He had gone with a cousin to see a friend in one of the neighbouring villages. This friend was learning a trade up North and was full of news about life in Ugwu-Hausa.
It was dusk and they were seating on carved wooden stools in the courtyard, when over the fence three girls walked past. A transistor radio was playing hi-life music, and they were sharing a big bowl of abacha with smoked mangala fish, flies buzzed overhead, drawn by the palmwine they were sharing. All the sounds and smells faded as he half stood, trasfixed by the vision that just passed by. Rarely one to show emotion, he cleared his throat, hacked and spat into the dust and carried on eating. When five minutes later he blurted out “Who was that girl in the middle with the firewood on her head?” His cousin and his friend burst into a round of hearty laughter.
Coming up for breath, the friend said “I was wondering how long before you asked. You should have seen yourself! The way you jumped out of your seat as if it was a cushion of pins, the look on your face as if you had been struck by Amadioha, the lightning god!”
That night when he got home, he told his mother about the girl he had seen. By the end of the Christmas holidays, enquiries had been made about her and the findings from the investigations pleased his mother.
So it came to be that less than a year later, she walked into his family home as his wife.
She quickly put herself to work proving herself both fertile – she bore him daughters and sons, and industrious. He was pleased with her, and his young family.
Then death struck.
Devastated, she did not know what to do with the children, the last of which was just learning to speak and his favourite phrase was “Na me dey marry my mama”, which always made her smile; and she a young wife with no book qualification to pursue a career.
That was thirty years ago. In that time she had rallied and done the best by them, almost single-handedly. She had fought off the wolves; stood toe to toe with adversity and triumphed; she had raised amazing children – her last not only has more than one phrase in his kitty, he has a romance with words spoken and written – and had been blessed with even more, amazing grandchildren. She had kept the pack together; her pride she has kept as one, losing none. This lioness, this beautiful amazon.
It is not for any small reason that I hold her high above everyone else, this ultimate keeper of my heart – she taught me everything I know, and I am eternally grateful.
For all these to come to pass, though, she first had to be born all those years ago today.
So it is with a sense of pride and gratitude and awe – yes, Mama is still the same amazon she was when I was growing up, mellowed with age, but still all there – that I write this to wish her a HAPPY BIRTHDAY.
I pray God continues to keep her for me, for us, her children and for her grandchildren.
PS: I gather it was ibetapasmyneibor’s birthday on the 14th of August, I am sorely tempted to type ‘HBD, LLNP & GBY’, but I will just say God bless you and keep you, and may He let his face shine upon you.