The Early Days…
Growing up wasn’t too pleasant for me because I constantly wished I had a caring father like the other kids. The question hung on my lips and were written clearly in my moistened eye, “why did daddy abandon us without looking back, Mama?”
Sometimes she just smiled back with an assuring response, ” no worry Voke, una no go suffer, I go work and make sure say una go the school wey I no go.”
Mama daily swallowed the pains and feelings of an unloved and neglected young lady. She worked herself so hard, morning and night. She would spend making and practicing new hair styles to wow her customers who believed in her skill, humour and speed. Gradually, her small clientele grew so much with customers coming in from Warri to the popular Orho market in Agbarho queuing for her excellent touch.
“Mama, don’t worry, you will be well!” 4 year old me said soothingly as I poured the 20th bowl of water on Mama’s head.
That morning mama woke up from her almost sleepless night of tossing back and forth to prepare her six month old twins, a boy and girl, and also my sister and I. She would hasten to set up her corner where she made the most beautiful braids and cornrows for ladies.
She always had something fun to share. She was bold, fearless and full of experience. Mama had tales of Lagos, the big city every lady wanted to live in. She made them laugh and smile all through the hair making process. Minutes later, when she was done and called for the next in line, the lady whose turn was over would still insist on sitting with the others just a little more to enjoy the gist. My mama could gist sha.
With a faint voice, she had announced her final movement and relocation from the Orho market square. You should have seen the jaw dropping look on the faces of the ladies.
Days of Struggle…
Mama moved with her set of twins, one on back and the other on her shoulder while the two older girls walked hand in hand besides her. She quickly settled among her father’s kindred and looked for space in the nearby markets to start her hair styling business afresh but to no avail. Soon, she and her kids became really familiar with real hunger and lack.
Mama would go days and weeks without food, trekking very long distances just to ensure the kids had something to reduce their hunger till it was another dawn and off she scooped them out again for another hustle. On a particular night she got back looking all spent and tired but that was the day she became more determined to fight with all that was in her to make her kids succeed in life without experiencing the struggles.
She finally got a proper space to settle in her trade completely on the other side of town. But the place was too far to pull the kids along. Knowing what was ahead, she took days off her trade to quietly observe how her girls would manage themselves and their twin toddlers when she’s out during the day.
Life gradually blossomed and opened her up to opportunities and relationships that both enhanced and strengthened her. She soon got an apartment just enough for herself and the kids in the same neighbourhood as her hair shop.
With determination and a goal of a better life for her kids, she poured herself out completely maximizing all the skills trapped in her. Whilst making Ladies’ hair, she got into sales. She sold bread, fruits, vegetables, pumpkin leaves (ugu). She maximized sales at major events in the city.
One remarkable turn in her life was when she embraced love again and was quickly blessed with the gift of a girl child that would later become a friend, sister, companion and gist mate.
With her meagre but constant earnings, she insisted on adding value to all her kids. She supported and pushed them as far as they were willing to fly.
Joyful Days At Last…
Mama sat that evening gazing at the glory of the full moon and the beauty of God’s creation. Her day dream settled in as her girls and only son were all grown and married with their spouses and grand children all around her.
Mama broke out in joy and excitement just seeing and beholding the vision of tomorrow play out before her. In minutes she was on the floor rolling, crying, laughing and singing her favourite song at the same time
I go roll… I go roll I go roll for Jesus
I go roll, I go roll I go roll for Jesus.
Till her passing, she counts her blessings in the gifts of children biological and non biological God blessed her with. In counting her blessings, she numbers her sons in-law twice, and values the privilege of being a part of everyone that has ever called her MUMMY.
Through her times and seasons, she kept the smiles and spread sweet joy. She intentionally forgot her fears, mockery and shame. Walking hand in hand with Jesus and preferring her space JESUS centred. Mama indeed lived a worthy life.
Written by Voke Udom
PS: This is a nonfictional article dedicated to Mrs Voke Udom’s mother who recently passed away. For the life she lived, we continue to celebrate her.
“IT CAN ONLY GET BETTER”…