Sugarcane

ele laan wo ca to so omo l'orruco

that is we look within before we name our children...for they will bear our bones

precious

that is what my mother at a tender fourteen named her unborn child, not knowing who would come first, boy or girl, just knowing it would be precious.

but that is just one name embedded like a pillow to cushion the blow from the bullets that fly from the pistols that are my names.

Toluwanimi Precious Oluwafunmilayo Olajumoke Arewa Obiwole. five names and you know the story of the first so

2. Toluwanimi meaning to God I belong because my mother fought in labor nearly a month wrestling and shooting prayers like arrows from her mouth a the demons whom she would not allow to have her child.

3. Oluwafunmilayo: God has given me joy. the kind of joy that has the strength to endure two miscarriages and still come home after a 12-hour shift to breastfeed a baby whom she hopes will grow up to speak English like the best of them. Even now when she cannot express herself she will sigh and say “I once knew how to speak this language, I don't know where it went” , and I long to wrap her in the womb of my arms and tell her “mama, who needs English when you speak the language of heavenly love”

4. Olajumoke: loved by all. My mother still tells me stories of when she would walk through the marketplace with me strapped to her back and people would follow, their arms drifting through the air like hungry ghosts searching for revival in my child eyes. they called me

5. Arewa: beautiful daughter of the beautiful one. My grandmother christened my mum Christiana, but to this day very few know she even bears it because for her, it did not demand the same respect as Adetola, emphasis on the “Ade” because it signals royalty. See my mother knew she was a queen so she could not bear a name that would mean one thing to her colonizers and nothing to her tribe.

 

But I used to hate my name. i crucified all five blessings because little Zachary whom I had a crush on fourth grade told me my name was weird. So I ran home crying “call me Ana, call me Sarah, call me anything but this”. I was choking on the cup of poison I had drunk from a country that told me adaptation meant renaming yourself, “redefine yourself in America”.

Two neat slaps across the face was all the CPR I needed. She said “TOLUWA” do not reject gifts from God. Your name may not be refined like sugar that slips through the cracks of your fingers, but it is in fact the sugarcane that men must break their teeth on before being rewarded with the sweetness. Your name holds weight, every syllable is a beat from the talking drum that your ancestors danced to. And though you are so much more than your name, it is your crown, so wear it.  

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