We Have Become Our Aunties

My mother was a founding member of AAAG (the African-American Association of Ghana) in the late 80s/early 90s. They were the group responsible for bringing and hosting several African-American celebrities and influencers -before the term was coined- in Accra. Many of the members were entrepreneurs, thinkers and leaders in their own right, and as such I should have been in awe of them. However I simply knew them as Brother so-and-so and Sister thus-and-so. It is because of AAAG’s existence that I have humorous anecdotes about being stiff-armed by Jermaine Jackson’s bodyguard who wrongly assumed that my trio was approaching Michael’s big brother to ask for an autograph (we actually wanted a photo, thank you very much) and had my chicken n’ dumpling soup given a disapproving look by THE Nina Simone. Again, if I had any inkling of the magnitude of these people’s star power and reach at the time, I would’ve been honored by their rebuffs. But I was a child and children are generally unimpressed.

The Association was made up of all kinds of characters; some genuine in their desire to integrate into Ghanaian society, others there to exploit it – but the two I found most interest (read: odd) were a pair of sisters who had moved from a big city in the States to the country. They weren’t often a fixture on the Accra event scene and didn’t make all the meetings AAAG held because they lived in CAPE COAST. By choice. Again, as a child, I couldn’t conceive of this. It seemed incredibly foolhardy and short sighted. What was in Cape Coast after all? The slave castle, some fishermens’ houses and what? The sea? Utter, desolate seclusion? These women, already ancient at ages 40-50 had made the silliest choice and they would come to regret it. They would move to Accra if they were smart – or back to the Big City in the States if they were smarter – and all would be right in the world. Of course, I reasoned this internally. One doesn’t dare share your opinion with an Auntie of a certain age.

Now at 43 myself and of similar age to the two sisters, their choice makes total sense. It was in fact the most logical choice: They were present, yet inaccessible; or at least only accessible after great effort. I went to their house in Cape Coast once as a child and the road to their bungalow was nearly impassable. What a pity! 30 years later, as my own sister and I prepare to take on a similar venture, I understand that these two women were geniuses.

We recently bought property in the Upper West region of Ghana to the dismay and disbelief of many.
“Why would you want to live there?”
“You’re not even from the area.”
“Ah. But there’s nothing there!”

That’s the point, isn’t it? There’s nothing there. Ain’t NOTHIN’ there. The only things that will “be there” will be things that my sister and I put there. By the time our home is complete we will probably be approaching our early 50s, our kids will be in college and we’ll be tired of everybody and everything. None of this is to indicate that we will be anti-social or reject society altogether…We’ll just be a short 1 hour flight from Accra! You see? Present but barely accessible.

My sister is my favorite person in this world. I have told anyone who will listen that the best gift that my parents ever gave me was Adj (even if it didn’t always feel like it). I can’t imagine anyone that I’d rather spend the rest of my life with, and though my husband knows I love him dearly, he knows that he plays a very close second fiddle to my sister. If the Two Sisters from The Big City felt similarly about one another, then as a woman I respect and celebrate their brave choice even more.

As time goes on I understand the very odd choices the elder women in my life made. The madness of this auntie; the pensive introversion of the other; the Sister whom everyone gave a wide berth lest she unleash a verbal tirade (and therefore the one who was last to be invited to anything). All these women whose quirks I found odd and sometimes intolerable now have nothing but my appreciation for surviving all that they have and working towards a rewarding life on their own terms. As time goes by, I am becoming some aspect of my aunties. It’s not as bad as I thought it would be.