The smell of soup seeping into my room
To leaving my house wondering if I smell like stew
Living in an African house
Why do I have to live in an African house?
Something always needs refurbishing
And my friends find it disturbing
That I don’t invite them to my African house
The bags that must go like Ghana
That must go back to Nigeria
To help one cousin and then one Aunty
There’s always someone back home, who wants something from me
Why doesn’t my house look like the IKEA store?
Hell, why doesn’t my house look like the house we have back IN Africa?
Why do we have buckets instead of showers?
Why are we always helping others instead of helping ours?
Praise in the morning then work in the evening
In an African house, there’s no such thing as sleeping
Instead, there is sweeping while I’m deeping
The sacrifices that were made so we could keep eating
Oh how grateful I am to live in an African House
So many things I used to wonder when growing up. Now I realise I how ignorant I was. Ignorant to the struggle my mother went through to migrate from Africa to here to make a life for us. What was seen as normality in my eyes was survival in hers.
We go to school and everything is kept on a level playing field so we wonder why things aren’t the same when we go home. Why can their family go on holiday but we can’t? I can only imagine the fuel it takes for a parent to give that answer without being disheartened.
The house I thought wasn’t enough meant everything to my mum. It meant overcoming all sorts of barriers, only a few I know of. The rest? She hides and makes home cooked meals. The stew smell I once hated on my clothes is a reminder to my mother of her upbringing. She’d do more refurbishments but where’s the money? The money is in our room, the money is on our back, and the money is in our lunch. She sends things back home because she remembers the importance of looking after her own. What I see as rubbish, someone else will see as value. That’s why we have bags everywhere.
My house doesn’t look like the IKEA store because IKEA isn’t real life. Real life is the blender always smelling like stew. Real life is opening a butter container and seeing assorted meats. Real life is cutting onions open and remembering to blink through your tears without using your hand to wipe them away. My house is better in Africa because that is where we are truly kings and queens. That is where we are nothing less than royalty. Prayers stay up simply because what they have survived is simply a miracle.
Show me your parents and I’ll show you a survivor. Even if your parents aren’t African, I know some of you can relate. I don’t know your individual situations but I know this, we have to do better for them. I don’t know what better means for you but for me it means paying rent, cooking, cleaning, asking my mum how work was. Sometimes we forget where we have come from and become so complacent. At times we do the bare minimum when all our parents have done is live and breathe to the absolute maximum just so we can work twice as hard to get half as much. We must do better and we must be better.
The bittersweet of growing up in an African House.