I didn’t have quite the fears and nervousness movies and TV told me are normal for meeting my mother-in-law, such as “will she think I’m good enough for her son?” When, I met my mother-in-law for the first time Wole and I were seven years into our relationship, two years into our marriage, and our daughter was four months old. Though we’d never met, we were already permanently family. We had talked on the phone occasionally, but due to Nigerian’s faulty phone connections (echoes, dropped calls, etc.) and my “accent” his mother and I had not communicated too much. In our most memorable conversation, she thanked me for being Wole’s family, while he was away from all of his. There had been attempts to bring her over to the states before for our college graduation and even our marriage, but the visa process is tough and she was denied, until the birth of our daughter.
From here on out I will refer to her simply as, Mummy. I can’t remember a time I didn’t call her by this informal and endearingly British term. There was some nervousness as Mummy’s arrival neared, as she would be staying for five weeks and would be home with me and baby girl for the majority of that time. With a baby to bond over, I knew we would find a way to get along in a sort of getting-to-know-each-other boot camp. There was also nervousness, because Mummy had never left Nigeria before. Wole and his older brother had even joked they wouldn’t be surprised if she wound up lost in Europe somewhere as she tried to find her connecting flight to the states.
So the visa was granted and the flight was set. Unfortunately, the arrival date and time of that flight, coincided with an exam Wole would have to be in for an uninterrupted four hours. I would be picking up Mummy, who I had never met, with only a photograph for identification. Wanting to make a great impression on our first meeting I was of course dressed as nicely as I could be, in my one dressy outfit that fit while I lost my pregnancy weight. The look was completed with my tan platform heels.
Due to a last minute demand for a feeding frenzy from baby girl, I was about five minutes late, as I rushed into the airport cradling a rather heavy four month old. I was slightly uneasy that my five minutes might have caused Mummy to panic, but ultimately I was confident of a fairly easy pick up. As I walked in the doors by the baggage area, I noticed her flight was there and several people had already picked up their bags. I looked around quickly, my unease growing. There was no one who remotely resembled Mummy anywhere I could see. I confirmed with one of the passengers that I had indeed found the correct flight and now I was really scared. My theory was Mummy had gone in search of me when I wasn’t there on time. I began wandering the length of the airport, in my heels, carrying a baby. Having walked the entire length of the airport with my feet on fire and my arms about ready to fall off, I started to consider something had happened at her connecting flight and went to the airline for assistance. I asked if Mummy was on the flight and the airline confirmed she had been and paged her for me. Now, having always called her Mummy and not really ever being told a first name when the airline asked I said her first name was Mrs. Yeah, this was not looking good for me. As time went by and no one arrived, panic set in. I couldn’t call Wole, although I left a rather frantic voicemail, but I could call his brother in Nigeria and a Nigerian friend in a different city four hours away. Neither one of them had heard from her, but his brother was laughing that perhaps she had gotten lost in Europe, while Wole’s baby sister was near tears.
I wandered the terminal again and then finally called the emergency phone in the airport. Soon a security officer came to me and listened to my harrowing story with his eyes growing wider the longer I spoke. Apparently, lost Nigerian women were not part of his daily routine. Before we put out an APB on a lost grandma, who might be trying out local transport or wandering the streets, the security officer checked with the airline, one last time. When he came back over to me, adrenaline pumping through me and a baby beginning to wonder what was going on, I finally got my answer. For some security reason, the airline could not tell me that Mummy had missed her connecting flight and would be arriving about two hours later. Although, I will never understand why the airline would confirm a passenger’s arrival, who did not arrive, I was immensely relieved and able to allay the fears of Mummy’s other children. When Mummy finally arrived, I knew it was her in a minute in her traditional dress lugging way more luggage than this tiny little woman should be able to carry. She smiled and hugged me and despite Wole and I’s attempts at explanation, I don’t think she ever understood the panic and upheaval she caused. And that was how I met his mother.