MONILOLA OLAYEMI  ILUPEJU


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A MOTHER’S DAY MESSAGE



Dear Mom,

At the start of our respective quarantines nearly two months ago, I asked you to start sending me family photographs from the deep past. I didn’t have any specific plans or intentions; all I knew was that I needed to see them. Among the selection were baby photos of me, Desola, and Obafemi with you and Dad, in Disney World wearing white socks and Mickey Mouse-eared baseball caps, in Nigeria when you were still pregnant with me, at a party in Bethesda with toddlers running all about. My heart breaks in the sweetest way when I see these photos; what was once real now a relic of the past, dusty and smudged, but still identifiable.

While I was happy to see my baby photos and attempt to piece together the scattered puzzles of my childhood, what really astonished me were the photographs of you, mostly in your twenties, having just left life in Nigeria to start anew in the big U. S. of A. I’ve always known that the past, present, and future are one in the same and therefore, hold my love for you irrevocably; But seeing these photos of you, wearing these colorful dresses, bright lipsticks, funky hairstyles, and that smile that could bring anyone to their knees, shifted something in me. The past, still holding our love, suddenly transformed into a vessel that transported me farther away from you. I wondered about you before me, your wild nights out on the town with your girlfriends, your early appointments, paperwork in hand, at the embassy trying to prove your right to exist in the country, all the stories you had to leave behind, but also gained in the process; I wondered about your first heartbreak, a typical summer night in the summer of 82’, what you thought about as you lay awake at night staring at your ceiling, what you saw staring back at you in the mirror every morning.

  To love you only as my mother has never been enough, and it is such a shame, but also an exciting proposition, to bear witness to the infinite universes and secrets that exist within my own Body, on the tip of an eyelash, and to know that this same diversity of landscapes swirl and collide within you; to be humbled by all that I do not know and will never know about you and yet my love can still reach there, in the crevices, behind the sofa, inside a partially closed hand; this truth and many others evidenced and confined to the borders of a pixelated copy of a scanned image on a computer screen, eternally. The photographic continues to deliver us from ourselves, and to each other. In these images and today, in the cracked screen of my phone as I facetime you just to make sure that you’re alright, that everything is okay, I still see, if only in flashing moments, a woman with a lust for life, a glow, an unshakeable sense of self, grace, and beauty. After everything we have endured, at the mouths of one another or under the conditions of life itself, after all is said and done, I just want you to know on this day and every day, how endless my love is for you, how deep the roots of my gratitude spread, how proud I am of you and your being. In the draft of such ugly forces, our candles are not extinguished, will never be extinguished, for the divinity that pours from you to me and back again flows endlessly. Happy Mother’s Day today and every day, I love you so much!

Earnestly,
Monilola