Written by Tolu Osasona
I grew up not understanding my mother and definitely not agreeing with her. She responded to situations in ways I could not come to terms with as a kid. To me, her ways could only be described as cruel. Mummy was a no-nonsense woman and had no problem showing it, especially to her kids.
She would always want me to come home before the street lights came on. I was 13 and my curves began to show. Gosh! She never understood that night time was the best time to hang out with friends, gist, laugh, and generally just make merry. I would hear her shrill voice ring out my name. My friends would roll their eyes, call me funny names, laugh, and even mimic my mother’s high-pitched voice. God help me if I didn’t get to her before she stopped calling my name. She calls my name just once.
Oh, my mother! She always made sure I saved part of any money I was given by our relatives or family friends. After which I could spend whatever was left, which was usually 10% of the amount given, on sweets, biscuits, etc. I can never forget my kolo. Hmm! It was never empty. She sure made me a walking bank.
I remember the day she flogged me with fat cane when I wet the bed…..oops! I think I was about eight. Ok, maybe I was too old to bed-wet I totally agree, but how was I to know it was about to ooze out. I was asleep for heaven’s sake! Why didn’t she see it my way? When I realized that I had done the deed, I pretended to be still asleep. I covered my shame with my tiny frame — until she called me. I flew off the bed, and then she saw the map of Nigeria on her lemon green bedspread. I guess she wasn’t pleased with how much Geography I had come to know.
Mummy loved people being careful and fast. Notice the order. I, on the other hand, turned it around. And at the end of the day, I would be fast but clumsy. This often resulted in me spilling things, and breaking things — her precious treasures. Mercifully, she would only beat me when all my sins had become so many that they begun to stink. Come to think of it, I had buttery fingers. Things slipped out of my hands as easily as the clock ticked. So you can imagine how annoying it must have been.
She made sure I read my school books, whether I wanted to or not. Really, I didn’t have much of a choice. Omo tisa o gbodo ya olodo — a teacher’s child must never be a dullard.
I could never eat anything I was given outside by friends or strangers without letting her see it first. I remember vividly when the Mallam outside our gate gave me some Gogo from his goods. I rammed everything into my mouth, but was unable to finish it before I went upstairs. She saw it and I saw stars. Okay, my bad. I should have known abi?
I had to look at her every five minutes because she always communicated with her eyes, not her lips, any time we were outdoors. If she wanted my attention and I wasn’t looking her way, she would bore my body with her eyes till one could literarily see holes in my body. I would have to look at her and try to decipher the information she was trying to pass across. I would adjust and redress everything about me until she was satisfied.
Looking back now, I realize that my mother wasn’t so cruel after all. It was just to bring me up in the right way so I could be presentable and responsible. But it sure didn’t look like it then. I commend her for the many things she wanted to teach me before it was too late. It was as if she and time were running against each other. She was winning until time woke up from its slumber and won the race. She tried to do so much in the lives of her husband and children. She made sure we respected and loved one another and taught us to stick up for one another. She also made sure we respected every one that we met.
Mummy, you did very well. I know that is an understatement. Very well doesn’t begin to describe how much value you added to my life. I cherish every moment we had together. The games we played, the sweet you always bought and passed into my mouth whenever I asked for a kiss. The times I cried just because I saw you crying, and then later you would apologize and whisper loving words into my ears and call me my oriki. The times you asked me to lend you some money from my kolo. Mum! I guess those were the times you were really broke. I always saw the pain in your eyes every time you asked me and promised to return it. I don’t recall you returning any part of it, but I never bothered to ask because there was always money in my kolo. I am pretty sure you put some money there behind my back. I am sure of it! It’s something you would have done!
Now whenever people ask where my mother is, I just say, “If you can see me, then you’ve seen her”! Thank you so very much for everything. I really hope it isn’t coming too late. Thank you for instilling your values and good characters in me. Even though you are long gone, you still remain forever young in my heart and very much alive through me. I love you, mum.