What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
– Langston Hughes
Whenever I come back home, spending time with my Mamaiay is always a highlight of my visit. Sometimes, I feel like time in DC moves much slower than in Seattle. At each reunion, I find my Mamaiay to have aged significantly and yet, I look the same. I wish I could flip the direction of the sands in the hourglass just to get more time. My Mamaiay has always been supportive of my dreams, even if they seemed irrational. That’s the amazing thing about love, it’s not limited by the confines of understanding. My past visit, a few weeks ago, was particularly interesting because my Mamaiay revealed to me an old dream of mine. I don’t quite understand how the mind works when it comes to memory – how it picks and chooses what to retain, what to erase, and what to reframe.
I never cared much for watching sports, but my Mamaiay is a huge sports fanatic. She follows soccer, basketball and football religiously and can effortlessly spit out stats on players and teams. After UW lost to UNC in the NCAA tournament she was flustered and tossed me the remote to pick something less depressing to throw on the TV. I fumbled through the various channels having been disconnected from cable for the past 7 months. I finally gave up and told my Mamaiay I don’t watch TV anymore, so I had no business having the remote. She asked me what I did to fill up my time instead and I told her I mostly read and write.
Her face lit up when I mentioned writing and she asked me when I began writing again. I was confused when she said “again,” and I asked her to clarify. She went on to explain how in elementary school I used to write pages full of poems and my teachers submitted my poems in national writing contests. Three of my poems were selected and published, “Time,” “Simplicity,” and “The Wires Around Me.” I told her I had zero recollection of writing anything at that age. She said my poems were always about heavy and grown topics, that the content didn’t align with my age.
I was curious to read over these old poems and asked my Mamaiay if she knew where I could find them. She told me she saved a copy of the three which were published and took them with her to Ethiopia when she thought she was going to live there for good. That is until, she realized she belonged neither in America or Ethiopia. Somehow, when she was in limbo between two worlds my poems gave her solace. She told me she left my poems in Ethiopia, because she assumed, one day, we’d both return. The cool thing about words is that they travel further than the author. The concept that my words would be there to greet me for the ultimate homecoming, my first visit to Ethiopia, gave me chills.
My Mamaiay told me she couldn’t recall when or why I stopped writing. She said I always had an affinity for the arts but was overly critical of my work. She shared an anecdote about how I had done a painting at school and threw it in the trash only for my teacher to retrieve it and display it in her office. During a parent-teacher conference my Mamaiay had commented on the painting and once my teacher revealed I was the one who created it, my Mamaiay took it off the wall and brought it home. She said I was livid when I saw it in the living room because I thought the image lacked symmetry, it didn’t feel balanced.
I’m much more involved in the arts now, from violin, to photography, to writing. I realize that having a creative outlet plays a significant role in my happiness. Hearing my Mamaiay tell me stories about my childhood felt like a full-circle moment. It made me wonder whether as humans if we ever really change, if maybe part of the greatest journey of getting older is reuniting with our truest being, our younger selves. I can’t help but think that maybe dreams never die, they just are buried until we have the courage to dig them back up.
Writing is an act that can only be done in utter solitude. You give up participating in the world, so you can design one of your own. To create, is to build a time capsule. I can’t wait to have a conversation with my younger self.
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