Dear Ayo, in spite of our fractured girlhood we made it...

Marie Abanga
Posted October 15, 2018 from Cameroon
Ayo preparing for her common entrance exams
Ayo preparing for her common entrance exams
Ayo the baby girl
Ayo the baby girl (1/3)

 

Well, dear Ayo, I admit I owe you an apology. I should have written to you at least 7 years back, even if only to encourage you on the next leg of your journey (our journey after all). But, first things first, let me start from the beginning, by wishing you and us a happy day of the girl. When I read stuffs about nurturing our inner child, I smile because I give that a 100% yes and yes and yes, all the way. I was told Ayo meant soft in our dialect, and I used to wonder if we were ever left to live up to that awesome nickname. I mean, when I reflect on all we went through in our girlhood, it wasn’t soft. Maybe, we had to be the one to make it our own version of soft, but what did we know, and which resources did we have at our disposal? Fractured is what I chose to candidly label our girlhood. But I am so happy and grateful that despite that severe fracture brought about by all those adverse childhood experiences and our dramatic transition to motherhood of sorts at age 12, first to our siblings and then to our own baby at age 24, we made it and are living our own version of soft. You see, I even added merry to Marie which is the name we got at baptism.

No one needs to remind me how bouncy and full of life you were at birth. Mum says she left from school on a certain Thursday 18th January 1979 at 5 pm, went to the hospital and had you by midnight (no doubt you are such a full moon now). She then spent the next three days at home showing you your way around sort of, and was back to school on Monday, with her friends wondering where the little bump on her belly had gone. Could that be the beginning of your independence and hyper activeness? How could everyone not love you? And you did love everyone back too, always there everywhere and for everyone to do just what had or needed to be done. And yes girl, you enjoyed the first 7 years of your life until the great disastrous move. I mean, daddy could have even discussed that move with you, not like you wouldn’t have understood nor interacted. Everyone knew you were his girl and if anyone could hold any conversation with him, it was you. But I guess, the strain in their marriage and your growing ‘rebellion’, was now making you less of his ‘golden child’.

And so, it came to be, that the entire family was uprooted to another city far away from all you knew and your friends, and you had to try settling down in a new school and neighbourhood. Gosh, the new house was so big by your standards, and in a big fence with a scary gate. All other homes in that neighbourhood looked same unfriendly, neighbours barely spoke to one another. As if that was not enough, their marriage dissolved 3 years later, and mum left you 4 behind. Now, even if your nickname meant soft, what could any softness help with? Your brother was fragile to say the least, mummy’s own golden child and your favourite sibling too. He needed taking care of, it wasn’t long after that he got diagnosed with epilepsy remember? It became a matter of survival, especially with the arrival of stepmom with her own set of rules and regulations. “Don’t touch this, don’t touch that. Indeed, I don’t even want to see your faces around, keep to your room or bear the consequences”. We didn’t want to find those out and so we kept to our room or locked ourselves up in the loo for as long as we could, just for a break sometimes.

I wish I could say your baby brother got better, but you lived it all and saw how the epilepsy and stigma and shame, and marginalization and all other in between, got the better part of him and his mental health took a big hit. The diagnosis for the mental illness attracted all sorts of names which left you scared. The trauma of skipping over the high fence to go find food because you dare not touch step mom’s, the pain of seeing your brother in pain and being so helpless, the fear of what tomorrow will bring, all of that took its own hit on you too. Even when he started calling you ‘Mama Ayo’ when you were barely 14, that did nothing to make life seem any better.

You struggled to survive, at least your grades only dropped but you never failed an exam. Both of you were very intelligent and ever determined not to let the two years of torture at dad’s and step mom make you failures in life. How you wish, he had lived to tell his own tale! I know this is about us, but can we ever talk about us without him? Then when adolescence hit you hard, and all those hormones, and no one to even talk to you about basic stuffs like how to properly wear a pad, of course only some blunders could be noted. You were beautiful even if you didn’t believe that then nor smiled at all. But, let me be candid that you still are and I appreciate how we smile now. The boys lured with just what you most craved for. They promised to hold you and love you for infinity. You may not have even known what that really meant, but you did give them some trial periods. The inevitable happened, that was exactly 15 years ago, you had him and even though from a most forbidden love, you didn’t care.

You were almost homeless, and so unstable both in thoughts and actions. Marriage to you seemed the best way out. You even saw it as a refuge remember? And you did it girl, you met a guy in December, told him either marriage or nothing, and by March you both exchanged vows in front none other but your own father who was the lord mayor of your village at the time. Ha, whatever we were expecting I still can’t tell up to this day. But what we got, I can’t start talking about that in this very letter. Let me just say, we tried our best and took some real abuse, we tried to fight back and gave in, up, out after 6 years. How many kids you had by then again, ah yes 3 boys. How may times you had gotten pregnant again? 4 times. Remember there was the first pregnancy even before the vows were exchanged, that one you miscarried at 5 months, then the angel you had in 2008 and barely cradled in your arms before she developed the respiratory infection which took her back to her maker the very next day. By then, pain was your companion.

But darling Ayo, all the above reflections and recollections are not to open old wounds or throw any pity party, no that’s not what soft girls turned women and mothers do. Our girlhood may have been fractured and interrupted, we may have had some real adverse childhood experiences, but our stubborn but passionate faith kept us going. I wouldn’t lie to you when I say some days today are still tough especially as a single parent living with both Rheumatoid Arthritis and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, but when I think of how far we have come, girl I owe you a big one. We strive on for our own sake but also for his sake, gone so soon but will live in us forever. We strive on for the boys and all those young girls who look up to us for inspiration and motivation. We are so grateful we can mentor many and we can equally give all those talks and write the books to share our story and tell people it is possible. That girls if given the chance can become just anything and can even run a home and why not a country. We are forever grateful for all the love and lessons, all the accomplishments, and all the networks. Indeed, the fractured girlhood only made it tough getting here, but we are tougher.

Darling Ayo, I am so honoured and humbled to have finally written this long overdue letter to you. I conclude by telling you how joyful I was when a Nigerian friend told me Ayo in their dialect means Joy - you see Ayo isn't only an exclamation like the native Dualas use it for.

#DayOfTheGirl
This story was submitted in response to #DayOfTheGirl.

Comments 34

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ARREY- ECHI
Oct 15, 2018
Oct 15, 2018

Dear Marie,

A beautiful letter to your younger self I presume?
Life sure dealt you blows but you have really bounced back many times over to be the strong woman you are today. Sorry for the loss of your brother and baby.
Continue to impact,
Hugs to you,
Arrey

Marie Abanga
Oct 15, 2018
Oct 15, 2018

Dear Arrey,

Yes oh. A letter to my younger self. It does deal us blows, but we are overcomers Amen. Thanks for the ashia too o, it gets better and I love sharing to help others know they are not alone.

Hugs all the way

Yours truly hahaha

Sis. Salifu
Oct 15, 2018
Oct 15, 2018

Dear Marie,
How lovely it was for me to read your letter to Ayo :-) I did love your serene wording. Nice phrasing from close childhood friendship to moving to another city, then to the stepmother etc,Your letter vividly pointed out the important and challenges in childhood friendship.

I did understand how Ayo means to you and you did very excellent letting the whole world know about your feelings. Its your expression of love, it certainly gives you inner peace.

I got a very nice experience from this your letter, and that is not never give up on your love ones. No distance, time, material things, persecutions should separate you.

I also like your strong faith, we all need strong Faith, to re candle our inner self and you got that.

Warm Hugs
Lisbeth

Marie Abanga
Oct 15, 2018
Oct 15, 2018

Dear Lisbeth,

Thank you so much. I had to write to Ayo long ago and I kept pushing it and writing it in my head only hahaha. Such letters are really important especially after the kind of life she/I/we have had hahaha.

Let me go over to your corner and check your stuffs out, I really appreciate your fellowship.

Hugs
Ayo/em Marie hahaha

Sis. Salifu
Oct 15, 2018
Oct 15, 2018

Haha, permission granted :-)

You are most welcome
Have a nice day

Regards
Lisbeth

Jill Langhus
Oct 15, 2018
Oct 15, 2018

Hi Marie,

What a lovely letter you have shared with us to your dear Ayo... love it:-)

Good luck with your story submission!

Marie Abanga
Oct 16, 2018
Oct 16, 2018

Dear Jill,

Thank you for appreciating my letter. You did get me to finally write it, hmmmmmmm. You see sometimes we neglect our ownselves because we have been so used to not even seeing ourselves lol.

Thanks also for the goodluck hahaha

Jill Langhus
Oct 16, 2018
Oct 16, 2018

Hi Marie,

You're very welcome:-) I'm glad you wrote it!

Yes! I get it... totally!

Sharon Makunura
Oct 16, 2018
Oct 16, 2018

Very inspiring letter Marie.

Marie Abanga
Oct 16, 2018
Oct 16, 2018

Thank you Sharon, have you written one to yourself too already sis?

Adanna
Oct 17, 2018
Oct 17, 2018

Dear Marie,

This is beautiful and inspiring!

Thank you for sharing.

Love,
Adanna

Marie Abanga
Oct 18, 2018
Oct 18, 2018

Dear Ada Ada,

Thank you sis. I owed this to Ayo. I can now rest knowing I gave it to her officially hahaha.

Be and stay inspired

Love

Jacqueline Namutaawe
Oct 17, 2018
Oct 17, 2018

Beautiful piece. Cheers to being a strong phenomenal woman.

Marie Abanga
Oct 18, 2018
Oct 18, 2018

Dear Jacquie,

Thank you. When you fall and look up, the only option you have is to rise.

I am so grateful my/Ayo's tests have become testimonies today

love

Ngala Nadege
Oct 17, 2018
Oct 17, 2018

Nice letter !! Thanks

Marie Abanga
Oct 18, 2018
Oct 18, 2018

My pleasure Nadege, thanks for reading and commenting.

Rosylyne Nabaala
Oct 18, 2018
Oct 18, 2018

May God bless you and Ayo and her future plans. Thank you so much.

Marie Abanga
Oct 18, 2018
Oct 18, 2018

Dear Rose,

Thank you. We, Ayo and myself lol (we are the same person of course hahaha), are so grateful to life.

Shatakshi Gawade
Oct 18, 2018
Oct 18, 2018

Dear soft and tough Ayo,
First, thank you so much for sharing your story of courage and faith. And second, sending you virtual hugs so that I can be close to this wonderful woman.
Warm regards,
Shatakshi

Marie Abanga
Oct 18, 2018
Oct 18, 2018

Dear Shatakshi,

Wow what a name you got, like first time am coming across and am still figuring out how to pronounce that right.

I love the way you say 'soft' and 'tough' because indeed that's who I am.

Thanks so much for the virtual hugs,

Loads of love

Ayo/Marie hahaha

Shatakshi Gawade
Dec 12, 2018
Dec 12, 2018

Dear Ayo,
My name confuses a lot of people in India too! I hope I can read more from you.
Love,
Shatakshi

Tarke Edith
Oct 19, 2018
Oct 19, 2018

Hi Marie
Thank you for sharing this wonderful letter to your friend Ayo on our platform sister you story has really impressed me alot and l also think of my childhood friends and wish to write to them also thank again sister

Marie Abanga
Oct 22, 2018
Oct 22, 2018

Dear Edith,

Thank you o. Ayo is myself hahaha. Be inspired and motivated

Marie Abanga
Oct 22, 2018
Oct 22, 2018

Dear Edith,

Thank you o. Ayo is myself hahaha. Be inspired and motivated

Tamarack Verrall
Oct 20, 2018
Oct 20, 2018

Dear Marie,

How beautiful to read your letter to your girl self. How heartbreaking to see the photo of Ayo so young having endured so much. Pain and also determination shine out. I loved seeing and hearing you through your video, sending out love to all the girls. Congratulations on the work you are doing today.

In sisterhood,
Tam

Marie Abanga
Oct 22, 2018
Oct 22, 2018

Dear Tam,

Thanks for signing off the way I could call you lol. I was already trying to pronounce your name. Thank you for appreciating my letter. Thank you for the encouragement and all.

loads to you too

Marie

Theresa Takafuma
Oct 20, 2018
Oct 20, 2018

Dear Marie

What an inspiring letter! Thank you for sharing your story. It is amazing how the power in your experiences inspire the young girl/woman who is facing difficult circumstances. Thank you for being a strong woman. The world needs it.

Warm hugs

Theresa

Marie Abanga
Oct 22, 2018
Oct 22, 2018

Dear Theresa,

Thank you very much. Yes, when we write it down, we feel it and see and remember it more especially the resilience that flows from it all.

I am by Grace and will keep up by that same Grace.

Hugs all the way too

Marie

Agnes Igoye
Oct 23, 2018
Oct 23, 2018

Dear Marie,
You are such an inspiration- No life challenges thrown our way should limit us from rising- thank you for your brave life decisions and for sharing your story

Marie Abanga
Oct 24, 2018
Oct 24, 2018

Dear Agnes,

Thank you for finally making it to my story lol. Yes God's Grace in my life has been simply Amazing. My purpose in life is doing just that and I thank God for the Courage and Grace.

Mercy Kusi
Oct 29, 2018
Oct 29, 2018

Dear Ayo
You made it through.Yes you did.Thanks for letting the world know that a woman can be whatever she wants to be no matter the challenges .Such an inspirational piece

Marie Abanga
Nov 10, 2018
Nov 10, 2018

Dear Mercy,

Thank you my sister, God's Amazing Mercy and Grace has seen me through and still does oh. We thank Him.
All the best to you

Juliet Acom
Jan 04
Jan 04

Hi Marie,
This letter brought tears to my eyes. I am inspired though by Ayo's resilience.
Thanks for sharing

Marie Abanga
Jan 07
Jan 07

Dear Juliet,

Thanks for the feedback. When I look back too, I really have to clap for Ayo lol. I mean without God's Grace I wouldn't still be here to write all this. It is my with great honour and humility that I share always Amen.
Do have a great time