It’s the month of May in which both mothers and children are celebrated globally; and today, I celebrate mothers but pay special tributes to my grandma, Asana fondly called Mama Nokhwa meaning ‘Big Mama’ in Uwano language of Etsako land in Edo State, Nigeria.
It’s been almost ten years since Mama passed away but memories of her are still so vivid in my mind. I wake up in the morning and I find myself singing choruses in her local dialect. At work I exclaim in her local dialect once startled. Only a person who impacted one’s life tremendously can have such lingering memories. I guess the saying that as you grow older, you begin to appreciate your mum more is indeed true.
Mama’s bigness was not in her physique but in the size of her heart and her warmth. She was big in the sense that everyone looked up to her; her brothers (older and younger), children, grand children, sister-in-law and most especially her nieces and nephews from who the name ‘Mama Nokhwa’ originated. She was so looked-up to that even as she lay stone cold in death on the night of her wake, her brother said to her “what am I supposed to do now that the lioness is gone?” Her generosity knew no bounds; she was never tired of sharing or giving. She loved her brothers (both unfortunately blinded by diabetes) unconditionally and beyond measure. But there was no mistaking what she stood for; discipline. The astute disciplinarian!
Yes, with Big Mama, there was time for everything. A time to study and a time to play; a time to eat and definitely time for household chores; a time for prayer and time for bed. All the kids in our neighbourhood knew that they could only visit us including during holidays if they were ready to recite to the time-table (2 x 1= 2) as it appeared behind the Onward notebooks in our time.
She was renowned for her little bell which rang at 9p.m. just as the NTA network news began, and she’d usually say “early to bed…” and there was no telling that we should hop and run to bed. At 5a.m the next morning, the same bell would go-off; this time she’d say, “Prayer time”. The bell never went-off in the afternoon except at the end of the holidays. The occasion, time to give, which she cheerfully called ‘work of mercy’. Two or three days before the end of the holiday especially summer holidays, she would come round to our rooms ringing the bell and asking the question, “anything for work of mercy?”. When we grumbled that we didn’t have any used or worn-out clothes, she reminded us that the clothes we give out need not be worn-out and she wouldn’t leave until everyone had ransacked their wardrobes and let-go of something. Mama always returned to her hometown, Agenebode with something for the needy; most times, good clothing because she came around virtually every holiday not cutting us any slack to wear-off the clothes. On the flipside, it earned us the position of the loved and ever welcomed grand children of Mama, who people trooped-in to visit or waited to greet in church every time we went to Agenebode for holidays. Better still, she helped us to imbibe the spirit of giving at an early age and to live by the principle of not giving out any gifts which we do not consider befitting enough for ourselves.
At age 9, I began to learn to do the dishes. Am still quite petitie, so at age 9, I wasn’t much taller than the kitchen sink. I was made to climb the native stool (Joko) so that I could be much taller and comfortable enough to do the dishes. Each time I make a meal out of boiled potatoes, I remember my grandma, each time I’m opportuned to eat Akara in Lagos, I remember all the years I made home-made Akara for Mama after she was also diagnosed with diabetes in her old age.
I could go on and on about Mama because of how proud I am of her and the experiences I had that shaped me for today. The key question is: “what do we have to pass on to our kids as mothers of today?”
Being passionate about society and social issues, I am an ardent listener of ‘Sharing lives issues with Chaz B’ on Inspiration 92.3fm’. On a particular day, a question was posed to the male listeners of the radio show. It was: ‘would you marry a woman who cannot cook?’. A few responded in the affirmative and I was quite impressed. But in no time women had taken over the show and the discussions took a new turn. Women became defensive arguing that men have become too demanding, expecting a career woman to get home after the days job and hours in traffic and still get into the kitchen. I share their concerns and belong to the school of thought subscribe to cooking from scratch on weekends while we make do with what we have stocked in the refrigerator on weekdays. However, are women supposed to be able to cook? My candid opinion is that NO, is not an option; at least for the African woman. And for those who were not opportuned to learn and have accommodating husbands who are willing to teach them or let them learn, they need to do so.
In the same manner that we expect our men to cater for the family financially, so is the kitchen and minding the home our responsibility. I doubt that we can attain the standards set in the Bible in Proverbs 31, but it gives an idea of what the expectations are.
God has given us a responsibility as women to nurture the family and difficult as the times are, we must accept that which we have been called to do by our Maker. Money, beauty, family and friends may go away but life’s experiences stay with us forever. What will your children say about you when you are gone? Will you be worth up to a thousand words?