I woke up this morning with a project in mind: to make cement cast flower pots. Somehow, I am finding peace being outside again without Anya and the knowledge that she wouldn’t come running out and calling “mummy! What are you doing?”
It felt like I was doing something wrong every time I tried to get busy. Something in me wasn’t just ready to move on. For example, I couldn’t go out to sweep the yard because I always expected to hear Anya calling from the living room window: “Mummy, I can see you!” then she would run out to me.
Sometimes we ran around the house—her idea. She was such a runner! I had to really run to keep up with her. Her long legs and height gave the sign that she was going to be a tall, gorgeous lady; a black beauty. I looked forward to being the proud mother of this future charming young woman.
She would always use a phrase from one of her favorite TV shows, Blaze and the Monster Machines, to initiate the race: “Let’s blaze!!” and then she would take off in full speed, leaving Arum and me scrambling to catch up. We would go around the house twice, yet she would still want to go on.
However, this morning, as I dipped my hand into the sand and let the grains run through my fingers, I remember Anya’s powerful connection with nature. She wasn’t what some will call a “sharp” kid; she was too naïve and too trusting of other kids; every kid was her “friend.” And too quiet (in the sense that she had few intelligible words).
She wasn’t like her big brother, Atsen, who had clear speech before he was two years old, and said some of the coolest and most impressive things for a child of his age. Anya learned to speak good sentences only after she was three and almost four. School helped her to learn to speak more clearly.
When she started school for the first time after we returned to Nigeria, Anya was three months short of four years. By Nigerian standard she should have started school already and should’ve learned her numbers and letters, plus how to write them. But Anya, who had lots of educational toys she loved to play with and had picked up her numbers and letters from them, didn’t see why she had to say or write them.
For Anya, school was for play and she could play and dance all day long. But whenever her teacher asked her to work, she would say she was tired. Worse still, when kids made fun of her for not knowing anything, she would laugh with them rather than be embarrassed or offended. Was she too young to understand or she just didn’t care?
On the playground, Anya could neither defend herself against bullying kids (she had little social intelligence in that regard) nor get the swing started—something most Nigerian kids her age can do. She needed mummy or daddy to enjoy the playground and mummy or daddy was always there with her at the playground, while waiting for her older siblings to close for the day.
But Anya had a kind of keenness of mind that is uncommon in children her age. It didn’t escape my attention. Anya was able to pick out things she’s interested in from a distance and from among a cluster. That always blew my mind! It was bad when it was a book or a TV kids’ show character in a toy section of the store, because I would most of the time be forced to buy it (I was hardly able to resist her). But it was always fun when she was picking out nature’s hidden beauties.
Anya was not restricted from watching TV; the TV ran almost all day, but she was never addicted or distracted much by it. She was more an outdoor person and very particular about the things she loved. She loved books, though, and loved for them to be read to her. The house was always littered with books that Anya would not let rest on the shelves.
There was something about leaves, dried or fresh, that captivated her. Something in her recognized peculiar ones; she could have a leave collection and you would love it. She was also very much attracted to flowers, to snow, to a body of water, and to grass. The sky and clouds fascinated her. She picked out any little unusual appearance and called attention to it saying, “Look!!”
Above all, Anya had a thing for the moon that was exceptional. Many times she called my attention to many moons when the sun was still shining—mostly crescent moons that were barely a slender silver mark on a bright sky: “Look, moon!” There were times I couldn’t see the moon she was pointing at. I would say, “Where is the moon, Anya?” and she would say, “There, mummy! Look!” It always turned out she was right.
The night before Anya died (on April 8), there was a full bright moon that was spectacular, so beautiful I had to call attention to it on Facebook. She was too sick to gaze at it with me. I called her father and showed it to him. He watched it with me for a little bit and went away.
I didn’t mind; I knew who it was that would’ve stayed with me to watch it to our hearts’ content. The only other person in the family who shared my love for nature. Was the moon there that night to bid her farewell and her blind mother could not see that it was doing so?