{These Roots}

Where is home?

A year ago I would’ve given the answer of a third culture kid.

“It’s complicated”

Home is never the place we currently reside. Anything outside of Sudan is temporary. Even when we’d visit in summer vacations & see with our actual eyes the often morbid reality, we conform it with our spoon fed dreams, mixed with naivety, sculpted it to the shape of our backs so it could be carried with us wherever we go.

Whatever neighborhoods, houses, schools, childhood friends, any memory, these were all secondary because our worthy memories have yet to be made. So we bide our time, years, decades pass, stopping ourselves from ever allowing roots to show & join the ground. Reminding ourselves that this isn’t ‘home’.

This was all clear to me. I’d made my peace with it. But we can never imagine the unseen.

Umi died.

It wasn’t only dreams of Sudan that were shattered, but that of a child. We always envision death visiting our loved ones when they are gray, old, content & being accepted into God’s grace peacefully while asleep. Never in pain. Never unprepared. Never leaving those behind shocked & struggling to adjust.

Now her remains lie in a graveyard in America; thousands of miles away from her father, sister, brothers, & a generation of her family.

I am left homeless.

Realizing too late, it was you that was home.

Memories of Sudan now faint, non-binding, a motherland that was never mother to me.

So my roots showed.

Sunk deep, twined with memories, so many memories; of first arriving to the States, not knowing how to pronounce my name in an easier way, looking for Sudanese ingredients & having to replace them, planting our first oak tree in the backyard, before entering the house  we could smell cooking onions from outside, hearing your voice speak loudly into the handset to your mother & sisters, being scolded & told by you to repeat the dishes, & you always in exasperation saying ‘why wont you listen?’

And these roots, they go deeper, latching onto every crevice, bringing into light things we’d rather forget; being told you had cancer, sitting late at night reading the varying numbers of survival rates, readjusting every plan to fit the number of years you were given, the uncomfortable stool that I used to sit next to you during your chemo, stroking your hair & you telling me ‘can you see all the grays? Remember we need to dye them… don’t forget to get my favorite hair dye’.

Memories are all we have to revisit the dead.

We are pilgrims, & these are our holy sites.

We planted date palms around you.

We place your favorite roses in a vase next to you.

We each take turns sitting beside you, divulging secrets to the earth. Each makes an oath to be buried next to you. I know this pleases you, & strangely, it is easier to talk to you.

They say I cook like you, act like you, smell like you, a reincarnation of you. I catch my siblings gazing at me, knowing they see you and not me. But you were a woman of few words yet with the softest of hearts, and I, a woman with many words, but a hardened heart.

Worry circles over my head like vultures Umi. Each day a new horror unleashed. I carry fear like a disease. I worry that the worry foaming from my mouth will infect those around me.

These are no longer safe shores.

Your oldest grandchild has gotten their drivers license, and I worry. Your granddaughter wants to wear hijab, and I worry. My brothers go out, and I worry.

We pray, we speak, we walk, we drive, we just be, and I worry.

I wake up in a cold sweat dreaming your grave had been desecrated & wish you’d been buried back home.

These are no longer safe shores.

Do I enlighten the young ones or shield them in ignorance? Which horrors can I protect them from? Once fear escapes it’ll lodge itself, plant itself, grow itself, attach itself in everything they do, in every action they take, leaving them marred with relentless fear & self-doubt. We are confronted on all sides of our identity, one fire put out while another is lit. An endless cycle of apologizing for the acts of a few, while needing to maintain that ‘Black Lives Matter’ too.

These are not the same shores you left Umi.