You were born in America. Your daddy escaped the appalling genocide against his people. The Igbos. We just wanted to be free and educated. We wanted to live with dignity and pride. We yearned for the release from the grasp of colonial residue and tribal conflicts.
We wanted Biafra.
We lost. In the midst of the calamity that would continue to shape our lives — daddy left for America.
He smuggled himself out after much deliberation and action on behalf of himself and in the quest of emancipation. He could’ve been killed at check point.
But he made it.
He boarded the plane and as it took off — I was there. Smiling with tears that illuminated from the night clouds as I worshipped my daddy for his victory.
He landed in America.
It was everything. He made a life. He got educated. He got married. He got a job. He got a house. He had children. He worked for a living. He supported his family behind and away from the white picket fence.
He was finally American.
But there were snags in the dream my daddy was trying to perfect.
Like that one time when he was almost arrested for winding between aisles because he couldn’t decide whether his pregnant wife wanted cumin or thyme for the pepper soup she was preparing.
It was my fault. She was carrying me.
His indecision led to an escort to the steps of the house I was going to occupy for approximately a month.
He survived the punishment of being an African immigrant — multiple times.
And still. Even still. He risked his life so that his children would be classified as Americans.
Three children and years of divided attention have accumulated to the legacy.
We are. I am. His best work yet. Woven in the fabric of America.
My childhood in Nigeria was an experience that can’t be encapsulated lightly.
From threading my hair and artfully avoiding the willful glances of headmistresses — to being entertained by religious films at boarding school — the mental flogging never ceased.
I desperately needed America.
Mommy said I was lucky to be born there. She said my dreams would come true. She promised I would be loved for being guiltily thin and maintaining the accent that would open the doors of opportunity.
They planned it. No conspiracy. Nothing to question or analyze.
It was pure and simple. You had to be there to get it. I was there. And I totally get it.
Whenever life took sharp turns as the army barracks across the water — noisily accepted the gun fire — issuing in the next regime — I frolicked in the safety of mommy and daddy.
The look in their eyes said it all but now the translation is vivid.
We had you in America. You will survive.