“Morning, Nne, i tetago?”
“Morning, Nnaa, i tetago?”
That’s the way she would respond; the first line for the girls and the second line for the boys, every single time we said “Mummy, good morning”.
She would ask if we had woken up; in her calm undulating voice. And it would come with a smile, even if you had fallen out with her the previous night.
My Mum’s smile, the way her face would light up whenever we walked into her room. It was like switching on a light bulb. She might have been pondering on something moments before any of us walked in but as soon as that person entered, she turned on that smile.
“Mmmaaa mu na nwanne m o!”
She would say, calling us her siblings, spreading out her arms and wrapping us in a warm hug. This was usually when we arrived from a journey, be it from school or anywhere.
She would then peer into your face, squinting her eyes as if trying to read behind the facial expressions and I’m certain in our older years, she also examined our facial skin for conformity to her beauty standards.
I remember when I had a serious case of pimples in University, it was my final year and I think I probably reacted to an adulterated Face Wash I bought from the market.
My Mum’s reaction was something else, she would constantly examine my face and worry that the pimples weren’t clearing despite the products she gave me to use. At a point she openly wondered if the ‘pimples were as a result of a spiritual attack to prevent her daughter from getting married’ LOL. Like I’m still laughing, thinking about it at the moment.
Well, I got to Lagos after graduation and my sister, Chika gave me something that helped clear the pimples.
“Oo Ikemsinachi o! Oo nwanne m o! Oo Brother Ikemsinachi o!”
She would chant in a sing-song voice while greeting my first son, Ikem. She would again refer to him as her sibling and also add ‘Brother’ a sign of respect and probably spirituality I think. I never asked her why she called him that, we would just laugh over it.
As part of the Igbo burial rites, a woman’s body was usually taken to her Father’s compound to be shown to her people before it would then arrive her own compound for lying-in-state and burial.
Chants of “Oo nwanne m o! Oo nne o! Oo nwanne m o!” filled the air as the casket bearing my Mum’s body arrived her Father’s compound. It was such an emotional moment as they paid final respects to their sibling and daughter and watching the whole scenario brought back memories.
Memories of a voice we were blessed to have heard and of precious moments that we’re grateful to have experienced.