My Mum- A Christmas Story- Part 1

Anyi a ya ana uno? Are we going to travel?

The questions usually started in early December and would then evolve to which day we would be travelling and kept evolving until we finally arrived home, at the Villa. Uke.

Anyi ya ana uno!” We would be travelling home! Was the exciting chant, once my Mum confirmed to us that we would be travelling home for Christmas and the preparations were always elaborate. Oh Lord!

First and early on was the food shopping, and this particular set of food stuffs were stored outside the kitchen, in a part of the hallway between the kitchen, the dining room and the staircase that led upstairs. This was a way of showing that they were destined for the village.

Then the shopping for Christmas clothes, a rite most children must have enjoyed. Our clothes were barely our size, how can? Children grew fast and you wouldn’t want them outgrowing such expensive clothes after Christmas. It wasn’t unusual for me to still be wearing some of my Christmas clothes four years later, albeit as stay-at-home clothes.

And then, all the girls had to go do their hair. Hmmnnn, this wasn’t optional. Not in my Mum’s life. You had to do your hair, she would choose the ‘reigning hairstyle’, “nke umuaka ibe unu na-akpa” or “nke na-ewulu umu agbogho ibe unu“; the one kids our age were making at that time or the one that was popular amongst the young women, depending on our age that particular year.

The most anticipated part of it all was the making of the Chin-Chin snack. This popular snack made from dough by cutting into cubes and deep frying was a delicacy served with Soda in most Nigerian homes during the Christmas period. We made it at home only once a year and that was in December, other times, we bought off the shelves at the store.

A plate of delicious Chin-Chin

The Christmas Chin-Chin was a big deal, the eight of us would gather to make it because we had to produce a lot to fill a bag of salt which weighed like 20kg.

My Mum bought the ingredients and gave the directions, some would break the eggs, some would participate in the mixing of the sugar and butter in the ‘Odo‘ the wooden mortar used for pounding stuff in the kitchen, while some would participate in kneading the flour and other mixture to form the dough.

At the end, we would form four teams. Team 1 would be rolling the dough on flour covered surfaces using washed beer bottles and the singular rolling pin we had, team 2 would be cutting up the dough into long, thick lines while team 3 would cutting the thick lines into cubed sizes and team four would be frying and tasting.

Suffice it to say that my sister Chika was usually in team 4 and in addition to frying the Chin-Chin, she would take out some dough and fry buns (bun) and maybe fish rolls and what other friable stuff she could dream up within that instant. She sometimes stored batter which she would use to bake a Cake on a makeshift firewood oven! We usually all partook in sharing the hot and fried chin-chin and Chika’s extras.

At the end of it all, we would be tired but happy and Mum would carefully pour the cooled chin-chin into the salt bag and take it up to her room. Then the hiding game would start. My brother, Ifeanyi was good at hunting down the Chin-Chin bag and that would be his mission (among other stuff) all through the holiday period. Several times, my Mum would change the location of the bag and act like the Chin-Chin had finished only for a visitor to show up and get a plateful and of course, Ifeanyi would restart his hunt and eventually emerge with Chin-Chin to share. Mum simply changed the location again and on and on till we saw the empty Salt bag.

Later on, after some of us grew and left home, Mum would start ordering Christmas Chin-Chin.

This part of the Christmas tradition was always a treasure. I can still see the pictures of the laughter, the banter, the quarrels and the activities floating out of that kitchen in our Trans-Nkisi home with my Mum at the centre of it all.

The Storytela

#LadyBeneLiveson

#InEverLovingMemory

Stories of My Mother : Shopping Stories – Pt. 2

“I na-ekwo ije”.

“You walk really fast”, my young cousin commented one day talking about my speed when I’m walking on the road.

I laughed.

You see, the skill of walking fast was something we had to learn.

You couldn’t afford to walk slowly when you go to the market with my Mum, else you might end up on ABS Onitsha News, the missing child advert section…

Of course, she would never have left us behind or even let us get missing but she gave us that impression. You either walked fast or you found your way home, and that option nobody wanted to consider.

This rule basically applied when we went to Main Market or Ose. You see those big markets; whenever our Mum had to go there, it was for serious business and she usually had a whole lot to buy, sooo, no time to waste time.

She would tie her white handkerchief folded into a triangle over her nose to protect her from the dust, especially in the dry season. She was allergic to dust and would start sneezing when unduly exposed to it.

Then with her handbag under her armpit and her shoulder slightly titled towards the right side, she would ‘change gear‘ as we approached one of the many entrances to the market from the Car park.

The market roads were narrow and the moving cars and thronging human traffic made them even narrower. Once Mummy moves, our singular target was to keep our eyes on her and keep up with her pace and that meant walking really fast.

When my sister Uju and I started going to boarding school and wrote our lists, we would be glad when Mummy came back from the market with our stuffs but a little sad when one or two tiny items weren’t bought.

I remember my elder sister Ifeyinwa, when she took over the shopping for our lists from my Mum would explain to us that the market was too big and the items on our lists scattered all over, so it was usually difficult to buy everything at once.

Well, accompanying my Mum to the market soon made it clear. “Mummy do we have to buy everything?” I would find myself asking.

Following Mum to the market was like a rite of passage. You observed how to shop, how to haggle, how to check for ‘original’; ‘the main the main’, how to pretend walk away so that the market seller would call you back and offer a lower price, how to frown at the item in your hands and look distracted while jumping on the inside at the very good deal you just got and how to check for expiry dates. You also got introduced to her preferred merchants, so you would just locate them when you start coming alone and continue the ‘Customer’ relationship.

Anyways, when I was old enough to start shopping for myself, by myself which was in my Senior Secondary/University, I’m not sure I bothered much. Let’s just say that shopping is not my thing.

I don’t know how my Mum did it though, for years, for a large family, eight kids, varied age groups, long shopping lists. Oh Lord!

It’s June and in some weeks time, it would be the first anniversary of her passing on to glory. Time does fly, so much has happened already but the memories seem just like yesterday.

The Storytela

#LadyBeneLivesOn
#InEverLovingMemory

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