I’m just over two thousand kilometres from home and it’s Christmas Eve Eve. It’s not a big deal, two hours by plane, twenty-three hours by car, five days by bike and sixteen days by foot. Time and distance separate me from all that is familiar to me. This evening I was reading a book on short essays about Nigeria and I was suddenly reminded of my own rich Nigerian culture. I was reminded about how little I honour and reference it in my British facing and Eurocentric existence. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, it just reflects where I am and what I am to a certain extent. For example, at the moment I am enjoying every morsel of the Spanish food and every drop of Spanish sunshine that comes my way! In my everyday hustle I’m working in the noble institution that is the NHS and negotiating my way across English motorways and endless e-mails, tasks and reports.
But somehow, somehow, in diving into this book, reading about these Nigerian authors different experiences about what was home, family life, parents and heritage reminded me of my own experiences a few months ago. I haven’t really felt ready to write about any of it until now. If you had noticed, my last post before this recent slew of blog posts, was on 22nd September. I became unwell at the end of September and required some surgery. I found myself quite traumatised by the whole sequence of unexpected events. Shortly after I returned home from hospital, my mother flew back from her trip to Nigeria and spent a week (along with my husband) nursing me back to health. It was an incredible time for me, me who had sunk to a place that I wasn’t sure I could get out of. This was an experience of pure maternal love. A belief from my mother that her child would get better with no room for pity and anxiety. ‘Get up Bunmi’, ‘Take a shower Bunmi’, ‘Get dressed Bunmi’, ‘Let’s go for a walk Bunmi’. All of that and more…
The biggest thing was the food. ‘You have to eat Bunmi’. Always the food. The food imbued with love and healing potency. And all Nigerian. Perfection on a plate.
I gradually got better watching my mother cook for me. It was bizarre, me, a grown up adult in her own house, sitting in my own kitchen, like a child again while my mother chopped, fried, stirred and created magic from just a few simple ingredients.
I am so grateful. She cooked all the foods that I would have eaten as a little girl. All the food I remember eating when I wasn’t well in those childhood days. I felt so good after each meal, with nostalgia and well-being, the only way really was up. It was the first step on my road to recovery.
I am not quite sure how I would have coped if my mother was not there in those early stages. Don’t get me wrong, Ignacio was fantastic. I was lucky, I had two angels looking after me. I could not have asked for a better, more thoughtful and caring husband during that time. He did so much for me. However, in the same way that I just wouldn’t be able to make his favourite Spanish dish (patatas guapas) in the same way that his mother would make it, he would not have been able to make the moi moi’s and akaras. I think that’s fine, that’s I think, just what mothers do, they make it all better, in their own unique way. It was not just the food either. It did take me quite some time to get my pain under control, the evenings particularly seemed to be the worst time for me. However I remember shuffling downstairs in my pyjamas and dressing gown, sitting on the sofa with my mother while she watched Nigerian news on her YouTube channel and feeling just a little bit better about life while she was there. She didn’t have to say anything, she was just there and it was wonderful.
Now, three months later, as you can see from my last few posts, I am getting on with life. There are still a few ‘unsolved’ medical mysteries about me that I am waiting for the NHS to unravel, but I am back to work, able to travel and make the best of life once again. I have been able to reinstate spending my Friday evenings after work at home with my mother once more. The Eba and soup continue to flow.
At times like these, despite my interesting travels and interesting recipes, I am reminded of the fact that there is no place like home.
I am reminded of the fact that while I’m taking my rest on the Costa del Sol, my husband is also finding peace and comfort in the home of his childhood, the country of his birth and the love of his parents. Food continues to flow from ‘Javier’s kitchen’ and his mother continues to pour so much love it is a wonder to behold and understand.
I am reminded of cherishing the important things and not to sweat the small stuff.
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