Inspired by one of my favorite bloggers LondonBuki, this is my eleventh Mummy Sunday post and the second installment of the “When You Weren’t There Mummy” series!!! I dedicate this one to the places that I’ve been and all the people that I’ve seen…
No Permanent Home
The Christmas of the year you left, he took us to the village. We all spent the holidays in the village, then he left us. He went back to Lagos and left us in the care of grandma whose only words of English were ‘God’ and ‘Satan’. It was absolutely horrible. We were constantly sick because the water was unsanitary… the food was cooked on wood, and we couldn’t really tell the people around us what was wrong… THEY ALL SPOKE IGBO!!!
We went from London To Lagos to a remote village in Imo State… all in just a few months…
We used to get sick a lot… then we’d drink whatever native leave and paracetamol concoction our grandma could make. We’d wake up sometimes with raging fevers… and on other days we’d be cold as clams.
Our grandma tried her best but it was hell trying to cope when she couldn’t speak any English and we couldn’t speak any Igbo. There were translators sometimes… but they weren’t there all the time… and sometimes found it hard to understand the ‘oyinbo’ children. Mma(Grandma) was a farmer. She found rice to be ‘nri pidgeon’(pigeon food)… so:
We went from drinking kelloggs for breakfast to Yam porridge
From fish and chips for lunch to ukwa (breadfruit)
From soft ground rice for dinner to stinky, solid ‘akpu’
We hated the food, the people… the environment… and just wanted to go home… but who knew where home was anymore?!
I really tried to resist. I wanted to be loyal to you.
I resisted making friends with the kids around.
I resisted ‘liking the local food’.
I resisted learning how to speak Igbo… I mean I learnt how to speak the language quite fast out of necessity, but I pretended for months that I couldn’t while Fire was happily conversing with everyone and ‘translating to/for me’. I felt that if I let go of that one thing… there’d be nothing left… there’d be nothing that separated me from all the other ‘kids in the village’… that there’d be nothing that tied me to only you.
I skipped a lot of classes cos I was ‘smart’ and could speak perfect English. I remember my math teacher… he just killed me every single time tried to pronounce things ‘British’… Peugeout and he’d say ‘poshhour’… matter of fact... they all bloody killed me.
Oh he visited about 3 times when we were down there. There was always a sense of letdown when he came to the village cos we thought on his next visit... he'd take us back 'home'... but who were we kidding... WE HAD NO HOME! He usually slept the night… bought us Gala and ‘Lagos Bread’… he’d obviously done his fatherly duty. And of course… when we’d done something wrong… “he’d whip us a time or two- some discipline never hurt any child”… obviously his mother could feed us and clothe us and be our guardian… but he still needed to show us ‘who was daddy’.
We were probably in the village for about a year… cos right after the next Christmas… he came and took us back to Lagos. I wasn’t sure I cared cos at that point, I already spoke Igbo fluently, had forgotten what fish and chips tasted like and couldn’t care less if I ate in glass bowls or plastic containers. I really couldn’t care less.
We went back to the same Lagos we left. He transferred us to a really retarded elementary school in Lagos called Aunty Sissy or Lizzy or something. I was probably there for a month or two. I remember thinking the school was the end of the road… the teachers, the environment… the students. I mean the biggest source of entertainment in that school was waiting for the ‘eleganza’ pen to turn into a snake when you put it into water. I fucking wasted my 5 or 10 Naira trying to see that miracle… which never happened. What a waste!
I might’ve graduated from that Aunty Sissy elementary school… or not… I’m not even sure anymore. Next thing I knew, I found myself in high school… another crappy school… DMC. There were only 5 students in my school… no not class… SCHOOL! My principal lived in the school premises and we had only two classes, 4 teachers, an office, a cafeteria and some parking space. I can still remember the names of my all my schoolmates. It was me and Kayode in Jss1, and Lillian joined us closer to the end of the school year. Then in Jss2, there was Cynthia(whose father was a chief) and Adewunmi (who loved to play video games and look under my skirt).
It was a horrible school!!! I mean what social values does one really learn in a school of five people?!?! I guess he didn’t believe in wasting his money sending us to a better school…after all we were only female. All this from a Lawyer who studied in the United Kingdom…
I was in this DMC school-in Jss1- when he took me to the gynecologist. I was 8.
He never let us go downstairs or have any friends outside of school. So I was probably more surprised than anybody else when he chose to have a birthday party for me when I turned 8 or 9.
I was wearing that yellow dress that we brought back from England. It was a bit tight at the time cos I’d worn it for a while… but everybody was still crazy about it and called me a ‘yellow princess’. It was held downstairs in the yard. Our house was packed, and so were the tents… we ate, drank, and did the ‘dancing round the chairs’ thing. He shot some home videos of it… I think there was an adult after party… with him drinking palm wine or kunu and Gulder with all this friends… he did love him some Gulder.
I remember he used to date two of our landlords daughters. One was underage and the other one was older. I can’t imagine their mother didn’t know…I found it all quite strange cos they were really spiritual… I’m talking ‘deeper life folks’.
I might’ve forgotten to mention… Nonso the old househelp stopped staying with us as did her older sister Ngozi. I really couldn’t understand that man for the life of me… He had sex with them like women… and whipped them like kids when they did ‘wrong’… Did you ever understand him mommy?
We had countless other househelps after that… There was the Calabar girl Ruth… his girlfriend Aunty Mbang’s cousin. Aunty Mbang used to make us fantastic edi kaikong soup and fufu whenever we went to visit her… but I hated her house… it was a slightly better version of a ‘face-me-I-face-you’… and it rained there all the time. I stopped eating at her house after a while cos I got it in my head somehow that she was a mammy water… she was that light and ‘luminous’. Ruth went to a secretarial school and loved to wear berets. She also taught us a lot of Calabar Christian music. She only left because my Dad kept trying to ‘fuck her’ and her faith wouldn’t let her. After she left, my dreams were a mess… she kept trying to chase me sometimes… and in others- tried to save me.
Then there was Uche… she had an athletic build, a crew cut and brown teeth (they looked like she’d been eating too much hot yam porridge… ). She came from a really poor family. Her parents probably had about 10 kids living in 1 or 2 rooms and I just felt bad everytime I went there. Everybody in her family was about the same height and they scared me a little. My only real memory of Uche is her cleaning the toilet when it flooded and being scared that my dad was going to hit her. HE DID. And she left the next day. It was quite shocking to me and Fire when we went to church the next Sunday and my outfit was the exact same as one of her siblings. It was annoying because the only person I ever matched with was Fire, and we had no recollection of giving Uche or her siblings any of our 'London' clothes. Ah well…
There were others who stayed for a month or months depending on how fast it took them to get tired of the situation.
Then there was Aunty Carol
Aunty Carol was in a different category from all the other ‘girls’. She wasn’t quite a housegirl but she wasn’t quite his fulltime girlfriend. She was in university and her parents were poor but still managed to send all 4 of their kids to school. My dad was really jealous cos she was gorgeous, dressed amazingly well and sometimes brought her male friends by the house. He of course banned that. I guess the deal was… he paid for her tuition while she cleaned his house and fucked him. She started us on our love affair with the piano and Toni Braxton… Seven Whole Days, Breathe again…. the whole works. She was probably our favorite out of the whole lot cos she was ‘current’ and quite nice. He traveled numerous times for weeks on end for his ‘cases’ just leaving a measly 200 or 300 Naira and not much groceries. It was hell trying to ‘manage’. We usually had to go to her parents to ask for money... and her other boyfriends I think.
One of my most distinct memories from that year is the day I asked him to buy me a T-Square for my Introductory Technology class. He told me he didn’t have any money and that I was to borrow from someone or ‘improvise’. But the next day, he took Aunty Carol shopping, bought her a ceiling fan and other furniture for her school accommodation.
I never forgave him.
Anyways, I rode out the rest of Jss1 in the same pattern… reading, sleeping, reading and sleeping.
Then the third term (summer) came around, and he sent me and Fire to Abia State to stay with his older sister for the holidays.
We never lived in that flat in Lagos again.