prof moyo okediji with his friends son

Wisconsin, Madison, 1994. Naming ceremony

I was a college student.

One of my Nigerian colleagues had just finished his Ph.D., and he returned to Nigeria.

He had no idea that his girlfriend in Madison was pregnant.

When he was contacted, he decided that he was not returning to the US.

The pregnant girlfriend decided she was not going to Nigeria to join him.

After the woman gave birth to a bouncing baby boy, she called me to give the boy a traditional Nigerian naming ceremony.

We decided to meet at a bar downtown, just the three of us, including the baby.

I wore my new knee-length leather jacket and had two or three layers under it.

(And two long johns under my jeans).

As usual, it was snowing outside, and sub-freezing cold.

I took the bus. I didn’t have a car.

Mother and child were waiting for me inside the bar.

He was already some 3 months old and his mother handed him over to me.

I sat him on my lap, and he was already trying to climb into my face.

I asked for a glass of water, and I had brought with me some honey, salt, and sugar for the naming ceremony rituals.

One by one, I touched a bit of each of these condiments to the baby’s lips. He received them eagerly, licking his lips and looking at me gleefully, asking for more.

Then I gave him the Yoruba and Igbo names of Ayodele Chukwuemeka.

Emeka’s mother was really happy and thanked me. We drank lots of liquor, ate pizza and danced, as I cuddled him.

Later that evening, I wondered if sugar was one of the items used for naming ceremonies in Yorubaland.

But it was too late. The rituals were over. The mother was happy, the baby was named, and I was already a hero.

When you are in exile, shouldn’t you be pardoned for NOT always doing things exactly as they are done at home? Memory fades when you cross the sea.

C’est la vie, right?

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