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She: ‘I want to have a talk with you. I am glad you understand Yoruba very well, so you will understand what it is I am saying to you. I have noticed you are very lazy. Your husband does all the work. He takes care of the children and does everything for them. It is not right. You should do something too. It is not as if you go to work.’

Me: ‘Yes, T helps me a lot, and for that I am grateful. You don’t have a clue about my health issues, and I’m not about to bring them up in my defence. You don’t know what happens in my home. Yes I don’t go to work, but I pull my weight at home. T is out of the house from early morning till late in the evening. I take care of the children and feed my household, but I don’t need to justify myself to you. I will not knock myself out running around just to prove to you that I am hard working. What we do is none of your business.’

She: ‘There is this man who was a workaholic, and it wasn’t until his wife insisted, that he went to have a growth on his neck checked out. It turned out to be cancerous. It is nice for couples to grow old together. Things are never the same if one spouse dies through overwork.’

Me: ‘So are you saying I am trying to send your son into an early grave? That I am overworking him because you have seen him bathing his children? Is he not their father? I reject your pronouncements in Jesus name.’

She: ‘I have said this to you in the past, and I am telling you again. You need to train your children properly. Yes they live abroad, but you still need to train them. Otherwise they will turn out to be a liability to you and your husband in the future. You don’t want to do the work, but you should train your children. The worst thing is that I noticed that when E1 wanted to use the pestle, you were telling her to be careful. You had better train your children so they know how to do housework. There was this woman who didn’t train her daughter, she was always asking other people’s children to do the work. Now her daughter can’t even make eba.’

Me: ‘My children are very well behaved, and even total strangers have attested to this. They are doing well academically. What more do you want? They are 9, 6, and 3 and you are going on about training. I do the housework. Have I ever come to complain to you that I am tired? There is time for everything, they will learn what is necessary at the right time. Yes I told her to be careful because there were splinters along the length of the pestle, and I didn’t want them piercing her hands. What good is it to her to know how to pound egusi? Or even yam for that matter? My children live in a different time and age. At the right time, I will equip them with the skills they need. They are children, let them enjoy their childhood. I can make gari from scratch. Plant the cassava, harvest it, peel and soak it, take it to the mill to get it pressed. Grate and fry it. I made gari growing up. Ditto ogi, elubo, lafun. All from scratch. Plant corn, harvest, dry, shuck, soak, grind, sieve. The works. I can live on a farm and grow fat. So don’t insinuate that my mother did not train me, because you and I know that that is what you are saying. I am not a good cook. I am a fantastic cook. But I do not need to prove anything to you.’

It is a dark night. NEPA has taken light and we are sitting outside on the veranda, whilst the children sit indoors with lit torches. I glance upwards at the sky, and am amazed to see hundreds of stars twinkling away. I have not seen stars in years. I am in awe at God’s handiwork  Her voice brings me crashing down into the here and now. The tribunal.

She: ‘I had been thinking that the next time you dad comes to Osogbo, we will go to see him and do your engagement. But it is all in your hands, and is dependent on your behaviour. So plan properly, and know what you will do.’

Me: Snorting in derisive laughter ‘Engagement? Engagement? That is the inducement you are dangling over my head? Engagement ko, engagement ni. I’ve been married for almost 13 years and you still think my ultimate desire is that you come and do my engagement? I don’t give a toss about getting engaged, you can hold your plans. If this is what you think will make me docile and submissive, you have played the wrong card. Because I have had enough. This is the last time you will see me here in your village. And when you come to England, you will see your grandchildren, but not me. You have gone too far. My silence does not mean I am stupid. I am not going to give you the opportunity to air your opinions about me or my children to my face anymore. Enough already.’

There is a long pause. She has run out of steam and I guess the tribunal is over.

I kneel down and thank her. They are the only words I have uttered. And then I get up and go inside. My unspoken answers ringing in my head.

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