On this Saturday morning, the sun shone over the skyline through a sparkling eastern cloud. Can’t tell exactly what time of day it must have been: 9, 10? I’m not sure, now.
I didn’t quite get sufficient sleep on Saturday mornings, or so I’m prone to thinking; (my mother always thinks otherwise though). She says I’m lazy and that it will be a miracle when a man finally asks me to marry him. I chuckle each time she said this and she did say it often. I am only 16 and barely out of Senior Secondary School; who wants me for a wife…in this age and generation?!
There were times I thought my Mom dramatic and exaggerating, but she loved me!
“I’m your mother” she repeatedly said and made sure every moment of that counted: from conception to whatever day was the challenge!
“I bore you in this my womb” she would always say, pointing at her now rumpled stomach flab! “I cannot deceive you.”
Mom had a shop where she carried out her petty trade in local confectionaries and food items such as Bread, Egg-Rolls, Peanuts, Milk, Fruit Juice, Rice, Garri, Beans and soft drinks. It was my duty to man the shop on Saturdays since I wasn’t in School on those days. Mom said she was teaching me “to learn to earn outside paid employment”.
There are so many things Mom is teaching me and all at once…sometimes I feel they are too many: endless counsels of menu in the Kitchen (whilst we prepared meals), talks of chastity, whenever my monthly cycle showed up and lessons on money, every time I am in the petty trade shop. The irony I’m not able to understand however, is that each time I was beginning to feel wearied by Mom’s lessons and counsels, something happens to reinforce her voice in my head: once she talked no end about being vigilant in one’s business and careful with money; a few days later, I lost a whooping N2, 420 miscalculating a Customer’s purchase. It was a shameful day for me, more so, because Mom refused to yell at me!
“I’m happy God chose to teach you Himself” she had said softly, clutching the notes of the sales I had made. She went on to sit quietly afterwards, but wouldn’t let me attend to anyone else, that day. I felt quite bad and irresponsible.
Next was when Miss Jane got pregnant, unmarried! It was a huge scandal!
When the rumour broke at first, Mom called me into our room and said “Erinma, a woman must manage her affairs well and wisely; the fall outs of wrong decisions, have no ears for after-tales and excuses. Whilst tomorrow waits, you must make the most of today.”
I tried for many days to understand that statement and I finally did when the details of Miss Jane’s predicament became clearer: she had been raped on her way from her bar-tending job, late one night. Everyone was sad but blamed her for keeping company with slothful drunks and a wayward boss. They all said Miss Jane was well-mannered and didn’t deserve what had befallen her. I didn’t know who her boss was, but the neighbourhood talked endlessly about how much of an indecent woman she was. Many still, wondered why Miss Jane couldn’t have gotten herself a better deal of a job, no matter how menial.
“Maybe if she had a better education…” I’d heard Tope’s mother say to Mom in our shop, “…she would have had better work opportunities. You see why it is important for girls to take their education seriously?”
“Either way, my sister…” she continued, “…rape or not, a woman who does not know the importance of self-respect, ends up with out-of-wedlock pregnancy.”
She finished this assertion with a tone of finality whilst packing her purchase of two tins of tomatoes and darted me a warning glance.
I acted blank. I certainly couldn’t have shown any opinion (spoken or implied). By Mom’s rule, I couldn’t have heard that conversation!
I heaved a deep but hushed sigh after her departure whilst pretending to be focused on tidying the displays of our wares: I wouldn’t dare let Mom get the faintest glimpse that I was listening-in on adult conversation. She calls it bad upbringing.
Those words she spoke hit me very hard. Being a girl isn’t as attractive, if you ask me.
A shrill scream from the room next door to my mother’s Shop stopped my thoughts. I dashed out of the shop. Though Mom had given strict instruction that on no account were her wares to be left unattended, it would have been wicked to hear such piercing cry and be unmoved. Continue reading