I love my mom. And how she embraced me when we first met and told me I wasn’t allowed to cry. I love her because of the tears in her eyes when I do. I love her because she brought me into her room, closed the door and tied three smooth strings of gold beads around my waist and told me I was now a woman. I love her because she claps her hands and sings a little song (“Afiya! Afiya!”) when I finish a whole meal and tells me one day I will have a fufu belly like her own. I love how she stops whatever she is doing in the morning to sit with me while I drink my tea. That hour when everyone else has left for work and school, that hour is our own. I love when she reminds me that after raising five boys, I was the daughter she has always been waiting for.
I love my dad. I love when he sticks his head in my window before the sun comes up, which is right above my head, and asks, “Why are you still sleeping?” I love him because of the pride in his shoulders, resulting from his respectable career. I love him because he scrunches his eyebrows and reminds me that Kofi and Yow are nothing but trouble. I love when he cracks a smile when I dance. I love that despite the troubled look on my mother's face when I tell her I will be home late, he smiles and tells me to be careful and have fun. And I love that moment every morning, when he walks out of the compound sharp as a knife, shined shoes and stiff tucked in shirt, stopping only to look over his shoulder to say, “Afiya.” Yes daddy? “I am going.” And he nods and goes on his way.
I love Kofi. Because once the sun has set, every Ghanaian looks just about the same to me, but when Kofi smiles I can find him anywhere. That smile is more contagious than the common cold and can charm his way out of anything. I love him because he dances more than he walks. I love him because he tells me I am beautiful. I love when I ask where daddy has gone on Friday nights, and he smirks and raises his shoulders. I lean in and wink and motion with my fist that he may be at the bar, which is followed by a thunder of laughter and a nod of agreement. I love that I know just by the scowl on his face that he is in trouble again. I love that although he is only 13 years old, he would fight just about anyone or anything to keep me safe.
I love Yow. I love him because when I come home and say “Hi, Yow.” He replies,“I am fine.” I love his chipped front tooth and the day I found out it was the result a failed attempt at the crab walk. I love that it took him a month to warm up to me, but now he yells “Afiya!” when I come home, as if it’s his new favorite song. I love when Kofi pulls up a stool behind me as I do my homework and works his thick fingers through my short choppy hair in an attempt to produce braids, and how Yow never ceases to inform me that it looks terrible. I love when Kofi gets in trouble at school and in turn has to weed the entire grounds. Yow would never dream of letting him do it on his own.