It was all Uncle Sam and apple pies for me. I remember when Tony Hawk used to be cool. I remember getting my first Gameboy Advance. I remember the time as a kid when I puked in Red Lobster after eating some bad food. I guess cheese did not like me. I lived in an iPod nation and I remember what it felt like not having one. I loved Papa John's, The Simpsons, and Michael Jackson, but not even Jackson's "Librarian Girl" could explain my culture to me. Growing up in America, I never fully understood my heritage. My parents are Nigerian, so when people mispronounced my name and asked: "Where are you from?" I would politely reply, "Nigeria." Then they would ask me to say something in my language, Igbo, and I could not, which embarrassed me. I was an American living inside a Nigerian body, born into the U.S. lifestyle, not knowing my true identity.
To understand what it means to be Nigerian, I felt compelled to go overseas and immerse myself in the culture. I traveled back home three times with my family, the first being when I was very young-too long ago to remember. But my most recent trip in 2011 changed my whole outlook on life.
The moment my family and I stepped into my grandma's home, my aunts rejoiced on our arrival and the sound of trumpets blared in my head. Although there was no light in her home, their hearts burned with a tenderness that illuminated the room in a warm glow of affection, warm enough to melt my heart that cold June night.
The love I received that night transcended any knowledge I could ever receive about my heritage and was the gateway to many discoveries. I realized I could not put a label on being Nigerian because Nigeria was in its people. People who are loving, people who see joy as their birthright, people who are full of life, people like my family and people like me. So many things happened, but too many to show. My mom is the little piece of Nigeria that I get to bring back to America with me.
The brief moments I do recall are the ones that will remain in my heart forever. My cousin pretending she was a rhino as she tackled me till I my stomach hurt. My aunt mimicking my accent, while I mimicked hers. My cousin's tiny fingers crying out to me after a failed attempt at walking. Moments like these are why I appreciate the Igbo saying: "Ihe iga eme echi megha tata," which means "cherish the day." I have learned to take life a day at a time because the beauty of life is life itself. Take time to appreciate its many aspects or it will pass you by. Life is short, but it is not measured by how long you live but by the moments in your life. The more moments, the longer you lived.