Author: Anaeto Chinemere
It's quite difficult for someone so young to understand why a place they have never visited, let alone seen pictures of , is suppose to refer to that place as "home". In a split second the way I looked at life was completely changed. I was getting ready for school when the phone rang and like any other morning I was too busy to talk; therefore, my mother answered the phone. My parents are from Nigeria and are bilingual, so I couldn't understand what they were saying. I managed to get that my grandfather, the last of my mother's parents, was terminally ill. He wished to meet my siblings and me for the first time. After a couple of weeks, my mother and father came home and said, "We're going home". I checked my surroundings to ensure I didn't sleep walk. I asked for clarification. They excitingly explained to us how we were going to Nigeria to meet my grandfather. The trip would be from December 19th to January 4th. Over a series of ups and downs, we got a phone call informing us that our grandfather was doing better. One rainy day when I was teaching my Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets how to successfully complete the obstacle course, I received a call from my brother. He wouldn't say what the call pertained to, but I knew something was wrong. Since, the obstacles were slippery we ended the trip early and my brother got me from school. In the car he prepared me for what I was going to see at home. I walked through the door and saw my aunt and father comforting my mother. She composed herself and said, "We're not going to see grandpa". A month later we landed in Nigeria and it felt as if I was suddenly thrown into an oven. Over a series of days we met hundreds of people, who's names escape me. Being an American seemed to be a big deal, drawing attention was inevitable. Nigeria wasn't what I expected. There weren't any exotic animals, but there were geckos, cattle, goats, and chickens and the roads were chaos. Christmas morning was 103 degrees, which made me forget it was Christmas. As an attempt to bring cultures together we made a gingerbread house, but my cousins were more interested in eating it. I remember staying outside as it got dark, so I could watch the stars fill up the sky. We then redirected our attention and woke up the morning of my grandfather's funeral. The day started off with a church service, with transitioned into the burial at my mother's compound. Being able to see where my mother grew up was phenomenal, an event I'll never forget. I was forced to sit in a guarded area; therefore I wasn't able to see the burial. Unfortunately, I witnessed my mother lose control of her emotions afterwards. The trip got worse when I was told that my little cousins, age two and four, will stay in Nigeria, so my aunt could attend school. My cousins kept me going; although, they drove me crazy I wouldn't trade them for anyone. I told them to be good and got on the plane. I returned to the winter frost feeling alone and confused. I still think I was wrong for leaving them, even though I didn't have an input. After the trip, I became more serious because life is too short to spend time away from those we love and I refuse to let carelessness take my time away.