My Mum: Shopping Stories (Part 1)

Onitsha Ado, the city where we spent the most part of our childhood and the commercial nerve centre of Anambra State, located in the Eastern Part of Nigeria has lots of markets.

From the very popular Onitsha Main Market, one of the biggest and busiest Markets in West Africa, adjoined to the Ose food market to the not so popular ‘Slaughter House’ market, which was mainly an abattoir but then people sold foodstuffs there too.

The Slaughter market was a walking distance from our then house at Ideani Street, Omagba Layout, Phase 1. We had to cross the express road to get there though so my Mum wouldn’t send you until you got to a particular age. By the time I turned 15, we had moved to Trans-Nkisi and we; the older kids could easily access Ose Market.

Now, my Mum’s shopping lists were rather very descriptive. Before she sent you to the market, you would be debriefed with elaborate details on what you were to buy; each sentence punctuated by hand gestures and facial expressions and sometimes thoughtful pauses as though considering if she should kukuma go to the market by herself.

Ehe! I ya e gote akwu, nee m anya, ya abukwana nke lebii onu. I ya akaba aru fu n’odi fresh


So you’ll buy Palm Kernels, look at me; (she would then turn her hands with her palm facing upwards and run her left fingers across her right finger tips) the tips should not be rotten, check to be sure they are fresh.Palm Kernels                Palm Kernels


Gote Onugbu, nke aroo na mmili, ya enukwana inu
Buy bitterleaf, the one that was washed besides the river, it should not be bitter.

Washed bitterleaf in a plate     Washed bitterleaf in a plate

And then the list gets even more specific…

Gote Ede, akili achi, mobu ede eko
Buy Cocoyam, and she would specify whether it’s akili achi or Eko

CocoyamCocoyam (don’t ask me which one)

And then she gets really specific;

Gote Ora Abagana, Ogili Alor, Azu Mangala ma o bu Azu Isi, Egusi aka, egotekwana nke ingin…

Buy Ora leaves, the ones that were grown at Abagana village, buy Ogili, the ones made at Alor village, buy Mangala Fish or Head Fish, buy hand peeled Egusi (Melon seeds), don’t buy the one peeled with machine o! Then she proceeds to explain in details the differences between the two …

Ora Leaves                  Ora leaves

Ogili Akwukwo
Ogili Akwukwo
Azu Mangala
Azu Mangala
Azu Isi
Azu Isi

And then she would describe the customer that sells Okro to her (the specie that gets done easily), another that sells Crayfish (Oroni), the one that sells Fresh Ukwa– breadfruit, Nweke; the meat seller and of course, fruits specifically bought by the Police Station.

All accompanied by threats of how you’ll eat the food alone if you buy the wrong items…

I remember the list in my sister Ifeyinwa’s fine handwriting;

List of Things To Buy

  • Ogili Alor
  • Ede eko
  • Onugbu aroo na mmili
  • Ora Abagana
  • Egusi aka…
Lolz…

Imagine our chagrin when we grew up and relocated to other parts of Nigeria and the abroad only to find out that we had very limited choices of Igbo foodstuffs.

Abi we should start asking Lagos Market women if they washed their Bitterleaf at the Lagoon?

Later on, we would joke amongst ourselves whenever we were about to go grocery shopping as we remembered our Mum’s elaborate shopping lists.

The Storytela

#InEverLovingMemory
#LadyBeneLivesOn

Onye No Nso? (Who’s Near?)

That was how she called us.

It was funny though, sometimes when she wanted to call Obiageli; the last born, she would first of all call like 3 names before actually calling the right one. It was usually a hilarious sight. Her mind must have been filled with thoughts at such times.

Mom in the 80's
Fashion Umuagbala
       

Anyways, that’s what you get when you have six daughters so to make it easier, my Mum would just shout ‘Onye no nso?’ Who is close-by and usually the closest person would answer; ooo mu – it is I and then run towards her direction.

But not my sister Uju or our last born Obiageli. Uju would usually shout my name in response if we were together; I guess being 14 months older than I am gave her that right. Lol.

Mummy: Onye no nso?

Uju: ooo Obiamaka

Usually my Mum would end up calling her name instead of mine as she would have given herself away by her voice but sometimes she would just call me; Nne bia bulu efele a o – my dear, come and carry these plates…


As for Oby, she just simply assumed that the call was for any of her elder sisters, especially if she was home with Chioma, her immediate elder. Lol

Mum in the early 90's
Always together!

Sunday, March 22nd marked our first Mother’s day (in Nigeria) sans notre mère. It was also the day the 6 months mourning period officially ended, meaning that all relatives could take off their mourning clothes; the traditional white clothes…



In all, we remain grateful to God for the beautiful times we had with our Mum, for the memories and the stories.

The Storytela


#LadyBeneLivesOn
#InEverLovingMemory

My Mum – Always There!

Just us 10

One of the things that hit us most about our Mum’s passing to glory was the fact that we were used to her being there.

Growing up, she was always there; like most Mums would be. For the eight of us, travelling across cities, schools and even countries at a point.

At Oby’s grad; Univ. of Ghana, Legon

Keeping up with our Doctor’s appointments, ensuring we took our drugs according to prescription and I remember at one time, like 5 out of the eight of us took ill at about the same time. Ye!🙆🏾‍♀

When I had my traditional wedding, I practically arrived like a guest. Mum working with Dad took care of things from our family end.

My fave pix since last year

When it was time for her burial, we, the children didn’t quite know where to start from. Mum always planned out the ceremonies, took care of the different families, knew what food to present to who and all of those tiny aspects of culture that we never knew even existed.

We did pull through

When my Mum took ill, we didn’t believe death would happen. I mean Mum was always there right? She would definitely be there till her 80’s, even her 90’s you know…

She would be there to witness the wedding of umuaka ito a – a term we used to refer to my three younger siblings when they were kids.

She would be there to stress as usual over the preparations, our dressings; consult for the best colour for the family asoebi, get the best tailor to make them, harass us over the phone to send our measurements, organize matching jewelries, all the while recommending rigorous skin care routine for the bride. Then organise her troupes of friends; decked out in various matching colours and her sisters too in their own uniform.

At Chika’s wedding…

She would plan the best decor and food and then have a permanent smile on her face that day, looking all beautiful like she didn’t lift a finger; one of her arms slightly stretched out as she gave nonstop hugs to her numerous guests, nodding and laughing to something they whispered to her ear, turning to frown and quickly correct something out of place; if any and switching back to a smile the next instance. All the while saying ‘Chukwu aluka’ – God has done great things and ‘Ekene m Chukwu’ – I thank God and silently hoping that the next wedding ceremony would be sometime soon. Lol

During her burial arrangements, my Dad made sure to bring some of the exact vendors she used for occasions and weddings especially her favourite decorator…

Her friends honoured her in no small measure, they turned out for all the events in troupes, in their different groups and uniforms with new dance steps. It was beautiful.

My Mum; always there like the Sun you expected to rise every morning and warm the earth…until her Sun set on June 29th, 2019 at Baylor Hospital, Dallas, Texas… Mama m…

We are grateful for the time she was bodily present with us and for all her sacrifices. And we do hope to try to be there for each other and to carry on with her legacy in whatever way we can individually and collectively.

Thus shall we pass from this earth and it’s toiling, only remembered by what we have done.

#LadyBeneLivesOn
#InEverLovingMemory

The Storytela

My Mum- Her Mannerisms

Mummy o!

“Go and rub some cream”

I told him in Igbo language, “jee tee ude” while pointing with my left hand towards the direction of his room.

At that moment, I saw her, in my mind’s eye.

She was pointing with her left hand too, dressed in a simple dark green patterned Ankara blouse and wrapper, (iro and buba style) holding the curtain with her right hand and also indicating the direction I should go with her head while looking sternly at a younger me.

Mummy a da achi at all…

My Mum and her mannerisms; she was stern enough to discipline and command respect but soft enough to give me my space to vent when I disagreed with her decisions as a young adult. Though her decisions stood anyway.

I can’t ever remember her calling us names. The most I can remember was she complaining that I was slow while doing house chores (rolls my eyes).

She had her expressions though and we would later turn them to jokes. She would usually ask;

‘a ga akpo gi onye isi di nma ka o onye isi n’adiro nma?

Which meant; based on your actions, would they call you someone who is sane or insane?

And if the person was feeling bold, they would say; someone who is sane, “onye isi di nma” even though you obviously qualify to be called the latter.

She also doesn’t expect you standing around when work is being done especially in the kitchen, she would usually ask;

“i kwu akwu?” Are you standing?

Spoken without looking at you, nooo, she was too busy preparing three different pots of soup; uzo ofe ito but she would say it with enough subtle threat in her voice to make you find something doing or explain why you were idling away at that moment.

I remember her standard instructions while going out, it changed over the years.

While we were much younger she would say:

“Zachakosisia, fichakosisia, kpochakosisia ebe nine”

That’s telling us to clean the entire house and make it tidy.

She said this with her eyes wide open for emphasis, her head turning round and her right hand holding her white hanky; just taken down from the cloth hanger, gesticulating to indicate the entire flat we shared with her then. Four large bedrooms, a huge dining room and a sitting room, let’s not include the corridors that qualify as rooms in modern day Lagos buildings. Thankfully, my Dad’s adjoining flat was cleaned by his umu boyi; the boys learning trade with him.

Later on, when we were much older, it would be her announcement as she locked her room door;

“I am going o!”

Said in English and then she would take measured steps which you could count by the sound of her fancy slippers; carefully selected to match her outfit, as they hit the floor. She would then stop by the room door of whoever was home at that time and ask;

“O nwee ife di mkpa?”

Is there anything needed at home that I should buy or sort out…

Fashion Mazi o!

As I walked away from telling my older son to put some cream on his body this morning, it dawned on me how often these flashbacks have been occurring since she passed on. I’m certain my siblings experience them too.

Memories of her reactions, her mannerisms, her gesticulations, triggered by even the slightest, seemingly unrelated things.

#InEverLovingMemory

#LadyBenedetteLivesOn

The Storytela

My Mum- Her Greetings

Elegant Mama

“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.

The Storytela

#LadyBeneLivesOn

#InEverLovingMemory