Narrated by Nsipidi
I was on holidays with my daddy to Nigeria. My first trip ever to Nigeria. This trip meant so much to me because it would be the first time, I would step my foot on the soil of Nigeria where my father was born and brought up. My father had told me so many tales about his growing up days and life in Nigeria. It was full of humour and nostalgia. Some of the stories were so hilarious and sounded so unreal. One story my father kept sealed lips about was how he immigrated from Nigeria to the United States of America. He told me that one day, he would tell me this story, but it would have to be from the soil of Nigeria. You can imagine the anxiety and thirst I haboured in me when we finally arrived Nigeria, to hear this long overdue untold tale.
My father Mr. Jones was from the south eastern part of Nigeria. His Nigerian name was Ikpeadiamkpo. My father as the story goes left Nigeria in the late eighties to the US to seek greener pastures. When he got to United States, a lot of folks could not pronounce his name, so he adopted a new name Mr. Jones. His main reason for adopting the name was because he wanted his name to sound like an American name. No wonder he named us, his children with all kinds of bizzare English names. My name Alexander Pope for once does not depict anything Nigerian, but that’s a story for another day.
My dad had a supposedly good friend then, by the name of Mr. Wymne. Mr. Wymne had told my father that anytime he wanted to visit the States, he could come stay with him. On this note of invitation, my father decided to make NY his port of entry into America, where he hoped to reside and start a new life.
When my father arrived La Guardia, New York in December 1981, his first shock was that Mr. Wymne was not at the airport to receive him as was previously arranged. He could deal with that, because anything could have happened to stop Mr. Wymne from coming to receive him. He, then decided to call Mr. Wymne. He never got through to Mr. Wymne. He then made it through the wintry afternoon to Staten Island, the address he had been posting letters to Mr. Wymne. On arrival at Wymne’s residence, nobody was home. He rang the doorbell over and over again. He saw a Cherokee Jeep parked at his driveway. He was confused and didn’t know what to do. To make matters worse, what dad wore as a winter jacket could at best cope well with spring. By this time, dad was literally freezing. His teeth was chattering and if you tapped his ears he would receive no signal. It then dawned on him that once again, life had thrown an unexpected twist at him.
Mr. Wymne’s neighbour took pity on my dad. Mrs. Winterhill was watching from her window, this stranger who would not go away and looked weather beaten. My dad never understood the meaning of winter. If he did, he would not have done such a disservice to himself by dressing that way, to NY in the middle of winter. My dad was freezing to death. When my dad rang the doorbell of the Winterhill’s, Mrs. Winterhill did not hesitate to open the door.
The first words that escaped out of my dad’s lips were “Can I please sit next to the fire? I am dying of cold.”
The lady positioned my father next to the radiator and made him a hot cup of tea with a toast. My dad had a glimpse of what heaven would be like after he was taken in by Mrs. Winterhill.
The little toddler kept rattling “who is he mammy? He looks very lost”.
Clara replied “He is a traveler who has just arrived from across the Atlantic”.
“What is Atlantic mammy?” the toddler carried on.
“A big sea of water that is so big that you can find whales in them”.
My dad explained to Clara what has just befallen him and showed his passport to prove to Clara that he had just arrived from Nigeria. Not having anywhere to go from the airport, he had to find his way to Wymne’s house. Mrs. Winterhill kept saying “he must have been stuck or something” as she was sure, she had seen him that morning. The snow was unusually heavy that day. Night crept upon my daddy and Mrs. Winterhill had to call her husband at work to explain the situation she found herself in. Does she send a stranger out into the biting cold? Does she stay with an unknown man in a house without her husband because she wants to be a good woman? My daddy said that he overhead the woman say to the person on the other end of the phone “I can’t. You needed to see how he was shivering when he came in. He is fresh from Africa, where it is nice and sunny to this miserable frosty season”.
The woman must have accidentally pressed the speaker button on the phone when dad overheard, “I don’t want him in my house…before I get back, I want him outta my house.”
Too late dad had heard it!
When the woman came out from the adjoining room where she was having the telephone conversation, dad started gathering his stuff together saying “It’s getting late, I must leave. Thanks for everything Mrs. Winterhill”.
The lady asked dad “leave, to where?” and dad said he didn’t know. The lady knew she could not take that risk of being alone with this total stranger, yet something on the inside of her felt so sorry for my dad.
I will at least fix you some hot dinner before you leave Clara said.
Eating the dinner and not having a clue what the night held in store for him. With only fifty two dollars in his pocket, he knew that at least he tried his best in life. For a moment he fast forwarded his life ten years and the picture he saw was bright and beautiful. He saw himself in a nice cozy home with warmth and lots of space around. He saw his wife and children in the living room playing the piano and violin while he sang “our God is an awesome God he reigns…” The door unlocked and Samuel walked into the room truncating dad’s day dreaming.
It wasn’t an apparition. It was real. “Sam, my father called out”
“Epe” Sam called back totally lost. That’s what they used to call dad in Monrovia because they could not pronounce his original name of Ikpeadiamkpo.