He cannot find his tape. We awakened to tears. He wants to fix something. A book in pieces, he says, between tears. But he cannot find his tape. So he cries. He starts his morning some days like this, crying. Today it’s for a tape. Other days a piece of crayon or a book, even a favorite toy. Little obsessions like this can lead to a day full of meltdowns. All his mind knows is that something is missing. Like a train out of its tracks. Everything stops. No amount of comforting even pleading can reset his mind back to its track until that thing is found. We begin today with a tape. It’s only 6am. But such is the life of a kid on the spectrum.
That we have been helping him get by, past the tapes, past the obsessions, past his tears, past his inability to stop them, is no small task too. We acknowledge. He cries. We give hugs to quiet the noise, he cries some more. We are stern, unyielding. Still he cries. His brain and mind is in control. So we look for the thing preoccupying his mind. He cries further. The tears are strong, unmanageable at times. Some may see cries for attention. Three people are looking for the tape. He knows we care. He sees it in our eyes. He mutters in between the tears, with his hands on his head, a desire to stop the tears, to quiet the inner noise, his brain seems to relish. To know him, his frustrations, his obsessions, his tears, even his inability to stop them, is to know love..
Ritamae Hyde, a Belizean poet wrote a poem about a Mother’s love. In it she shared how a mother’s love cannot be confined to beautiful words or abstract expressions. But her love is and remains one of the purest form of human expressions to be felt on this earth. This love she writes about so eloquently portrays what lies silent, under, between, hidden, beneath, and invisible for mothers, and other mothers who mother a child on the spectrum. With torn and crying hearts, we look for tapes. Amidst a desire to quell his inner noise, our insecurities, we turn the room upside down. We hold, we hug, we plead, we pray, still the brain wins. We hide our tears, our crying hearts wishes to spill. Only thing left then, since we have been here before, in times of labor, in time of unbearable pain, is the purest form of expression, one we felt in the beginning, one we still feel even in this moment, is love.
Through the tears, we love. Through the missing tapes or crayons or books, we love. Through the inability to stop, we love. That is the purest form of expression Ritamae writes about, one we want to share that all children on the spectrum need. Whether in the beginning or the end of a meltdown, for a missing tape or anything else, give love as only you can. Keep this mother’s love for children on the spectrum.
A picture I saw the other day on social media, depicted the many ways women work. Not only does she tend the cow, she cooks it too. Not only does she grow her own food, she buys them from the market too. Not only does she tend to her children, she tends to the home where they live too. That women work both outside and inside the home is well known. But the details, the feelings, every mood, every thought that occupies her mind when she gives herself to all the ‘multiple selves’ she inhabits is almost invisible in mainstream discourse. Anthropologist Ifi Amadiume defined this notion of ‘multiple selves’ as not only being a daughter or a mother, but a member of an extended family, a social being with independent political views. It’s this standpoint that I seek to explore further, the fact that all the multiple selves of women need to considered when thoughts or discussions about her are brought to the foreground. Most women are not frail or weak, passive or submissive. Yet all you see are these portrayals time and time again. For Black women, it’s a double edged sword. Not only are we ignored, invisible, but when we speak, we are labeled angry, aggressive, too oppositional in our thoughts and action as if our gaze isn’t oppositional in the first place. But what if we lay bare all the assumptions and speak from a place of truth. Shine light on the multiple lives of women, the good, the bad, in sickness, or in health, as mothers or daughters, what would such a crucial critical standpoint entail.
When you use a radical visionary stance Bell Hooks once shared in her book ‘Yearning’, to understand the ‘multiple selves’ of women, you call attention to alternative ways of thinking, alternative ways of seeing, alternative ways of being. You also call attention to how deeply connected we all are, our shared humanity, our shared passion, our shared yearnings as women. When you see women from this radical visionary stance, a connectedness comes to mind. Women are not only life giving but a strong sustenance comes to mind in a way that the depiction above helps to tell a cohesive story about her. When people need food, in many diverse contexts, it’s not uncommon for her to find the food herself. When people are sick, the same applies, with women doing their best to find cure or treatments where necessary. Children belong to women. Not just your own, but every child around you. I personally owe my upbringing to multiple women around me, not just my own mother. All sorts of women in my life, have helped to raise me, telling me exactly what to do and how, showing an interest in me, my behavior, my mind, my being. The very essence of who I am today is because I was surrounded by strong women, mostly strong Black women, who were never afraid to speak their mind, to tell the truth and shame the devil.
Living out the truth of my experience in a space where feelings of out of place are all too common is the sole reason for this keep. That and the fact that the time for a radical visionary stance is ripe for all women, Black women in particular. I would love to see more representation of myself, all my ‘multiple selves’ too not just for me but for future generations of daughters, mothers, sisters, all black and unafraid to be themselves. Keep the multiple selves of women in mind as we approach International Day for Women.
Imagine the wind, crying, with a wise owl staring maybe at a gentle deer or a tough gorilla. A running fawn, playing next to a fluttering butterfly with a silly frog, acting well, silly. Imagine all of this combined together as a story. How our brain combines elements, whether a crying wind full of wise owls, to form a creative activity, is called imagination. My 8 year old daughter is full of it. In a recent assignment for school, she was asked to imagine Native American names for her family member. Every name she gave, brought her love and understanding of Native American culture to the forefront. It’s almost like she understood for example, why mom would be described a gentle deer, or grandmama, a wise old owl. Imagining these names in words and art form, became a meaningful and necessary task for her, one that I intend to help her keep. Imagination, even with something as simple as thinking about names that vividly represent her family members, combines more skills than other task. It is through her imagination, that her creative self is brought closer to life.
Imagination helps my daughter understand why a person can be gentle or wise or even tough. Imagination helps her draw and at the same time talk about her drawing. Imagination helps her make something that looks like reality. To the extent that I want to ensure she has the right skills necessary for a great future, imagination will always be one of the main forces through which she will attain this goal. My daughters fierce imagination, is what I choose to keep today. She is literally on fire, the way she combines elements in her head to tell stories. A natural storyteller, it’s almost as if stories have always been with her, always buzzing in her head, waiting for the right moment, the right prompt to liberate her brain.
Of course I see myself in her. They way she weaves together words with images, gives a sense of connectedness, that is quite striking for her age. It’s like she is part of an imagination club, our club, where words are given permission to thrive. And they do. Her imagination is stunning. Her gift of combining different concepts and ideas to form one unified whole makes me smile. So I say to you, keep a child’s imagination, especially if they are as gentle as a deer or wise like an owl.
I have been thinking lately about the future. Reimagining the possibilities on one’s own terms. I imagine that our minds and gaze in opposition, are liberated and transformed for greatness. Our desires, agency and voice disrupts any fixation to hold us down to any preconceived notion of what it means to excel. Language is at the heart of this disruption. One that allows us all to soar on wings like eagle, to trouble the water, knowing fully well that a world is waiting for us to rise. And we will. To exhale, we no longer wait or ask for your permission. To lead, we no longer fear whether you follow or not. To speak, we not only stay at the margins but move to the center and vice versa. That the future belongs to those who dare dream keeps my alert. That and the role young people themselves will play, for the future, afterall belongs to them.
For the past three years I have been co-leading a program known as 4 youth by youth, where young people can work not only as beneficiary or partners with researchers but also leaders with a voice in their own health care. We have organized contests, engaged close to 5,500 youth, all with the goal to foster their own unique abilities to reimagine health in ways that make sense to them. At the end of one of our innovation bootcamps, we awarded and gave three finalists an opportunity to move on to a pilot-testing phase, where they were tasked with working to implement their ideas in real-world settings. The top three teams were stellar, but it’s the team that came in 4th (the group in green in the picture below) that this keep focuses on.
Almost all the finalists were students or those with keen interest in public health. The 4th team were as well but daring. They were made up of Engineers and computer studies, with a keen interest in moving health for young people beyond the typical boundaries. Their assets meant that they were forever tinkering with new ideas, new ways of thinking about health, not just for young people, but all people in general. Enter the annual Oxfam Challenge. Just when you think your hands are full, these young people, the 4th team, dared to dream for something bigger. The rose to the occasion and pitched yet another new idea focused on improving the state of health care in Nigeria using data-driven mechanisms. Not only are they now working to empower frontline healthcare workers, but they also seek to deliver health care services and resources to patients themselves.
When I saw the image of my 4th place team, now in a first place position, all that came to mind is that the future is sterling, if only we let our young grow. The future belongs to them, if only we let them succeed. The future belongs to them, if only we raise and nurture their potentials. The future belongs to them, if only we uplift and celebrate them. The future belongs to them, if only we let them be. Our 4th place team, now in 1st place is striving towards greatness with the Oxfam innovation challenge. Their resilience, their achievement and contribution to health is worthy of praises. We still have work to do for our future. But keep young people in mind. The future belongs to them, if only we let them lead.
One of the first priorities I learnt early on in academia was survival. Armed with the determination that my career and journey would have shape, I enlisted the support of other women and men too. Maybe it’s the fact that they were women, mothers themselves, women or men of color, I knew they would lay bare the expectations inherent in survival. For far too long, Black scholars, particularly Black women have had to carry the burden of other people’s desires. We are always working on other people’s agenda, whether it’s with their diversity and inclusion criteria or with their desire to become more equitable. No other scholar in academia, carries such burden. We are accustomed to being ignored, accustomed to repressing our feelings, accustomed to feeling invisible within a system that demands we remain silent. Afterall, we are the lucky ones. Yet, many of us are beginning to learn and relearn that even our silences will no longer protect. That and the fact that nobody will tell our stories our way, whether we succeed or fail.
So I started telling my own stories to bear witness to my survival. In Chandra Ford’s bestselling book on Racism and Public Health, I began the journey to uncover hidden experiences and long overdue silences of life as a female Black scholar in academia. I recalled vividly the day a colleague, another faculty of color, informed me of my predecessor’s departure from our department. She was the second Black scholar in the department at that time. She left the program and a position as an Assistant Professor for a post-doctoral position at another institution. Her sharing of this experience, deeply ingrained in my soul a sentiment once shared by Audre Lorde, that ‘we (Black women) were never meant to survive’ in academia. That a Professor would feel compelled to regress her position made me alert to the difficulties of a successful career in academia for Black women scholars. The candid conversations about my predecessor’s departure with faculty members of color made me reorient attention to myself. I knew that if I constantly focused on what academia does to Black women scholars, then I would give it more power than it should have.
Granted academia is a powerful institution, but I believed in my heart that I was more powerful, even if the journey feels lonely at times. I used affirmations, particularly powerful Words to enlighten my inner self. Still very few can escape the firm grips of the institution. So I decided to pivot, to move in an oppositional direction, towards what strengthened me. Like the image of the sole figure with the red umbrella below, I surrounded myself with people, like tall trees that I knew would provide cover for me. If the Western myth noted that Black women scholars are never meant to survive, then it was up to me to deconstruct the notion of survival, to create my own shade, my own strategies through the academic jungle. The strategies I employed to survive were designed to feed me, nourish my soul, my serenity, the spaces where my intellect resided. Nkemjika, or the idea that what I own is the greatest, steered me through the jungle. I decided early on that I wanted to have a career that was meaningful to me. Like a pot of soup, I wanted to be permitted to put in ingredients that make sense to me and not others. So my academic soup became full of ingredients focused on nourishing my soul.
The first ingredients were my family. I am nothing without my family and from the beginning they were and remain the center of my life. Everything revolves around them. The fact that I was a woman of children bearing age in the beginning of my foray into academia meant that motherhood was central to my being. In fact by the time I started my career at my first academic institution, I was a mother to a 15 month old toddler and pregnant with my second child. I wasn’t going to withhold motherhood for anyone’s purposes, not even tenure. Still I recall being told to attend meetings, to make more efforts to present the outward front that ours was a diverse group of individuals passionate about inclusion and equity whether 8 months pregnant or not. I did my part to help maintain the front and appear collegiate. But the I took took it a step further, to claim my space within the institution. I reoriented and recommitted my attention to getting my own resources through grant writing. Prior to the start of my academic position, I was a predoctoral scholar at my doctoral institution, having worked under the guidance of my advisor to put an extensive grant portfolio together. After two tries, the portfolio received funding and I became hooked. Grantwriting was my most crucial way of surviving academia, my knowledge that what I owned was the greatest. Nkemjika!
From the moment I learnt about the significance of bringing your own resources to an academic institution, I became determined to triumph at or fail at putting grant portfolios together. My assumption was that people who don’t like your work will never fund it. But when you come across those who do, if you can convince them that you are onto something, then that something, however you choose to define it, is the greatest. What I own, Nkemjika, as my Igbo culture would insist, is the greatest. Grantwriting was my Nkemjika. It was were my curiosity for learning flourished, where my love for endless questions thrived, all free from the encumbrances of academia. If academia was on a mission to destroy my essence, grantwriting was preoccupied with saving my soul.
Every grant I wrote, the few successful ones, made me realize that my knowledge was powerful. But it’s the grants that I failed at, the many, many grants described by strangers as ambitious, lacking merit or impact, that enabled me to survive academia on my own terms. The battles within the system are many, by Nkemjika, what I own, even my failures, are the greatest. This is because every single failure was mine. Every failure helped me reorient my consciousness to the power inherent within me. Every failure moved me into new heights, new ways of thinking, even new insights on my abilities. Every failure liberated me from academia’s tight grip. Many may be committed, obsessed even with attaining yet another grant. That isn’t me. I am determined and continue to remain committed to get better at grantwriting, whether I succeed or failed. But Nkemjika! Even my failures, all of them will always remain great to me. Keep Nkemjika in mind, whether you succeed or fail.
My middle name is Isioma. It’s what I am called within my inner circle and family. It’s from my Igbo language. ‘Isi’ literally means head, symbolic of one’s aura and destiny, while ‘oma’ means good. Isioma, then put together means- one with good head on their shoulders and a good destiny. I have always wondered why I was given such a name at birth. It’s true meaning evades me at times. The idea of one’s name being their destiny is not only inspiring but can be overwhelming. So to are concepts of gender as a black woman in the US. That we are inspiring is often invisible, hidden or ignored, even though many of us are. Rather, what overwhelms mainstream discussions is our inferiority or ignorance, our marginalization or disempowerment. Yet concepts of gender, like our names, are critical not only for black women’s identity but also for the spaces that support and empower our existence.
Gender for example in Igbo thought, meant girls named Isioma, have a strong place within the society. Not only were we destined to be knowledgeable from birth, but our parents and ancestors knew for the beginning that learning, studying, even the gift of gab or ability to persuade others effortlessly would be our portion if we followed our ‘chi,’ our guide in Igbo cosmology. Our name is quite literally our destiny, with knowledge, intellect, placed at the center of our existence from the beginning. Therein lies the dignity of my existence, one placed on me from birth and not dictated by society. Before I crawled or walked the earth, before I spoke words or understood what they meant, my family radically saw me. They reoriented their consciousness to prescribe what they felt should be my guide through life, my desire. They informed me of my dignity, my knowledge, my intellect, long before society had a say in how I would describe or defend myself. What is in a name? With a name like Isioma, everything.
My name gave me permission to see myself as my people first saw and continue to see me. My name allows me to write, to tell the story of myself, and by so doing, my history. My name forces me to put words together, to uncover deeply buried ideas from my past, to tell the history and story of being a woman, to radically break the silence on what it means to be an Igbo woman, a black woman. The task of living out my name is one this blog fosters for me on a daily basis. I am propelled to pen my existence because my existence knew I would do so from the beginning. My existence knew I would work to push boundaries, forge new avenues, agitate or resist ideas, especially racist ones that seek to define my being. Racist ideas based on Western, Eurocentric standards of being, are and continue to remain antithetical to what I am destined to become. And my name set out to guide my understanding of self, long before the world had any say. That in essence is the power of one’s name, one’s destiny. Keep ‘Isioma’ in mind whenever you think of your unique journey through life. It has been and continues to remain my guide.
She loved to bake. I imagine her cake would have been moist and fluffy or her cookies, golden brown and warm, all of them as delicious as her smile. Her baking business would be crowded too, maybe decorated with hints of purple, with lavender flowers all over like her eyeglasses. None of this would ever happen. Though she helped others as an employee for the American Red Cross, Jazmond Dixon, a St. Louis city woman who loved to bake, became the first known deaths due to COVID-19. She was only 31 years old.
No prexisting condition was known by her family who suggested that she may have contracted the virus between work and family functions. Though her family was dealing with her loss, they too, like many other families grappling with death and loss from the virus, felt the need to share her story so others would take the virus seriously. One family member stated the following, “our family is advocating for people to humble themselves and make decisions for the greater good. We don’t live on a large planet… this is on our doorstep. This is serious.”
As we approach the one year anniversary of Ms. Dixon’s death, I can’t help but wonder what if any lessons those of us still living may have learnt. For starters, is the virus gone? No. Far from it. Yet, driving around town yesterday, restaurants with out door spaces were crowded and almost everyone was maskless. It’s as if the death of Ms. Dixon remains in vain and we wonder why the virus remains. Perhaps maybe too that public health officials fail and continue to fail with telling the stories of the dead. Our reliance on statistics, as accurate or sophisticated they maybe, probably helps to also make people feel far removed from the pandemic. So I’ll try storytelling. Do I expect everyone to change? No. But maybe I can convince you, whoever reads this, to take the virus seriously. Lives are being lost everyday. Survivors still have a long way to go. Do not let Jazmond Dixon’s death be in vain and wear a mask, or practice social distancing or avoid large crowds. Do your part too. It matters to end the pandemic. Keep all this in mind. That and the memories of Jazmond and all the dead of COVID-19.
Have you ever thought of stories you would want to read? Stories often not captured in mainstream writing. I suppose they say that’s what writers in most cases seek to do. To put in words, language they would have preferred that they read first. In the absence of such language, they picked up their pen or laptop. That a child’s first love is their mother, are some of the stories I would love to read. Not necessarily as fiction too, but real world lived experiences of the powerful bond between mother and child. By the age of 7 months, my third son is already so eager to speak. Something I know I should be happy for, but yet I am quite nervous and even apprehensive. I have been here before. The memories with my first son’s experience are forever etched in my heart. That we had no language in the first years, not months, is a memory that is so hard to let go or even celebrate in a new child at this moment. Of course it’s still to early to tell, but he can repeat words if you keep saying them. He understands ‘bye-bye’, something that make me look at him alert but still nervous and he smiles, a big grin that easily melts my heart. How women traverse the stages of mothering is of interest to me lately.
The space occupied by mothers like myself, all our hopes and all our impediments have not been adequately explored in contemporary nonfiction literature to date. That I did my part to help my first son speak is nothing short of a miracle and the gift of research that I inherited from my grad school. Will my first son have a stellar future? What does the future hold for my third son? Only time will tell? But even as we await the future, I can’t help but wonder how it continues to haunt my present day, my initial experiences of mothering him. Our story is one reason I picked up my pen. To recall every experience is both joyful and painful.
I recall the joy I experienced when he started walking. He was 8 months old at the time. Wearing a blue outfit with the words ‘captain adorable’ etched in his chest, my son took some steps forward, fell down, got up, and kept meandering forward with a big grin on his face. I used his falling down and getting up as a reminder to myself to persevere , something I wrote on my Instagram account. In fact I stated ‘if at first you don’t succeed, get up and try again.’ Little did I know that the video of my son walking was a foreshadowing of the challenges ahead with him. That we have experienced so many falls along the way is an understatement.
I recall the pain. We were kicked out of his first school after only attending for two days. I recall the moment they called me to pick him up vividly. I didn’t know it was to kick us out. I went to the daycare because they called and upon my arrival the proprietress basically stated that they could not provide day care services for my son. I still remember the pain I felt in my heart that moment, almost like what Toni Morrison describes as ‘rememory.’ I picked my crying son up and all our materials and went to our car where I cried and cried and cried. So we have fallen down, powerfully deep falls, that are gut wrenching and still make me cry whenever I recall these experiences. And we have gotten up. We rise. In fact that same day, after crying, I saw another daycare close by. I wiped my eyes, went in with my son to inquiry about availability. They gave me a form to fill and within almost a week and a half, we found a new home. The second daycare gave me hope. For two months my son cried every time I dropped him off, but the women, almost all of them black and Hispanic, kept him. He would scream and shout and try to pry his hands away from them, still they kept him until he got used to the place, two months later. Through their acts of kindness, with helping my son, I became hopeful and determined to make him succeed in life. Every single fall I experienced with my son, as devastating as they were, continues to lead to an immaculate spectacular rise, day by day.
Now, one of my favorite things about him is his memory. Here is a boy that barely spoke any words and once words choose to materialize in his brain, they came out in full sentences, full memorized books too, word for word. In fact we went from a non-verbal boy, who spent the first year’s of his life pointing at things and really not having words to describe what he wanted, to a boy eager to memorize his favorite books like ‘The Water Melon Seed’ or ‘Don’t Let the Pigeon, Drive the Bus.’ Something about the expressions I made while reading the book, especially the word ‘gulp’ in the watermelon book or ‘let me drive the bus’ in the pigeon book helped my son memorize the words to the book so that he can use those expressions for himself.
Recalling our stories is powerful to me. The need to recall every bit of our experience had never been stronger than under the pandemic that still shows no sign of abating. That we had to not only homeschool all three children, but one with special needs, was like chewing stick. News about the plight of mothers during the pandemic should not inspire pity or even rage, but empathy for the sheer enormity of tasks. That we still lack understanding of how mothers experience mothering is a core reason why Nkolika or recalling is the greatest to me. Keep Nkolika, as you give voice to your stories.
Representation as with stories for black children, have been controlled by others for far too long. For our children to thrive, we really must write about ourselves in other to reclaim our stories, our way of life. As long as others direct attention and conversations surrounding the experiences of all children, as long as their rules and style dominate wiring for children, then the lived experiences of our black children will not be represented in society. It’s up to us, the adults in their lives and/or our children to represent ourselves and take back our stories. Enter ‘I am enough’ by Grace Byers.
As a parent, reminding my children that they are enough is a daily mantra. The world may want to say what it feels like saying, but you my child, with all your dimples and beautiful nappy hair are enough. The world may want to question why you are so active, or even restless, say to them that like rain, you are here to pour and drip and fall until you are full. The world may question your intelligence, ostracize you even in school because of it, with some choosing not to even be your friend. Relax my dear and smile and know that their is privilege with learning and you have been blest with it’s finest ingredients. Your knowledge. So learn, keep it, everytime you are in school and beyond. Grace Byers book opens up spaces for parents like myself to talk to my children about why they are enough. She also helps make it easy for us to start conversations on ways they too can tell their own stories of being enough. She also gives voice back to our children’s experiences, something often absent in mainstream writing for children of color. I am enough is a great book for all children, and black children in particular. It helps the rootedness of who they are so that they never forget that they are enough. As we begin to wrap up black history month, and to keep it alive all year, keep reminding our children that they are enough.
I grew up in a family dominated by authoritative and assertive women. I remember my grandmother, a no-nonsense woman, who would bathe you, feed you, or love and hug you with one arm, and spank you with the other if you misbehaved. Women like my grandmother were never afraid to speak their mind. She was our culture-bearer, a great storyteller, and was always ready to teach us her grandchildren how to act and behave and conform to an ever-changing society, where our cultural norms were beginning to take backseat.
Now as a woman, I live with my mother-in-law, the matriarch of my husband’s family, a mother herself to one daughter and seven sons and my own cultural bearer. The other day I came across an article written by Judi Aubel about grandmothers and how they are truly a neglected resource for saving newborn lives.
I tweeted about the article and added, not only newborn lives, but women’s lives, global health women researcher’s lives, in fact, my life. That I am able to have a career in global health, I shared with four children under 8 years of age, is because my mother-in law has been living with me since my first child was six months old. At that time I was living and working in Paris, France with my daughter. My husband was in the US working and preparing for his transition to residency programs as a physician. Ours was truly a long-distance family. I had a baby sister in Paris. A Nigerian woman to be exact. I was lucky to have found her and I believe that together we would provide the necessary needs my daughter needed at the time so that I could continue my work. That dream only lasted for five weeks with a disastrous experience that made me take sometime off from work to watch my daughter until other arrangements were made. Enter my mother-in-law.
My job at that time was extremely understanding and worked with me to help relocate my mother-in-law from Nigeria to France. This would be her first experience not only leaving Nigeria but also flying on an airplane. It was also my first time meeting her. Yes. The first time I met my mother-in-law was at Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris with my then 6month old daughter. We were both clueless what to do. Mama barely spoke English and my Igbo was horrible. I understood the language perfectly but had no idea how to communicate it perfectly. 8 years later, my Igbo is much better thanks to Mama. I have also given birth to three additional children, all boys with mama by my side. Because of mama, there is a sense of security, not just with work but also with my family, with life. With work, I am able to continue my career in global health, with travel to places as far as Kathmandu Nepal, or Dar es Salam, Tanzania. With mama, my children have access to another mother, a full one, that readily prepares their meals or gives them bath whether I am around or not. With mama, there is a sense of oneness, a kind of comfort that comes from the warm embrace of knowing you are at the centre of a tight web of relations who will always have your back, your children’s back, your family’s back in a deep way. Like my grandmother did for me, mama is now the cultural-bearer in my household, a link for myself and my children, like a chain, connecting past to future, creating a sense of continuity, a real sense of meaning and security. I share all this to say keep grandmas in mind. Love them and show gratitude always. They are indeed life givers.