On the 25th of December 2018, I woke up excited to be spending the day alone with no one nagging me about how the day should be spent. For me, that was bliss – spending the day doing exactly what I want.
You see, I had never been a Christmas person, the church I grew up in made sure of that. So celebrating Christmas has and still is a foreign concept to me. I still struggle to understand why everyone gets so giddy around that time of the year. I usually just look forward to the public Holidays around the time and end up going out with friends or visit family.
Well, last Christmas was different. Unlike before when I would have made plans on how to spend the holiday – cinema date, friends’ hangout or visitation, I did no such thing this time around. This time, I wanted to enjoy my company for the day and then take it up from there. Having done marathon work in the month of November and December, I felt like I deserved the “Me-time”.
But there was this teeny- tiny problem; the responsibility of having to make certain compulsory calls to certain people every Christmas or New Year.
C’mon, I really can’t be the only one in this shoes, or am I?
Anyway, this is the one aspect that I do not like about the festive period – having forced conversations or sending texts that we really do not mean to people just to act like they’ve been on our minds all year long. (Gosh, the relief I felt just saying that out loud, phew!) Back to my story, that morning I battled with the thought of calling some family members and I eventually found a way to let myself default by just saying, “screw this, I’ll probably send a WhatsApp message or something, that should be easier”. But there was this one person that I couldn’t afford not to call, yes you guessed right – my grandmother!
My grandmother aka “iya-odofin” as we fondly call her is one woman whose life is filled with tales. She was very present in our childhood-my siblings and I. There is something particularly interesting about her “egba” intonation, it makes me want to know more about my native language. She speaks with so much grace, confidence and gusto – you could tell that she is very proud of her heritage.
I never met my grandfather but I heard quite a lot about him. A traditional ruler who ruled a certain small village in Obafemi Owode Local Government Area, Ogun State. He was a Muslim and invariably my grandmother practiced Islam too. And so my father was raised a Muslim who would later convert to Christianity in his early 20s. Let me add that my grandfather married two wives, my grandmother being the first with my father as her only son. So she had this fondness for my father that was incomparable to that of her other children.
Something I always admired in her is how she treats her step children and she successfully transferred that admirable trait to her son, my father. If no one told you, you wouldn’t know that some of my father’s siblings were actually his step-siblings (if there is ever a word like that).
“Iya- odofin” later converted to Christianity with the help of my father of course. But there were some things she did that were confusing to me back then that I am now just getting to understand; whenever she traveled to visit my father’s siblings (who are still Muslims by the way), she would go to mosque with them, pray with them and read the Qur’an with them. To be honest, I judged her a lot based on this, I would laugh at her double standards. I felt she chose to convert to Christianity just so she could be closer to my father. Looking back, I realize that I was wrong. She did what she had to do to keep her family together, she showed me first-hand what a lot of Christians today including my father failed to show me – Love and Unity! She practiced what Jesus Christ did when he was here on earth – dining with the gentiles.
Now this is the best part, Iya-odofin’s signature character which I soon found out is their entire blood line’s character; Savagery! My oh my, believe me when I say you are yet to meet an old woman who dishes out the most savage responses like my grandmother. Her mouth had and still has no filter when it comes to being savage, that you must give to her and my father of course – his mother’s son! The other day, my younger sister and I were still reminiscing about the insults and savagery we suffered at her hands growing up. But there was always this humour that came with each insult, it leaves you wondering if you should cry or laugh.
On Christmas day, after pushing away the thought of calling my grandmother for so long, I finally dialed her number – secretly wishing she would not pick up. Why you ask? To be honest, calling my grandmother soon became a task over the years. I dreaded her savage retorts and of course the Almighty topic of “marriage”. If you know me, you will know that I do well to avoid “Marriage talks” especially with elderly people. Those conversations just always leave me sore and furious, like would you pray for me from afar and just let me live my life in peace without the constant interruption with marriage nags?
Iya-odofin picked the call on that day and we exchanged pleasantries. I am always reminded of how much she means to me every time we get to talk; iya-odofin is your definition of Strong African Woman – 80s, still agile, dark skinned, short with hips that don’t lie. (She always says that I got my tiny hips from her elder sister) I am always quick to apologize for not calling more frequently, deep down I really wish I could do better. This time, she didn’t waste time beating about the bush, she just went for the “marriage talk” straight ahead – the very thing I dreaded the most.
“Haa, temi bami” (My own has met me), I heard myself whisper underneath my breath.
“E ye o, E ye o, e moko wale o” (please, please, bring your husband home) she said repeatedly.
“Yea ma, mo to gbo ma” (I have heard ma) I replied.
“Be se mama so niyen, a ti so so titi e o Ku dawa lohun” (that’s how you say every time, I have talked and talked, you never listen), she said.
“Egbon re ti moko wa, Iwo née moko wa, ka mo o, eyi to de se ti to ke, abii” (your sister has brought her husband, you too bring yours and let us know him, you have done enough) she said.
When iya-odofin says “you have done enough”, she is referring to having done enough of chasing academics, career or anything else that matters to you except marriage. She can’t wrap her head around why grown up, working class ladies like me and my elder sister are still unmarried. She mostly blames my parents for not mounting enough pressure on us.
“Bi awon baba yin abi iya yin ko ba so fun yin,je ki n so o” (if your father or mother doesn’t talk to you, let me talk to you), she always said.
This time, for the first time she took things up a notch, “Dede awon eburo yin lo to bi mo, Tolu to bi mo, Sarah to bi mo ……ki le wa n duro de?” (all your younger ones are married, Tolu is married, Sarah is married…so what are you waiting for?) she said. (Never mind that I have no clue who Tolu or Sarah is).
At this point, that soreness and furry that I talked about earlier was beginning to gain its ground. So out of anger and irritation, I managed to say “Eyin naa e ma gbadura now, haa te ba fe ka my oko wa le, e ma gbadura mama” (You too pray for us haa, if you want us to bring husband home, pray for us mama).
What she said following my outburst was the one thing I wasn’t prepared to hear.
“Mo n gbaa fu yin, Dede igba no ni mo n gba fun yin, sugbon e yin naa e je ki adura mi mo yin, e je ko moo yin. E gbori wa le ki e mu ikan ninu awon okunrin yen, adura mi mo awon omo mi, e je ka dura mi mo eyin nee”. (I am praying for you, I pray for you every time but you too let my prayers work in your lives, let it work. Bring your head down and choose one of the men, my prayers for my children worked for them, let my prayers for you work on you too)
At this point, I was in literal shock like did she really just say that? Did she really just insinuate that I am the problem? Clearly i was beginning to shake on the other end of the line, I was just done – done with this whole marriage saga with this woman. As I was about to find the right words to bring the conversation to a close, she added a plot twist. Get this, my grandmother is a drama Queen and I couldn’t be surer that we are related.
“E kuku mo pe mi ko le ni kan afi eyin, e ko gbo pe mo laburo, tabi egbon ni bi kan kan, eyin le gbon mi, eyin laburo mi oo. Abi e o fe ki n fi oju ri oko yin ki n to lo ni? E ye, e dakun oo” she said with a shaky voice. (You know I have no one except you people, you have not heard that I have a brother or sister somewhere, you are my brother, you are my sister. Or you do not want me to meet your husband before I go? Please, have mercy oo).
Did you see what she just did there? Do you hear the sound of manipulation?
But if you can resist an elderly woman almost in tears, then I dare say you just might not be human. (On a lighter note) I feel like I could just end the story here and you will still know how the conversation ended.
To say I was moved almost to tears is an understatement -even though I could hear the manipulation loud and clear. I know iya-odofin is old but I had never quite imagined my world without her in it. Hearing her talk about “leaving” brought all these emotions to the fore. I definitely don’t want my grandma to “leave” and not without her wish coming to pass – Her meeting my husband! It made me think of how selfish I might have been to think that my getting married is only “my concern”, quite the opposite I must say.
I found a new level of empathy for my grandma that day. I mean, it might not sound good to me, it might not be what I solely aspire to in life, but to her, seeing me and my sisters get married would be her greatest joy and probably her greatest achievement.
I replied her by saying “Mama, e o lo ibi kan kan, e ma pe fun wa”. (Mama, you are going nowhere, you will live long for us).
But for the first time in a long time, I felt quite uneasy about my “marriage talk” with iya-odofin. It was different this time, it left me somewhat traumatized. That night, I couldn’t sleep easy, I tossed from side to side on my 41/2 inch size bed and I was troubled within my spirit. So I got up, knelt down, soon hot tears began rolling down my cheeks and I finally found myself saying words like “God, please make my grandmother’s dream come true. Let her see me get married before she leaves us, I’d really like that God, okay? Thank you for answering me”.
I’d like to think that God heard my prayers that night, he must have right?
Well, I guess we’ll find out soon. Don’t worry, I promise to update you when the answer to that prayer manifests, you deserve it, each one of you – for coming this far with me on this journey.
Thank you so much for reading, I hope this humours you as well as leave a certain feeling in your heart especially towards your grandmother.
If you have tales about your grandmother, please tell me all about it in the comment section below.
Till next time on the Small Town Girl Blog
Peace and Love