“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.
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.