Author: Aisha Tall
Tags: Africa, Heritage, Quarter Finalist
Just before I turned the knob of the door that would lead me to the family I hadn't seen in 9 years, I took a deep breath and berated myself for being so nervous. This is your family! I said to myself. No need to be nervous. I finally turned the door knob and went inside with my 2 sisters and mother and father. We were immediately greeted by crying aunties, jubilant uncles, and curious cousins. The only person missing was my grandma, who at the time I knew was sick. Unfortunately, I didn't know how sick. My mother and I entered the room to meet my grandmother, while my father put away our suitcases. I pushed the curtain to the side and walked up to a woman who had an old, wrinkly face, like a raisin, blue eyes that looked like they could stare into your soul, and tears that looked like a waterfall pooling from her eyes. We went up and hugged her and my mother said in our native language,"Shhh, mommy. We are here." We remained like that for what seems like forever. When the time came we were called for dinner and let go of my grandmother who was bed-ridden and had already eaten. We sat down on a floor mat around a large bowl of rice, fish, chicken, cabbage, and carrots. We started digging in, eating with our hands. I was not used to this, but I wanted to instill and experience as much of my family's culture as possible. After growing accustomed to my family's lifestyle, I realized how different Africa was from America, yet how I loved both with all my heart. When we left Africa, I was so heartbroken. Tears kept threatening to fall, but I pushed them back in and put up a front, saying goodbye to everyone and leaving. I was going to miss the ice cream man, the kind lady who always gave me an extra popsicle when I bought one, my amusing, unique family, the guy who drove us to the airport, our neighbors, especially Fatou, who always refused to admit she wore wigs and hair extensions no matter how obvious it was, and most of all my grandma, the kindhearted woman who raised so many children and loved them with all her heart, the woman who wasn't afraid to smack some sense into you, the woman who never gave up on you even when others did. A week after returning to America, my beloved grandma passed away, but I find peace in knowing that she is not in pain anymore. I wrote this for you, grandma. I love you and even though I saw you through one of your worst times, it doesn't mean I'll forget the best. It just means I'll treasure them more. I thought that by going to Africa, I'd have tons of fun, make new friends, and see a place completely different from what I'm accustomed to, and I did, but I also received a new perspective of the hardships in Africa compared to ours in the US, I got a new insight on how close family and neighbors are to the point where someone will consider their neighbors child like their own, and I got the chance to meet one of the most influential women in my life one last time.