Cape Cod's Award-winning Columnist, Saralee Perel, Introduces her Protégé: Olayinka Eno Babalola
How a Sixty-Year-Old Caucasian Gray-haired American Jewish Woman Became Best Friends with a Seventeen-Year-Old Brilliant, Bronze-skinned, Christian, Nigerian Girl Who Happens to Think I'm Her Writing Mentor
by Saralee Perel
Most readers want to know how Olayinka and I got together. After reading one of my columns published on a Christian website to which she subscribes, she asked to be my Facebook friend. When her funny comments merged with the rest of my wisecracking friends' posts, anyone could have seen she has a professional writer's brain, wit, identity and no question – sensitive heart.
I read every single piece of her prose and poetry I could possibly find, always hoping for more. Never have I been so entranced by a writer and more importantly, by a new friend.
We found each other at the right time in both of our lives. After asking me to teach her some Yiddish words, I learned that she had already been using the Yiddish word "shmuck" more than any Jew I've known. When I told her the literal translation (which is penis) she used it even more. Oy vay, do I love this person.
Upon reading her work, many have asked me, "Was '17-year-old' a typo?"
Olayinka's view of the concept of perfection:
Perfection. That thing that we strive for but just can't seem to achieve, isn't it? Yeah, well that's just the smart way of putting it, so you'll look knowledgeable and super well read. But let's look at it . . . really look at it. What makes something really perfect is when it's down. Exactly. To the bloody letter. Just the way you want it. If you're satisfied, then it's perfect. I like my pizza dripping with cheese. And when I get it, that pizza is, in that singular moment, perfect. So now that you know the meaning of the word, what do you do with this knowledge?
Nothing . . . nothing at all.
I asked if she'd like to be a published writer. Within a day of her giving me the go-ahead to submit a work of prose fitting for the hundreds of thousands of members of the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, her piece was accepted. It took me 3 years to have a column accepted there. And I have a spinal cord injury! Olayinka is not disabled. She just knew how to make non-able-bodied readers feel a whole lot better. And did she ever.
She once said to me, "I've never thought of writing to publish. I've never been published. I always thought that writing was just an outlet of my emotions and compressed thoughts. I'd love to be published and read world wide. Just tell me what to do."
And so I have.