She often told the story of her being in labour with her first child. She had perfectly manicured 'stiletto' nails, polished bright red. When the contractions hit, she'll stretch her hands in front of her and wriggle a little. One of the nurses said 'Madam you are not in pain. When you really are, you'll bite off those nails'. I don't remember how this story ended, but I was always in awe of my mum's nails. She could also polish her right fingers with her left. More awe.
I also remember the first time I discovered her mascara. I had no clue what it was and I tried to write with it. Mary Kay makeup, Pleated Skirts, Culottes and Waisted Belts were her thing. She didn't understand straight or bodycon clothes. My mum was really the first fashionable woman I knew. Her friends use to say call her 'Ochomma' and 'Nlecha'. Igbo words for Fashionista. Too bad I didn't inherit those traits. I'm into Culottes now though. Such freedom! But she warns that wearing free clothes may make me fat.
Her best friend has really nice feet. I kinda have a thing for nice feet. In Aunty M's house, I was content. Gosh. I never wanted to leave. This is the reason I can't dance. While the other kids were rocking to Notorious B.I.Gs 'Biggie Biggie Biggie' I was under the duvet in a library full of Enid Blyton books. I read them all. Mr Stampabout, Famous Five, Secret Seven, and Mallory Towers. And then when I got older, Danielle Steel. Aunty M often took us to Ikoyi Club. We were not members. But she and her kids were. So she 'snuck' my mum's kids in by saying 'Yes all 6 of them are my kids' And oh yes we were! Getting ice cream from NewYorkers and Pintos also became part of our routine when she picked us all from school. In the Station Wagon that could take all 6 kids - 4 of hers, my brother and me. I remember when I once told my mum I wanted to sleep in her house and not go home. I was caned. How dare you prefer someone's house to yours? Her kids made my childhood. We honestly had the best times. Going to the same primary school, we introduced ourselves as Cousins. Family Friends didn't capture it.
Aunty M didn't like us calling her Aunty M. She thought it was rude to call her by her first name. African parents. So she said we should call her A's Mummy. Funny how I also share the same first and middle name with Aunty M's daughter. I was OJG, she was OJD. Weird I know. Obviously my mum copied Aunty M, because her daughter is older. I often thought as a child 'what if I marry her brother and she marries mine?'. Then we'd have swapped names… I would have become OJD and her OJG. Too bad fate didn't feel my sense of humour.
There was also my god-mother. Co-incidentally, she's also Aunty M (Let's call her 2nd Aunty M). My mum's sister. She didn't mind us calling her Aunty M. When I remember my childhood memories at hers, I remember Sardines. Titus sardines. In Oil. With red tins. Only in her house have I ever seen a full carton of those. There were probably 90 tins in a carton. Once we arrived at hers, we must have sardine and butter sandwich. And 2nd Aunty M? Goodness. World's Greatest Praiser (and Exaggerator of Good news). Anyone who knew her had to know that her god-daughter, had two first classes and often had the best result in school. Except that she'll say it was the best result in the country.
I've grown up with these three strong women by my side. For 27 years, I've seen their struggles, their tears and their victories. I've seen them pursue their degrees as adults. As a matter of fact, 2nd Aunty M, being one of the oldest in her class in Unilag, still topped the class in first year. I've seen them undertake various businesses. I've seen them pregnant, have kids and train their kids. School runs, Market trips, Church duties, Husband duties, Home keepers. The whole shebang.
I've shared their laughter. I've never seen people who talk for so long on the phone. There's always something to laugh about. And not those fake laughter or 'Lols' that dominate today's conversations. No, these lot don't do those. They laugh from their belly. Weekends were not complete without a visit to or from them. Someone must call to say 'Any beta for your side?'
I've also borne the brunt of their tease. From the age of growing boobs to boy talk. These mostly came from the two Aunty Ms. My mum was too shy for such talk. She still is.
I was never one to say my Mum's food was the best. My mum's food was amazing! But Aunty M's threw it down in the kitchen as well.
I've learnt way too many lessons from these three. They personify Strength. Support. Sharing. Perseverance. Friendship. I can't list all, but here's some takeaways:
- Yes to New Friends: My mom met her best friend after marriage. They were neighbours. 30 years on, and still going.
- No Ethnic Barriers: My mom's best friend isn't Igbo. Her husband is though. My mum taught her to make Igbo soups and they converse in English and Pidgin. Free your mind from ethnic sentiments.
- What social class?: These three and their friends were not always in the same social class. But it didn't matter. They related with everyone.
I have so many many memories with these three! Incredibly good memories. And I could not be who I am today without them!.
Cheers to all the mummies out there, young or old and particularly mummies-to-be. We also pray for those waiting on God to be mummies!
Did you celebrate Mothers' Day? Share one of your favourite experiences with your mum or mother figures in your life.
pS: I wrote this post last year for Mothers' Day and it was published on another platform. It was Mothers' Day in the US and some other countries yesterday and my Instagram timeline was filled with so many people celebrating their mothers and mother figures, so I thought to share for new readers who may have missed it. There's probably a lot of Nigerian lingua in there, but I'm sure you get the picture.
ppS: The photo above was during my LL.M graduation from Cambridge in 2013. I kinda looked so young!.