I have this memory, etched forever in my minds extremity, of tears, of chaos, and vows that I made, as winds rustled by, that you my son, the one God gave to us, the one that taught life’s extremities, those that flair up on their own, those that rhyme on their own, those that bang, those that tick, all of them that occur during nights without stars. I remember all of them so vividly, moments with no roots, to nourish us, no stems, nothing, just detached and naive about life and all its extremities. Yet these extremities took their own time to flower, took their own time to reveal the budding promise we made with the wind years ago, that come rain or sun, come rainbows or spectrum, the flesh of my flesh, and the bone of my bone, will one day surpass the tears we cried so long ago. To see that day come, even a glimpse of it, is to see a dream come through. One without fear for a tomorrow so near. Keep believing even in tears.
There are stories within stories within stories and in stories. That was how the play began. Then a group of students at Saint Joseph’s academy began to take us down a path where all stories begin and end and begin again and end, masterfully weaving all of it together to illustrate the joy of storytelling. I was mesmerized. I had never heard of a play and when I was invited to attend a play on storytelling, I was hooked. The girls were brilliant. I am still in a sort of daze about the audacity of stories. If only we truly understand how they can hold all of us together. Keep stories.
Keep your books!
I like to find treasures in books. Some old, some new. Some full of prose, some simply poetry. If beauty was measured by the books you read, I’ll be the most beautiful reader you’ll ever meet. Keep all the books you read.
My last son is in his ABC recital phase and one book I keep coming back to always is the Black BC’s book by Lucille Clifton. The richness of our heritage, the boldness too, makes this book a treasure always to hold and keep. I personally believe it is one of Ms. Clifton’s most powerful book, one that I hope to use to inspire my son with during this phase of his life.
Keep evenings with family!
What’s so nice about our home in the evening is that everybody is there. Dad in his blue scrubs, sitting on a chair. A child on every chair and grandma too. Rice on the table with fried plantains and fish stew. All of us, smiling, as we eat, hoping the night lingers as we sit, hoping we stay awhile like this, until at least the last plantain is set free, until hearts too are at peace.
I have been re-reading Bronzeville by Gwendolyn Brooks. It’s simplicity is stunning. I love everything about this book, Eunice in the evening being one of my favorite as it reminds me of my own home too these days. Dinners together are a treat, one we cherish on days when Dad happens to be home. It inspired my thoughts above. Keep evenings with your family.
Keep stitches along the way!
Some things help us to keep life as is. Things like a visit to an emergency room for the same cuts, same stitches too. Life forces us to continue, things planned and unplanned, those that depleted and those that persist. How many have stopped when tracks lead to places unwanted. This past weekend demanded I continue life as is, continue with a second trip to the ER, all within 24 hours. I could either complain or continue with my day as if an ER visit for two days were part of the original plan. I didn’t complain and went on with my day. I attended meetings I could attend, tended to my boy while the stitches were placed and replaced. Somethings truly cause us too continue life as is.
We spent two days at the ER back to back with my son. On day 1, which was last Friday, we went to stitch a massive gash he had on his chin. The next morning, he pulled out his bandaid and all the stitches came right out. The gash was open and so back to the ER we went. At the end of day 2 and nearly 10 stitches later, what I admired most was my son’s ability to go on too as if, he didn’t just get 2 sets of stitches within a 24 hour span. I initially didn’t plan to keep this. In fact I skipped it entirely. But I am coming back to keep it because of the simple lessons it gave. With life, some things will take you down a path unplanned. You can either complain or continue to meet life however you find it. I choose to meet life as is, through ups and downs, and impossible places, it takes, stitches and all.
Keep what you got!
I spent the day at the ER with my 5 year old son today. I got a call around 10am to come get him from school because he fell and may need stitches. On getting to his school, the gash was deep and well off to the ER we went. I was actually fascinated by the experience of getting stitches. First we were told we would get a glue and should then be good to go. But the cut was pretty deep and the doctor felt stitches would be better. We waited close to 2 hours before the time came. He was given medication through his nose to keep him a bit sedated but not to much. They had already numbed the area of the gash since our arrival at the ER. Overall, he was brave through it all, while I cringed and held my breath.
The process seemed seamless, a thin clear wire was placed through at the tip of the gash and the passed through the other sides. He was awake and didn’t feel anything through the process. When we were done, the sedation was still in his system, he was cranky and refused to sleep. In the end, we still went back to school, nearly 4 hours later because it was Catholic Schools Week and he refused to miss out on the ice cones promised to all kids at school today. I still processing the whole day and becoming a mother of boys. I have been told getting stitches is common with boys, well some. Either way, I’m glad we are finally home and he seems to be doing well.
As if the stitches experience wasn’t enough, on our way out, we were told to pick a book and I saw one that caught my eye. It was written by Aja La’Starr, a former councilwoman, who also dabbles in children’s literature in Saint Louis. I was mesmerized. I love folks that are intersectional and deep. Her book teaches children and everyone how to celebrate who they are, something I am teaching my son to do now with his stitches. The images were great and the reminder to love all our quirks for they are a part of who we are, stitches and all. Keep rocking who you are.
Keep black mothers, keep black sons! For Tyre!
I think about us today. Black mothers wherever you are. I think about the thoughts we have for our children. The fear we have too. I think about what tomorrow may bring. What today brings. I want to say it will be better. It may not be. I want to tell you to dry your eyes. You can cry too. I want to only see love and life in your eyes. Though I see hate and death too. How did we get here too? When did we turn on our own in this way too. Another death, another life. By our own hands. With our hands. How did we get here. The universe keeps turning they say. We keep spinning too. Round and round and round and back to where it all began. The failure to relate to others. When others fail to relate. Young black men full of hate, howling hate, for each other. How did we get here? Life now imprisoned, death now, our best offering. The thinking that history happens all the time. Only this time, his name is Tyre. He called out for you, his mother. Mama, Mama, he said. Today will be hard. Tomorrow too. But listen, you are still the rim of the world. Your horizon is grand. Without you, who will they call. They will call you, always, mama and you will rise again and rise again to catch the sun, your son, rise again.
Keep black mothers in mind, all of us raising black boys in America because I don’t know how we got here, how death is our best offering to those that look like us now. The system is rigged and racist. I get it. But to each other. No one thought hey, that maybe my own brother. That is the part that has my heart in pieces. We don’t even see each other anymore. So I really want to know how did we get here. Who are you besides what you do and why didn’t they see him as their own brother.
Keep being limitless!
I dreamed things would be different.
Children would laugh and I would sit back and sigh.
There is no place like home.
Not in form, for some.
So thank God for all the roosters, turkey, cows goats and monkeys we saw along the way.
Also thank you to all the trees that swayed around, ushering gentle kisses along the way.
They allowed me to keep dreaming and my children to keep laughing, keep being limitless too.
We will be back, only though I know with whom and where we belong.
There is no place like home.
Not in form, for some.
I am a mom to a child on the spectrum. Our trip to Nigeria over the holiday break made me choose to tell our stories more in 2023. Why? I saw ugliness and disdain for autism in Nigeria. Also not from strangers, but from those I call family. I have asked myself questions upon questions. Wondered out loud whether I thought things would be different all became we came home. We came home after all and so yes, I expected acceptance, love, understanding, patience, even joy. There is no place like home after all.
But rather, I was met with an attitude that might as well be described as hatred. We of course had a bumpy ride when we landed. We were stuck in a hotel room, exposed to the loud sensations of Lagos and yes, my child longed for the sanctuary of our home in the US from the moment we got to Lagos. It didn’t help that our first week there meant that I was working so I wasn’t even present to help calm his anxieties. And they were a lot. Justifiably so. We live in a home that is literally surrounded by trees because I know first hand what green space can do for children on the spectrum. I literally took a semester long class focused on this during my time at UIUC. We were lucky to see some trees in Lagos but the noise and constant chaos meant that the first couple of days were full of dread for the place we were to call home for a month. When work ended and we finally moved to our new place the following week, things began to settle in place. He had his music. We had more space and life seemed to move at an easy pace. We also removed ourselves from things that triggered his anxiety and that helped a lot.
But the time we got to the village. Even in the midst of all the flies that would often trigger a loud response from my son, he finally was at peace. I watched him everyday waiting for one loud scream or loud tears or even anything. But I got nothing. He was at peace. I would secretly watch from afar how he interacted with folks. They were minimal, but still something. He didn’t scream, didn’t cry, didn’t even yearn to return home. Rather he played with his siblings and cousins, ran around with all the animals he saw around him, named them too like Ellie the Cow and Sam the Turkey. I was struck by his sense of joy for a place many dare not travel too due to the uncertainties in Nigeria. Indeed, when you are home, there is no place like it.
I was born and raised in Nigeria but this was my third trip to a village so I too was taken aback by the serenity we felt for this space. Then it occurred to me. People will never understand your ways. Home is home and something your spirit know has no bounds. Even when people judge you and count you off even when things go wary, when you are home, your spirit knows. So keep living beyond their limits for you. Keep being limitless too. If we only stayed in Lagos, our trip would have indeed been miserable, but the village changed all of that for us. The Igboness side of me, felt that it was because we were truly home and there is no place like it. It was as if my son’s spirit knew that he was walking on the land his people once walked, once lived in too. His spirit, or chi felt at peace at home. Mine too. I saw beauty beyond words for a space that welcomed me, welcomed my children, and allowed us to see joy, feel joy and know joy, even if only from animals that roam around or tall trees that sway around or the perfect peace that resonates when you are surrounded by those with whom you truly belong to.
I look forward to giving this back to him some more. The memories from this trip and our time at the village was priceless for us and especially my son. It restored my faith with being a mom with a child on the spectrum and living in Nigeria. We will be back. Only now, we truly know with whom and where we belong.
Keep what God brings!
I knew there would be stares. I expected it. I knew many would never get his ways or ask questions about his tears. I didn’t realize they would stare, or laugh or drive us away. I also didn’t realize we would be shunned or pitied too as if to live with him is a deadly disease. I didn’t realize it would also come from those I considered family, those meant to protect and shield us from the questioning stares of strangers. That I would feel regret for bringing is all I feel. Questions keep playing in my head. What did I think would happen? How did I not know people would stare or shun us? Did I expect everyone to know and understand autism? What happens next too?
At first, all I felt was anger. Hatred too. I hated how they looked at us or shunned us. Hated that they would never get to know the bright boy we all know because his tears was deafening. Hated that I would now have to shield him more from the world and their ways. Hated that they see us from a lens of pity.
Truth is I have zero tolerance for people and their pitying ways. I’m able to live and thrive with what they see as chaos. He makes me a better being, with life, work and everything. I would never trade him for anything. He is what God brought our way anyways.
To the older gentleman that took care of us at the airport, the one who saw past his ways, his fears, the noise, the weariness, thank you. I know our paths may never cross, but I’m writing this because you were the first to show us humanity’s best in Nigeria with living and traveling with an autistic son. Your kindness and tenderness to us is not lost on me. Even the little walk you took with him helped to restore my faith in people. To the rest, cross me off your contact list. I’m petty like that. I really have no use for you in my life. I don’t care if you are still family. I can act and will win an Oscar where you are. I really have no need and desire to ever see or hear from you. You can save your pity for your existence.
Keep the West African Council of Medical Research!
We never forget moments that are rare. Those that are dear. Those that remind us of how far we have come. Those that show grace still for the journey ahead. All of them collided today when we came across an original signature log from the West Africa Council of Medical Research.
The year was 1962 and the log was full of signatures from notable leaders visiting the council. Today, our program officer, all the way from NIH, added his signature to this precious book of treasures and history. To witness this made me proud and thankful for this rare moment where we all lend our voice and expertise to address health in Africa’s most populous country.
Keep knowing your soul!
I like this idea that glory will be revealed one day. Many may see or not see it too. But it’s been promised so all you can do is wait. 2022 was the year I reached my limit. It was also the year I knew my soul in the words of Claude McKay. The urge, the insistence, the trouble to do things as ordained was necessary even when exhausted and honestly, we have reached our limit. I didn’t think I would know or understand what limit looks and feels like because I am forever on the go but I do and 2022 taught it so well. Yet, contemplating who I am, Claude McKay still comes to mind because I know my soul. Everything is like grass and will wither eventually. Wild flowers too, fade when wind blows their way. I am learning though to lean in deeply to the one who measures the ocean by handfuls or the sky with his hands. To know that even exhaustion is allowed so long as I remember where to place my trust. I am. Strength is being renewed. I feel weak yet still feel like rising, still feel like running, still feel like walking, all because of whom I will always place my stride and trust in. He is the reason for 2022.
Keep friends like Asia!
Some friends are like fine wine. They get better with age. Re-connected with my dearest Asia and every time with you is simply life, a lifting of the heart towards all things wonderful and joyful. Keep friends like Asia.