Inspired by one of my favorite bloggers LondonBuki, this is my twelfth Mummy Sunday post and the third installment of the “When You Weren’t There Mummy” series!!! I dedicate this one to all those who try knowing the odds are stacked against them… that’s real courage
Foiled Escape Attempt
The worst part about the moving all the time was probably the fact that we never knew when it was going to happen. There were no tearful goodbyes with friends that would miss us.. no address exchanges… nothing… We’d perfected the art of temporary friendships Fire and I. Whenever it took his fancy, our father would tell us to pack up all our stuff, we’d get into his car… the loud burgundy Volvo and he’d drop us wherever was to be our new home for however long.
When I was 8 or 9, and I’d just finished my first year of high school, he took us from Lagos to our Imo State village for Christmas. I don’t remember that particular holiday. But I remember me and Fire finding ourselves in Abia State right after. He’d taken us to his oldest sister Aunty Odinaka Ibe and gone the way of Lawyer Fathers… AWAY!!!
He left Fire and I at the Ibe home for months and once again, we got used to living without him.
Aunty Odinaka was a renowned ‘fish wholesaler’ in Aba. Some of my clearest memories of that house on Ngwa road was the smell of dry fish and my strange admiration/ attraction for my cousin Alozie.
We were supposed to be enrolled in school but they were all so busy. Aunty Odinaka was busy ‘wholesaling’ her fish, her husband Uncle Obinna was busy sharing the ‘Jehovah Witness Kingdom Hall Good Message’ and assisting his wife with their family fish. Their oldest daughter Aunty Onyinye was busy in England marrying a man who hated and rejected her son from a previous marriage. Their second oldest daughter Aunty Elizabeth was busy loving her poor chemist husband, running his shop and raising his children. Their oldest son Uncle Chidi was busy giving his parents a heart attack by getting jailed for selling drugs and taking pictures in the bathtub with white girls in South Africa. Their third daughter Aunty Mma was busy worrying about her black lips and registering for yet another year… even after 7 years studying for the same undergraduate degree. Their second son Uncle Amadi was busy in his polytechnic ironing his starched shirts and worrying if his girl ‘friend’ would eventually agree to be his ‘girlfriend’. Their last son Alozie was just busy.
So you see everybody was just a tad bit 'busy' in that house.
They loved us like the family that we were… but there’s always a difference you know…
The house on Ngwa Road was never home.
But we did get extra chunks of fish in our food, lots of people to bring us back market treats and every once in a while… a chance to see and participate in the market madness.
And unlike the flat in Lagos, in Aba, we never got a whipping for going outside to play with other kids… in fact we were encouraged.
This was the second home we’d ever had where we felt a sense of communal prayer. The entire Ibe Family came together every morning at 6am to pray and share bible passages before everybody went about their business.
I don’t remember any distinct days or distinct activities… just a blurry passing of time.
THEN YOU CAME WITH YOUR LIGHT-SKINNED MALE FRIEND TO VISIT
At that point, we still had some memories of you… but you were slowly becoming the woman with the beautiful clothes and the luminuous skin and the red lips and the warm smile and the hot tears.
You cried everytime we spoke English… we’d completely lost our British accents in less than 3 years
You cried everytime we spoke Igbo… we spoke the Igbo of our grandparents
You cried because it seems like we’d forgotten the part of our lives that had involved fish and chips and tea and biscuits after a brisk walk around our flat in Lewisham.
That was partly true, as life for us had become an invasive fish smell.
THEN YOU TOLD THEM YOU WANTED TO TAKE US SHOPPING
They gave Fire and I 4 escorts to make sure you didn’t abduct us.
To them you were the scarlet woman as:
'Good women' weren’t supposed to walk away even when their very life was at stake
'Good women' weren’t supposed to try to be independent and achieve something for themselves and their children
... 'Good women' weren’t supposed to leave their children
Our father had tried to fill our heads with tales of what a horrid woman you were… but he forgot that you were our earliest memory of warmth and heart and cheer… and that no one since then had come remotely close to reproducing that… himself included.
I still remember you holding our hands that day and trying to hide your tears as we walked along that dusty Ngwa Road strip. Then you hailed a taxi… and got in with your friend.
I can still recall the moment you started dragging Fire into the cab and tried to get me in as well...
BEFORE WE KNEW WHAT WAS HAPPENING...
AUNTY ONYINYE RAN UP TO THE CAB AND PULLED US BOTH OUT…
ESCAPE ATTEMPT FOILED!!!
I still remember the pain and torment in your eyes as your cab zoomed off to horrible insults from Aunty Onyinye and our escorts.
………. 2 days later… our father moved us to another place... we never again lived in that house on Ngwa Road...