Telling Our Stories: an extension of the Asking for Courage day



Ifunanyaife and Ifeamaka Richardson moved back to America after living in Nigeria for many years.

Ifunanyaife Richardson, Contributing Writer

I was born on Feb. 28, 2002 in Saint Mary’s Hospital in Houston, Texas. My mother became a young mom in her last year of college. Soon after giving birth to me and my sister, my mom had to start medical school at Columbia University.  Because of the amount of work it took, she was forced to send Ifeamaka and me to be raised by my grandparents in Nigeria.

My mother visited annually and often brought gifts for everyone. To me she was just another aunt whom I had to talk to on the phone weekly. My mother constantly sent us barbies, doll houses and clothes. I loved my toys and clothes, but never thought too much about where they came from and who they came from. I knew of my mother, but I did not truly know my mother.

Whenever my mother came she brought America with her: the chocolate, accent, slang and presence. She talked of midnight snacks and fruity pebbles. My mother also talked of 24/7 electricity, which was an unfathomable concept to me. In Nigeria we had nepa, what we called electricity, for no more than 12 hours.

I had never thought much of leaving Nigeria to go to America. After all, all my conscious memories were from the days I had spent there. I had the same routine for four years and had no intention of abandoning it. However, the school year of 2010 was a special year because the school play had been Ibo. This meant victory to the Ibo people, which I was a part of. I was rapturous about putting on a play for my grandparents and teachers. Two weeks before the play, however, I heard some bad news: I could not be in it because I was going to move to America.

As an eight and a half- year-old, I did not want to leave before my big performance. I whined and begged my grandmother, Nana as I called her, to let me stay. However, all my whining led to nothing.

When my sister Ifeamaka, Nana and I arrived in America we went to baggage claim, and there I saw her, my mother. She ran up to us and hugged us, tears in her eyes: “Welcome to America!” she said. We put on our coats and boots and headed outside with our luggage. As the airport door slid open I felt a slap from the cold.

I could not remember seeing snow in real life before that moment. Then my mother turned into a shopping complex, and I was entranced by a new beauty.

There were so many aisles and so many things, things I did not fully understand the purpose of. Excited, my sister and I ran. We began racing our carts against one another. My mother laughed and told us to slow down. The four of us went into aisle after aisle, putting more and more into our cart.

A few weeks after I arrived, I started third grade in a Catholic school in Boston, starting an entirely different routine. I met a jolly fellow called Santa Claus, who I did not, and still do not, understand. I also learned of a different holiday, Halloween with little children running around at night asking strangers for chocolate.

More than six years later, I still don’t understand many of these holidays and customs, but I am happy here. I am happy because I know my mother, and now have two countries to call home.