Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Between being Aduke and Uchenna’s child

My name I did nothing to earn or inherit, all I had to do was be born.

Nwa Obodo: "Child of the city," or "Child of the town," or "Child of the country."  
Root: Nwa - child, Obodo - city, town, country. 
Language: Igbo. Origin: Nigeria, West Africa.

My last name has held different meanings to me at different stages of my life. In my wounded preteen and teenage years, I associated it with pain. I was Vict0ria, and my father was the Nwobod0 - I considered a legal name change, and toyed with the idea of splitting the two identities so I'd have little to associate with him. However, the burden of modifying my travel and education documents wore me out mentally, and I reckoned I'd hold off until I became someone’s wife.

Somewhere in my early twenties, the differences were resolved. And then my inner Ajala Jalingo was unleashed when I discovered a side to me that lived and loved to travel. One day during this phase, I would have an epiphany thinking about my last name, and fall in love with it - because its meaning suddenly validated my persona, right around the time I was feeling like some sort of freeborn. Traveler. Roamer. Wanderluster. City girl. Now that I think about it, my dad really started this trend. He was a big time world traveler with loads of passport books. He was hardly home and traveled so many countries, and as a little girl, I would habitually sit in his room in his absence and just drift off studying the pages of his passport, oogling the visas and travel stamps, and some pictures he brought back. That was how I knew his birthday, from studying his passports. Wow! Pretty strong flashback. In fact the scent of his cologne - Jean Paul Gaultier, from his suitcase after one of his trips to Paris, just filled my nose.

Now a week into my thirties, I’m in a place where my last name is a representation of being somebody’s child. It took that long. These past few days have seen me dealing with a rush of emotions. Some new, some misplaced, some once-suppressed. Yes indeed, last week's unfortunate circumstance threw me into feelings of a grown woman and a child at the same time. I was talking to my younger siblings over the phone and wanted to be strong for them. My sister and I went over a fond memory that made us laugh so hard, and the next minute it was a bawl fest. I was sobbing hysterically, and she started crying too. My sense of self-sufficiency wavered and I wanted nothing more than to be looked after and petted. Not seeking attention or throwing tantrums, but craving company, affection, hugs, kisses, and comfort sex. For the first time, living alone didn't make sense anymore. I wanted human contact, and I wanted to stop being responsible and strong and collected, and just let go. You know, I was “christened” Aduke during my youth service year - and at this moment, I want to be just that.

Speaking of which, I have had this song, Aduke by Tjan playing on repeat for some 24 hrs. It's clear I’m anchoring but it's soothing and meets me somewhere. You would expect it to be about a father-daughter relationship, but it's not. It's romantic, easily a wedding song. I don't know how this adds up but someone told me the next time a girl would feel her dad’s absence after the funeral would be on her wedding day. I have no logical explanations for now. I'm just taking each day as it comes. Some sentiments are now erupting on their own accord, leaving me wanting some of the things I came to terms with long ago as a child, that I was not entitled to. This is definitely a series of redefining moments for me.

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