The women who came before

I can freely acknowledge that this blog has been pretty depressing thus far, which is an accurate representation of what I’ve been feeling. Not depressed exactly, but definitely out of it mentally, trying to find my way back in and make sense of my identity here, in this place. Sometimes you have to go backwards to do that, right?

There’s been a lot of looking backwards since I’ve been back. Like going through a suitcase full of photos I’ve never seen before, that my mother has been keeping for years. This may not sound very interesting but let me put it into context: we didn’t have pictures around the house when we were growing up, and definitely none of me that I can recall in shared spaces. In fact, for a long time I had a real complex about taking photos and believed I must be so un-photogenic that even my family wouldn’t take pictures of me as a kid, because if they did, where are they?

When we were finally shown all these images, hundreds of them, in a large suitcase that you usually have pay an extra baggage fare for at the airport, I was a little stunned, and moved, upset and wistful. Just all the emotions basically. And seeing a mini-me smiling, dressing up in my mother’s clothes, sitting on my favourite aunt’s lap, I realised that a picture isn’t actually worth a thousand words. They’re just a snapshot of moments in time that my memories can’t reach.

I wasn’t a happy kid, not generally, for many reasons I won’t go into now, but suffice to say, when you go back home, sometimes you really do go back, and it feels very possible to rewrite history, to make it seem better than it was.

And there are other ways I’ve been going backwards. Listening to stories about my grandmother, from her sisters and cousins, the ones who knew her before she had children, before even her children had children. She sounded cool, and exciting, and no nonsense (that last one I was already privy to when she was alive). And she also went through it, which I sort of knew, but not in detail. It only dawned on me recently as well, the significance of being the oldest grandchild of the woman that was definitely the matriarch of the family. She wasn’t even the oldest, but she was formidable.

I don’t think I’ve unpacked my relationship with my grandmother yet; times were tough with her, and all I ever wanted to do was get away. And hearing more about her, outside of her grandmother/ pseudo mother-to-me role, it hasn’t necessarily changed the fact of our history, of how difficult I found it growing up with her and without my mother. But it’s reframed things slightly; her motivations, who she was before I was even conceived, maybe even why she treated me so differently.

Basically, there’s been a lot of reframing of my past to fit with this present me. And maybe I was meant to do it, meant to come back and start again, find out about me again, in the context of all the women who came before me.

Image credit: Chignon by Dairy Free Design from the Noun Project

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Maame Blue

Writer| Poet| Blogger| Ghanaian by heart, Londoner by nature

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