It is the first time, I sense how much she will miss me. I know she does not want me to feel guilty for leaving. But tonight, I feel guilty just the same.
‘Are you online? One of your nieces would like to Skype with you!’ A lazy Sunday morning in Utrecht. I am still in bed, checking Nigerian news sites and having a coffee, when this e-mail from my sister-in-law arrives. I activate Skype and almost immediately the little bespectacled face of one of the four-year old twins appears on-screen.
She waves and tells me she made me a drawing, holding a paper full of yellow and red hearts up to where she thinks the camera is. I admire the colours and promise I’ll take her drawing with me next time I come to babysit. We talk a bit about what she and her two sisters did over the weekend and then her toddler attention span gives in.
‘Auntie Femke, I’ll go play,’ she announces. She wrestles herself off the desk chair that is too high for her and runs of. I am about to log out when the little blond girl returns to the computer.
‘Auntie Femke, forgot to tell you. When you are going to Africa, I will miss you so!”
Then she leaves the room, leaving her auntie behind with a lump in her throat.
I am in The Netherlands preparing to move to Lagos in July. The coming weeks will speed by, I know. I’ll have to move out of my Utrecht apartment by the end of next month and move my stuff to my mother’s place. Wilma, the bright red Toyota I recently bought, will have to be shipped to Nigeria. Documents have to be prepared. The ‘to do’ list seems endless. And then all around me people are starting to say goodbye to me.
I shrug when they do, responding I am not off just yet. I did so last night at the family gathering for my uncle’s birthday. It is one of those European summer evenings when the sun does not seem to have any plans of going down. There is wine and cheese and silly running gags only members of the same family get, and then there are the goodbyes. The word I hate most in any language.
My family lives in the South mostly, so at the end of the evening I go home with my mum. She wants to show me how she has already vacated my childhood bedroom for me. This is going to be my base when I am visiting from Nigeria, and she is planning to paint the walls before I ‘move in’, as she calls it. She has miscalculated how long I will be at her place before I leave for Lagos – just two weeks.
‘I’d hoped you’d be here a bit longer’, she says.
It is the first time I sense how much she will miss me. She has been so supportive of me moving to Nigeria, never even hinting to her own emotions. I know she does not want me to feel guilty for leaving. But tonight I feel guilty just the same. All of a sudden I am overwhelmed by the implications of the move I am about to make. All those beloved people I am leaving behind in The Netherlands, the long time friends who are always there for me, my family. What am I about to do?
My mum notices my mood changing, takes her right hand off the steering wheel and puts it on my knee. The rest of the ride on the quiet nightly highway to my elderly house we spend in silence.
Before I go to bed I call a friend in Abuja. He is hanging out with some people I also know. It sounds like they are enjoying a lovely Abuja Saturday night. The background laughter and shouted ‘hellos!’ make me want to catch the next plane to Nigeria. I go to sleep with a smile on my face, contemplating how only a minute ago I was feeling sad to go, and now I can’t wait.
In the morning I mention on Twitter that my people here are starting to say goodbye to me, and how I do not like this. Right away a dear Lagosian tweep responds.
‘We’ll help make Lagos fun for you,’ she tweets.
I hate goodbyes. But I am very fond of warm welcomes.
Talk to Femke on Twitter @femkevanzeijl
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