To my Gogo

Dear Gogo.

When you introduce me as your adopted grandchild I…

Dear Gogo, for the first few years of my life I did not even realise that you were mine. I thought that you were a member of a group made up of strange beings with soft skin, white hair, bent hands, pink lipstick and grandmother smells. To be honest I did not even know the difference between you and my koko, your mother. To baby me, you were both just old.

Dear Gogo, you taught me how to cancan and told me funny stories about my mom, aunt and uncle. You make me laugh and you make me crazy. You talk and talk and talk,  sometimes it is informative other times, not so much. You have taught me about the history of white people in our family. You have shown me your history, told me stories and shown me discoloured pictures.

You have watched and helped me grow. You have encourage me and supported me. You have judged me and been angry with me. You tell me when I am getting fat, you look worried when I get too skinny. You laugh at my habits and encourage my personality. You are my Gogo, when I look at you I see my mother and when I listen to my mother, I hear me. You are the roots of our beautiful tree. You the roots and me the branches.

When you introduce me as your adopted granddaughter you take this all away from me. You simplify me to an orphan that was brought into your family. You turn OUR history into one single story. You open a door and then close it again having filled the room behind it to bursting point with misconception. After your introduction there is no need for further conversation and I am left standing next to you balancing on the high-wire that is ‘The story of an African orphan.’ You leave me with nowhere to go.

Dear Gogo I am your eldest granddaughter, I am the first child of your first child. I am 1 of 6 grandchildren. I am yours and you are mine. Today when I told you that I did not feel comfortable being introduced as you adopted granddaughter,  you apologised and we discussed how no matter what people thought,  being your granddaughter made it very clear that I was adopted. I watched you and saw for the first time by looking into your face, the face of an 84-year-old white woman, how much I am like you.

Dear Gogo, you are mine and I am yours and there is no way that people are going to think that I am your domestic worker, carer, house keeper, nurse and what ever else you might worry that they think.

I am your first granddaughter and you are my Gogo.

That is all that matters


8 thoughts on “To my Gogo

  1. So beautiful. Thank you for your brave writing. In some small way I think I understand this hurt you feel. It may the same hurt I feel when people ask me about my son’s ‘real mother.’


    1. Sam, thank you for taking the time to read my piece. My issue was always that there should not ever have been a hurt. I should have had, and now do have, the freedom to introduce myself as who I am. You too should and, hopefully will, find a place of comfort in your situation. All the best.


  2. Thank you. This is very beautiful. As I sit with my dying mother it helps me root my children, her grandchildren to her. Your writing, your voice is important as us parents fret about all the complexity in adoption. Today you gave me something which cut through all that.


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