At a baby shower that I recently attended — my first one since my own — we made the mom of honor cry with a bead ceremony. The party organizer picked up this ceremony while teaching in Shanghai. It made perfect sense to have one here in Lagos, because there are so many colorful and beautiful beads made and sold here. For our little ceremony, which was much less formal than the term “ceremony” would suggest, each guest presented the mother with a bead and short speech about the meaning of the bead and or a prayer for the mother and unborn child. What made it more touching was the participation of three young girls, ages 6 to 12, the daughters of other guests, who read a poem or prayer that they themselves wrote. One brought a 15th century chevron bead, which is very valuable now. One teacher brought a turquoise stone from Indonesia. Mine was of course from the Philippines, from a necklace I’ve had for 20 years (given by my mother) and which my son broke a few months ago. Each bead carried a meaning, and was therefore special. The significance of this ceremony was that all beads were strung together as a necklace that the mother could wear when she gives birth — and she can draw strength and comfort from all of us not only during labor but as she raises her child.

After the party I promised myself I will learn to make bead necklaces myself. My collection of beads and fashion jewelry continues to evolve as I add or give away necklaces and chokers bought in Thailand, Pakistan, and now Nigeria. But I always bought or got these as gifts, and when my son started to break a few of them I don’t know how to put these together again. Nigerian beads are also usually sold in strands, and I am dying to mix and combine different designs and colors. I know a lot of people can teach me back in the Philippines. My brother, his wife, and their children all know how to do it because they designed and sold necklaces made from shells and wood. In the meantime I can teach myself more about the different kinds of beads and materials for necklaces from this

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