in which knowledge is organized.’ To her, they are the ‘most important way to transmit and receive knowledge.’ But sometimes, even narratives, no matter how well organized, are never enough, noted Ms. Morrison.

Lotanna’s family narrative assignment.

Sometimes what is written about one’s family in narratives, what is useful or what ought to be discarded is eye opening. But eye opening is not enough. Instead, sometimes what is described, in simple language, particularly from your children lens, is remarkable. Not that a child is telling the story, but that it’s from their own perspective, from their own details, their own consciousness, their own critical voice about what makes their family, a family. That maybe telling and enough, a child’s critical examination of what makes a family, a family.

Dad, mom, Lotanna and her brothers.

For my daughter, it’s that we are cool. That’s all! Mom, a professor likes to run and dad, a doctor loves chocolate. We are both strict with school. Grandma called Mama, loves to pray everyday and cousin Tochi is in college. Then there are three brothers. One with autism who loves the color blue, another who also loves blue and computers and a baby brother who eats and throws up a lot. This is the first time I am reading an assignment with a reference to her brother’s autism. Articulating her thoughts about her brothers illustrates her nurturing and caring power. Being a family is not only about her, but about them too.

Grandma and Tochi.

But the test of the power of family narratives lies in the child’s own perspective of themselves. The ability at the age of 8, to imagine the self, to familiarize the trivial, enlighten the essential, makes a child’s narrative of their families, powerful. For my daughter, who loves bunnies and elephants, I learnt she was a day dreamer, with a ‘big dreaming imagination.’ She also loves to read, chapter books being her favorite especially the Emmie and Friends series. She prays with Mama and loves running bath water for her baby brother. She loves exercising with dad, jumping on the trampoline at the back of the house as well as playing fun games with her brothers.

Lotanna reading a book to her baby brother.

Clearly Lotanna loves her family, and we are very special to her. Her story, her ability to imagine and create is compelling, is sterling to me. Family narratives can help make sense of what makes families, families. At least it made me look deeper about what makes our family special from my daughter’s lens. Keep writing family narratives, they are remarkable, especially from a child’s perspective.

Our family narrative by Lotanna.