A Good Mother’s Dilemna

Patience banged the phoned down and clicked her tongue in disgust.

A curse on all of their houses!

Didn’t they have anything better to do but ask questions about her children?  Let everyone go and sort their own family’s lives before they started sharpening their teeth on her children?

Nonsense!  Was it her fault that her eldest daughter was still single at 37; a time at which she, Patience Folasade Adejumo had finished childbearing?  Was it because she hadn’t trained her daughter how to be a good wife and mother?  Was it because the girl lacked home training, wasn’t beautiful or educated or had breeding? Was it because she the Mother hadn’t prayed or fasted or cried enough for God to remove this cup of suffering and shame away from her?

No, this must be because God was testing her as he tested Job to see if she could hold on.  No one can understand the suffering of a mother when it came to things like this.  They thought she would buckle under the strain but no; she Patience Folasade Adejumo was not the child of her father for nothing.  She was a strong woman and she would survive.

Her enemies would not rejoice over her in this world.  Yes – even the ones in her husband’s family. In the presence of her enemies she would spread her table and laugh and dance on their heads on that glorious day of her eldest daughter’s nuptials.  It will be so, Oh God. Let it be so – let my enemies not use my daughters case as a toothpick for their mouths o!

Please answer me soon.

This shame is too much me eh? How much shame can a mother bear?

But she would rejoice one day. She would show them.

She tied her wrapper and did a little dance of praise before her God and shook her head.

They were not serious.  It was her enemies’ children that would not marry and have children.  It was her enemies that would not become grandmothers in this world.  It was her enemies that people would look at in pity on the street.

Not her the child of warriors.  Not her. Emi Ko!

Let them laugh now.  He who laughs last sha.

She picked up the phone. ” Peter get the car and take me to church.  I want to be home before Oga gets back from work. I need to pray.”

As she waited for her driver she thought of her husband of almost forty years. Gideon was a good man but she seemed not to take this matter seriously.  It was not his fault.  What is that saying again? A good child is for the father but a bad child is for the mother.  Not that Lola was a bad child.  No, God forbid.  She was a good daughter but this long-standing problem of singleness was earmarking her, the Mother out for ridicule and pity in the family.

Her first and only daughter was approaching forty without a husband or child to call her own and her two sons were happily content to live the lives of merry bachelors.  She wouldn’t trouble them because they were men. A man has no time limit to become a parent but a woman – ah? Time was not Lola’s friend.

A Father can talk about Gods time because he was the Father.  She was the Mother and it was Her Problem.   Her detractors were always ready to rub her nose in the shame at every opportunity.

Sometimes she would attend their children’s weddings because they were social functions and everybody who was anybody would be invited. If she didn’t go it meant she was nobody and she wouldn’t give them the satisfaction.  So she would accept their invitations with a sweet smile, put on her best lace and voile wrapper and buba complete with Hayes head tie and matching shoe and bag and go to the church and the lavish celebration after.  If anyone asked her when they would be celebrating with her regarding any of her children she would smile again sweetly and borrow her husbands words.

In God’s time, my sister.

In God’s time; and since they couldn’t argue or pester Him they would agree with her and make fake sympathetic noises and go off to torment someone else, yet the words would plague her.

God’s time.  When was Gods time?  They were in their sixties and they were both quite healthy thank God but how much time did God want them to wait before he allowed them to become grand parents?

God help me.  My in-laws are laughing at me and saying that my children are cursed. I know you are a God that answers by fire. Come and help me rain down fire on all of their heads. I will go to Church and pray and pray until God answers.  I shall be like Hannah who wept like a mad woman until God had no choice but to answer.

She would call Lola and ask her to join her in a two-week fast concerning this husband issue.  She didn’t think she was taking this seriously enough.  Last time when she had asked her to fast her daughter had casually remarked that no man was worth giving up her food for.  Then she had changed the subject to her new job in some school somewhere.

Children.  You pray to have them and when you did they could kill you with worry.  No child would give her hypertension. Especially not this Lola.   Maybe she thought that they had sent her to University for 4 years to study Business Management so that she could become a common teacher while her mates who studied subjects like Philosophy or African languages were working as Bank Managers in this Lagos – and they were married. All her daughter wanted to do was go back to the country where she had been born. Maybe it was better that she was in England. At least the shame of her singleness was less noticeable with distance.  She had been there for six years now.

At first she had been annoyed that Gideon that had sanctioned Lola’s going but six years later and no smell of husband the situation hurt like an old wound that someone had poured fresh pepper into.  Lola might drop news of the odd boyfriend now and then but it never lasted.  When she brought it up her daughter would tell her to ‘chill, Mum’. It will happen one day but right now I’m trying to concentrate on my career. Besides am I supposed to chase them? I thought it was the man supposed to do the chasing. Most of the ones here are chasing their own dreams of careers as well.’

Imagine that. Did she know what she was going through over here?   Having to answer to all the aunts and uncles and people who wanted to know when her daughter was getting married.

She was going to phone her tonight and have a Big Chat.  Lola had to join her in a fast and this time it was compulsory.

This was war.

No child of mine is cursed.  It is my enemies that are cursed.  Not the child of my womb o.  She and her prayer partners in the church  would join together in prayer to scatter all those who mocked and laughed at her in this town.

So be it. Amin.

Excerpt from my short story in Naijastories anthology – ‘Ilusions of Hope’

 I wrote this after a visit to Allen Avenue …. themes came to mind.  Sophisticated students, sleek cars and sleek women looking for men with big wallets, dreams and illusions … laid to rest on Lagos streets, in some sordid alley, or the back of a car….

Hope that fame and fortune can be found on the streets of London, is like the fairy tale of Dick Whittington – a deadly Ilusion.

Ilusions of Hope

Sandra cared for Felix but realised that someday soon, the practical matters of finance would kill any kind of feelings she had for him – so England seemed like a good option.  Many people had made a good life over there- the big men who threw money around like water talked of the place as if it was the back of their compound.

Once she got a job and made some money, she would send for him.  She hadn’t spent all these weeks praying and fasting for nothing.  Praying for God to forgive her sins and touch the stony hearts of the white people at the British High Commission so they could grant her a six-month visa.

Then, she could go over there, start working and disappear into the ever-swelling abyss; the underpaid underworld that did the jobs the British wouldn’t do.  She didn’t care if it was smelly manual labour; she wasn’t afraid of hard work.  She was more afraid of remaining in this city and watching her age mates succeed in life, while she remained in poverty.

It was 2004 and some people said that England was at risk from terrorists since the invasion of Iraq, but couldn’t that happen anywhere?  Safety now had no geographical home. It was an illusion of hope and would always remain so, no matter what any government said. Even the Americans with all their money could not protect themselves anymore. She might as well pursue her dreams and put her trust in God.

She had her letter from her cousin in London who had ‘promised’ to pay her fees. She was going to be a student. Armed with a letter offering her admission to college somewhere in Peckham, and her cousins bank statement bulging with the money he had borrowed from a few friends – she hoped to convince the officials at the British High Commission in Lagos that she was not going to need any money from the great people of Britain.

She wiped her brow.  The fan was on full blast but it didn’t matter, she was strung up.  She checked her folder of documents.  Her School Certificates, her University degree…testimonials, references from her employers and the money for her visa application that smouldered in her purse.

A month ago she had gone to Allen Avenue and got herself picked up by a rich businessman who had paid her well for her reluctant favours.  Afterwards she had stumbled onto a bus, got home, stayed in the bathroom pouring hot water over herself as she scrubbed herself raw.  She spent the night curled up on the sofa watching Felix sleeping like an innocent baby.