It’s the little things that I miss, the memories that visit me and coaxes tears from my eyes when I least expect it. I was but eight years old when I left Ethiopia; a forced exodus before I was old enough to understand the ways of the world. I lived an entire life in less than a decade only to live in sadness of the ways things used to be once I arrived in America. This is an ode to Ethiopia and the way things used to be before the woes of the world interjected and broke paradise. I reflect on these remembrances as I listen to a cover by Yohana Sahle as she sings “Tizita”, which means memories in Amharic.
In between guitar plucks and piercing falsettos, I hold back sobs as I am transported to a time before my innocence was lost. I remember it like it was yesterday only to forget it like it never happened at all; the happiness I felt as a child running around Bole and living freely without a worry in the world erased by decades of living a life of Sedet. I was the star of the household and I acted every bit of it; when adults came to my parent’s house, I held court like a king and would stand on the sofa and command the attention of everybody in the house.
I would lecture visitors about the beauty of Ethiopia and how they should be giving to each other. The inspiration for my articles is drawn from these memories of my childhood; some become who they are while others are born that way. I took note of everything, the ways Ethiopians used to live as a community where everything from our food to hard times were shared. Adversities we had plenty but we always endured through unity; when we ate, we ate in a circle and fed each other without hesitation. When we danced, we did so communally; melodies being shared like energy being passed down through the galaxy.
At this exact moment, Yohana sings “tachawetenalech bechayene sehone” as she channels how memories play with us when we are by ourselves. These are the ennui immigrants carry that is unique to us; though sadness is a universal language, the pains of at once belonging and being disconnected is one that is understood intimately by sojourners who traveled to distant lands yet kept pieces of themselves in their homelands. A friend at my church explained it perfectly; we have one foot in America and one foot back home. We are lost in between spaces looking for a peace that never comes.
These feelings of unbelonging are only heightened during the days of a pandemic and the isolation that comes with social distancing. The more we withdraw trying to protect ourselves, the more we withhold pieces of us that brings joy and happiness. The little things we used to take granted as Ethiopians are no more; the gurshas we gave to each other are no more, we now do Zoom to fulfil the sense of community only to be left uninspired through wired connections. The hugs and three kisses we gave to friends and strangers alike replaced by texts and likes from a distance; it's like mitmita has been swapped out with salt that leaves bitter tastes and bland regrets. #TizitaEthiopia Click To Tweet
I don’t write these things to bring you down but to be mindful of the things that give us purpose. It is my hope that in time tribulation will give way to normalcy and the woes of today will be transformed to jubilation. Before the sun arrives are usually the darkest moments but in time the shadows that envelope us will evaporate and bring with it a new day of thankfulness. I pray this for my birthland Ethiopia, my new home America and humanity writ large, hold on tight to your memories even if they seem full of anguish, recollections might bring remorse but they also give life meaning::
“God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December.” ~ James M. Barrie
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