Inspired by one of my favorite bloggers LondonBuki, this is my thirteenth Mummy Sunday post and the fourth installment of the “When You Weren’t There Mummy” series!!! I dedicate this to my Aunt Obianuju… you gave Fire and I a home when we really needed one.
After the attempt to escape from Ngwa Road failed, our father moved us to a different part of Aba. This time, he left us with his second oldest sister Aunty Obianuju. Aunty Obianuju was a midwife with three kids- 12 year old Lillian, 10 year old Britney and 5 year old Adam. I was 9 years old and Fire was 7. Aunty Obianuju’s husband was a chemist and part- time trader in the North. He only came back East to visit his family about twice a year. Aunty Obianuju had 2 bedrooms, 1 living room and shared a kitchen with numerous other tenants in a very huge 3 storey building on Hospital Road. For the life of me, I can’t quite remember the bathroom. She had her midwife clinic on the premises, so she had a lot of nurses and helpers around all the time.
In our room, there were two beds. One was shared by Aunty Obianuju’s husband’s younger sister Patricia and the house-help Chichi. The other bed- the childrens bed- was a king size bed shared by Lillian, Britney, Adam, Fire and myself. We probably would’ve had a better time on that bed if we didn’t have to constantly deal with Adam’s bedwetting problem. Lillian was an expert ‘quantity surveyor’ back then… she was able to calculate tangents and slopes and create obtuse angles that enabled the 5 of us to sleep on that bed without smothering each other.
Initially I felt myself far above our surroundings…
I mean suffer as much as we had in the past… neither of us had ever had to share a small bedroom with 7 other people…
We’d never had to leave the room at set times of the day because aunties needed some ‘private time’.
We’d never been in an environment where everybody in the compound came out to scream and shout everytime an airplane passed by.
We’d never been in an environment where we were taken places and made to speak English in order to intimidate and/or impress other people
We’d never slept on a bed with a nylon protective covering so someone’s midnight pee could be ‘run off’ and cleaned without denting the actual mattress
We’d never had to put mats on the floor to sleep sometimes because we just couldn’t take the sweaty cramp of the bed any longer
…………… But we got used to it after staying at the Okonkwo family house for a few weeks.
With time, we actually began to cherish the sense of family we experienced there.
We learnt to be grateful for the smaller portions of beans we ate on a regular basis
We learnt to eat fast when it was family garri and soup time… cos we knew we’d starve till the next meal if we didn’t eat at the same rate as everybody else.
The ‘Yard’ also started to become some fun after a little while
We cherished the fact that we could go out and play with other kids
It was fun watching the dance steps they made up for every new song
It became fun to go to the clinic and check out the newborns… especially when they were twins or in rare cases…a triplet (actually I missed that miracle cos I was away at school at the time… I’ll tell you about that later)
We started looking forward to helping our neighbour ‘Brother Uche’ get groceries because of the little money he gave us… which we later used to buy 10 Naira Ugba that came in little ‘polythene’ bags
It became fun to watch the weekly or bi-weekly ‘pot wash’ to see who could scrub the back of their pots the cleanest with wood ash… I never participated in that either but I loved watching particularly because my cousin Lillian usually won.
It became fun to take ‘communal showers’
We had a great time watching Nigerian movies at Aunty Ekene’s house and trying to stop her 3 year old son from trying to look under our skirts.
It was also interesting watching Odinaka’s mom pop out kid after kid especially in light of the fact that we hardly ever saw her husband.
I remember our joy when it rained because we could put out buckets and collect the rainfall and not have to fetch water for the next day or so…
I remember the local shoemaker in the area who tried to lure all the little girls in the area with candy and chocolate and promises of ‘free shoe shines and repairs’
I never went there alone… THE NASTY PERV!!! I was the same age as his youngest daughter… and her friend at that!!!
Sometimes I cried because I was 9 and all I wanted was my own home… I didn’t want to move anymore. Also, Lillian oppressed me sometimes… she said little things that hurt or she’d stop talking to me for a while for no apparent reason… sometimes I didn’t like her very much… she kind of scared me… cos she was usually nice for a while… and would suddenly flip and hate on me for things I didn’t understand. I absolutely adored Britney… she stood up to Lillian for me a lot… and we had a friendship that was outside of our familial relationship. I never really formed a relationship with their brother Adam- he was quite spoilt and spent most of his time playing football, eating sweets and crying. He was a beautiful boy though and we were cousins… so we lived like that.
The bond between Fire and myself started to change a little because she started to fit in a little more in the house on Hospital Road…she was lively and a bit younger so she wasn’t as affected by all the moving and mood swings. She was oblivious to tensions except when it concerned me. She understood me like nobody else could… she’d just come by and give me a hug when she saw me staring into space… she’d cry when I cried even if I didn’t say why… she tried to stand up to Lillian for me because she knew I’d never say a word about any ill-treatment… I’d learnt how to shut off that part of myself and keep my thoughts from anybody except Fire. The only thing is that she was becoming like the people on Hospital road… to her it had become home. For me on the other hand, it was just a good place until the next move… I didn’t want to become too attached cos I knew it wouldn’t last for too long… it never did.
I never did feel completely at home there, but I did grow to love the house on Hospital rd., because in it, Fire and I felt more welcome than we had in all the others.
Aunty Obianuju loved us with all her heart… and it showed.
Our father never came to visit us in the first few months, and once again, we got used to life without him.