Westport And Nigeria Meet At Bloomingdale’s

The New York  Times’ “Metropolitan Diary” describes random incidents in the city. It’s the Big Apple equivalent of “06880″: anything is game, so long as it happened within the boundaries of the city (or, for this blog, town).

Today’s “Metropolitan Diary” is a double-dipper.

The story comes from a Westporter. Catherine Onyemelukwe writes about needing an eyebrow pencil at Bloomingdale’s. She’s helped by a petite black woman.

Eventually, Catherine asks where the saleswoman is from. When she says “Nigeria,” Catherine asks, “What tribe?”

The story continues:

 This wasn’t a ques­tion she ex­pect­ed from a white woman. “Ibo.”

“I na su Ibo? Do you speak Ibo?” I said.

“Oh my God,” she said to the sales­woman be­side her. “She speaks Ibo.”

She turned back. “Why, how … are you mar­ried to an Ibo man?”

“Yes,” I said.

Catherine Onyemelukwe met her husband  Clement while serving with the Peace Corps in Nigeria in the 1960s. (Photo/Suzanne Sheridan)

Catherine Onyemelukwe met her husband Clement while serving with the Peace Corps in Nigeria in the 1960s. (Photo/Suzanne Sheridan)

She drew me away from the cash reg­is­ter and said: “I just took my chil­dren to Ni­geria for the first time. They loved it. Ev­ery­one was so warm and wel­com­ing. It was dif­fer­ent from the U.S.”

“I know,” I said. “You re­mind me of the sense of be­long­ing I felt in Ni­geria for so many years.”

She had a cus­tomer wait­ing. I bought the eye­brow pen­cil and the shiny box of per­fume and cream. “Please come back. You don’t have to buy any­thing,” she said as she dou­ble-bagged my pur­chases.

“I will,” I promised.

5 responses to “Westport And Nigeria Meet At Bloomingdale’s

  1. Edward Gerber

    Another great story !!

    Sent from my iPhone

  2. Thanks, Dan. I hadn’t even seen it yet!
    Catherine Onyemelukwe, conyemelukwe@gmail.com

  3. This article reminds me that Staples HS students were very active in supporting the IGBO (preferred spelling of Ibo) people in 1968-69 when their breakaway state of Biafra was the site of death, destruction and starvation. We had “teach ins” featuring an Igbo leader, whose name I forgot, although I was assigned to pick him up at the airport. A brand new driver aged 16, I was terrified at every turn that I would jostle our VIP. “Save Biafra” was an important cause to us, and alum / teachers from that era well remember the Igbo / Ibo cause…

  4. What a nice story.

  5. Bonnie Scott Connolly

    I agree. What a heartwarming story.