MONILOLA OLAYEMI ILUPEJU


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Dear Mom,

At the start of our respective quarantines nearly two months ago, I asked you to begin 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, especially now. While I was happy to look through my baby photos and attempt to join together the scattered puzzle pieces of 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 US of A. I’ve always believed that the past, present, and future are one in the same and therefore, my love for you is timeless, irrevocable; But to see these pictures of you, wearing these colorful dresses, immaculate hairstyles, and that smile that can bring anyone to their knees, 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 protect your right to exist in the country, all the stories you had to leave behind, I wondered about your first heartbreak, a typical night in the summer of 82’, what you thought about as you lay awake at night looking up at your ceiling, or 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 mostly an exciting proposition; to bear witness to the infinite universes that exist within my own body, on the tip of an eyelash, and to know that this same diversity of landscapes swirls and collides within you too; to be humbled by all that I do not know and will never know about you, as is evidenced by and confined to the borders of a pixelated copy of a scanned image on a computer screen. And yet, my love can still reach there, in the crevices, behind the sofa, under a partially closed hand. The photographic continues to deliver us from ourselves, and also 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 see 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 everyday, 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!


Love,

Monilola