If one told me my day would turn out the way it did, I’d bet a million in disagreement. It has turned out to be a tradition for me and my best friend every quarter of the year to visit the orphanage. This time it turned out to be an entirely different trip. As often as we visited we never got into a serious conversation with the director.
My face beamed with a smile as Tayo drove into the orphanage home, as usual some of the staff walked towards the car as we had called a day before. Sandra, one of the attendants specifically came to meet me to tell me that the director wanted to see me. Tayo felt uncomfortable, maybe something went wrong with the materials and food we brought the last time but I agreed instantly to go as I felt nothing was wrong. As we got to the office, Sandra retreated, I remember being in her office made me feel like I was sitting face to face with my mother.
The lady, Mrs. Tokunbo was old but smiled like a new born baby as she asked me to take a sit. She explained that her motive to see me was to ask if I had children of my own. I was startled and I guess she noticed as she immediately added that she didn’t mean to impose a child on me but a program was being organized by the orphanage and she would need me to be part of the committee to reach out to mothers. I seemed to regain my balance as she said it but at the same time, tears seemed to flow with my balance and the tables turned, she wondered why I wept.
I told her after some seconds, “I’m not a mother, I’m not a good example for children talk less for mothers, what would I tell them, my story is one filled with regrets, the story; my burden, which brings me to the orphanage, but I’ve not been able to pay it off”. Mrs Tokunbo had an evergreen smile as she said, “no problem, I’m sure many would want to hear it, this is the invitation letter, just in case you want to share your story, our doors are opened that day for your story, the ball is in your court”. She was indeed not a woman of many words, I pondered about the little I heard from her as I walked out of her office. I just couldn’t believe one could be so direct at telling me simply, it’s time to let go of your burden. It was heartwarming to know.
Tayo was done sharing the supplies and was waiting for me by the car, she noticed my eyes but didn’t say a word till we were half-way down the road. I explained everything to her and she repeated Mrs. Tokunbo’s last words, ‘the ball is in your court’. I was left to think about it, my story was like a fish bone in my throat but I made a decision to go for it whether I spoke or not.
I arrived at the program quite late, Tayo arrived earlier and at a point didn’t feel I’d be coming any longer. As I took my seat, the speaker was rounding up. Mrs. Tokunbo came up to the podium and made recognition of some of the personalities including me that had come into the hall at that time. The hall was indeed full, and she asked for me to come up, I grew pale almost immediately. Tayo clapped alongside the children, it was truly an applause with no knowledge of what the contents of my message was. I stood up wobbly with my head down as I walked to the podium, I knew it would break me but it won’t be me alone so I pushed.
Gazing at the large number of people, mothers, children, important personalities and all, I cleared my throat and began, ‘To me, this is more than a speech or a story, whichever we may choose, it’s a flower stored up inside me and I really can’t wait to pluck, I could be criticized or loved, whichever way we’d find ourselves in it.
Almost two decades back, I lost my father when he was about to go buy roasted plantain for my mother across the road, he was hit by a moving vehicle. I remember many people coming over to sympathize with us but when asked what killed him, my mother would just cry not being able to speak, because she felt she was the cause. They had me at old age but from what I heard it didn’t deter the love between them.
I was already schooling when it all happened though not old enough to have understood everything but the crying scenes didn’t clear off. It was however hard living after my father’s demise, as the only business that seemed to sustain us was my mother’s sewing which I also picked up from her, those days, getting what every child craved for was far from my home nevertheless I had a mother. I got even more than a business sense from her if not from anything but the book of Proverbs that seemed to be tied closely to her tongue.
Years after being closely guarded with all the good morals and upbringing, I met Sade, a big Lagos babe, really exposed to whatever you can name. As much as my mother needed money, mama had a strict policy, ‘she’d never sew any garment that’d be indecent’, and whatever she actually sewed was worth the praise. Sade had caught the gist on my mother’s handiwork but still wanted to try her luck, she came to the shop on a day when I was sent out of school because of my outstanding school fees. Moreover, my secondary school certificate exam registration was getting to a close and the school was threatening me. My mother had promised to pay but the school felt nothing coming forth.
On getting home that day when I was sent back home, I met my mother in an argument with the lady I mentioned earlier, Sade. She looked attractive but practically bleached from her knuckles and elbows that were exposed. I met the lady saying, ‘I’ll give you #10,000 for each one, I have five materials here in fact I’ll make it #12,000, if you insist’, you can imagine how my eyes danced at the amount as my heart sang; “I’ll show my Principal”. Mama rather looked and sounded firm as all she said sternly was, ‘sorry, I won’t do it, that’s not my kind of work’, the lady got so irritated and even began insulting mama. I was really keen to know what happened before I broke my own news to her.
I remember my mother practically acting, she turned and mimicked the lady, she said, , ‘ma daunloun jare, don’t mind her , “can you help me sew this attire, its expensive French lace o, you know show me your stomach, it would have no linen covering my stomach to my waist. And shey you see I have a large bust, iyarugbo’ mama said this with her fingers in the style and finesse we call “ako”, ‘so I would like for my bust to come out.’ Mama continued, ‘you see this one is French lace too but it is more expensive because of the purple colour, I want show me your back, my full back to the waist.’ My mom ended with, ‘my dear I don’t sew rags’.”
The audience gave a laugh that soon faded, I cleared my throat and continued, “I wasn’t pleased however that day, I wondered if my mother really cared about me as she said, couldn’t she sacrifice her policies for me, I broke the news about the school fees debt, it didn’t even move her, all she said was God will do it. I knew the lady wouldn’t have gone very far and even if she did, she lived close by. I made up an excuse of going to pick up my book in my friend’s house, so I could catch up with the lady. When I eventually did, she looked around first and wanted to start throwing tantrums that I was probably there to insult her personality. I feigned tears immediately, crying like my life depended on it, ‘aunty, my mummy doesn’t understand, she is old, ko ye won, my school fees and my future depends on it’, I said amidst tears, ‘believe me, my mother has really taught me well, I can sew, I’ll sew it for you’, I continued, the lady pretended not to be convinced, she said hope it’s not born again you want to sew for me, you will pay me my money samsam, she snapped her fingers. I promised her and took the clothes; I hid it at a friend’s place and somehow managed to get back home in time.
My mother wasn’t even in the slightest notion suspicious, she however continued consoling me with her word, ‘my dear, God is on the throne, He will do it’, I practically gave a mocking amen in my heart. Days passed with me working through the night for the clothes to be done while mama slept because the shop was attached to the front of our house, I kept telling myself, ‘Jesu ma da riji mi, Jesus will forgive me’. Mama however wondered why I wasn’t complaining and even resolved that I had great faith while she was worried. I also tried to cover up my fatigue because I was hardly sleeping; she in turn suggested that I must have been praying which I nodded affirmatively to.
How glad I was when the work was finally done, it was really to the lady’s satisfaction. I was paid #62,000, the highest I had ever held as my own, I felt proud of myself and I went the next day to pay my school fees, only for me to get home and meet an envelope on the table, my mother handed it to me as my school fees. All of a sudden I started fidgeting; I was looking up another excuse since my head had become very active. My mom began to search through my face with her eyes imagining why I wasn’t thanking God. I quickly knelt down and thanked her and was even singing before she would speak with the plans of keeping the money where my mother would not know.
I didn’t know mama was smarter, the next day she asked for my school fees receipt for safe keeping, I quickly brought it out forgetting the date on it…
Do drop your comments, will Mama find out?