– the funloving, but hardworking single parent
By Treena Kwenta
I was pleasantly surprised when we got to the airport in Accra to find the place awash with so many of my relatives; mainly the younger generation of dad’s family in Ghana, and mum’s family from Liberia and Sierra Leone.
I was so touched by such display of support and solidarity, that my eyes were a bit wet as I went from one to the other, hugging, kissing and asking after their parents, grand parents, etc. Aunt Adeline’s banker son, who was there with his wife, introduced me to those I hadn’t met yet.
Most of them called me ‘Auntie’ and I said to myself, ‘wao, one must be getting on in age. Can Treena be called ‘auntie’ yet?’ Of course! I qualify a million times to be called that, and even ‘ grand mummy’. Deep down, though, I feel as young as I was when the Vanguard asked me to start this column many years ago. How time flies!
Nanny was the first to rush forward to hug Heather and Milwan as soon as they came out of the building.
“My children, my children,” she kept saying as she wiped her eyes and hugged them. “Welcome. Welcome.” They too were so happy to see her that Milwan asked if she had smuggled some of her special snacks down from Lagos for him.
“Ah, don’t worry about that. I’ll fix you some, first thing in the morning. Oh, I’m so happy that you’ve all come. Sisi Heather seems a bit taller.”
I saw her examining Heather keenly. She must have been dissatisfied with whatever she was looking for, because she looked subdued afterwards. I sighed inwardly. I hoped it wasn’t the pregnancy matter again. Heather looked fit and well, but a trifle drawn and tired. Must be the hassle of the journey. Robert and Milwan, on the other hand, had filled out a bit. It suited them well. Robert’s parents looked the typical West Indians with their hats. We were all glad to see one another and there was some joyous noise as we embraced, and introduced everyone in the group.
Dad’s driver was leading us all to the car park, when I took him aside to ask him if he had seen Coco, who had been delegated by Seb to make hotel arrangements for our guests from Europe. I had no idea what hotel she had booked. I asked if he had seen her recently.
“Auntie, she came to see papa and mama about three days ago, to deliver some drinks that Mr. Kwenta told her to bring, but she didn’t mention anything about accommodation; at least no-one told me that she did. Auntie, we can all go to the house first, and then settle the hotel issue afterwards. There are some good hotels in our area. They ‘re small but decent.”
“What if there are no rooms available? Oh dear! I don’t like this sort of disgrace, and display of irresponsibility.”
“Auntie, there must be surplus rooms available. At Easter, just like at Christmas, many people leave the city for their hometowns, to celebrate. So, hotels are usually vacant, except for the international ones.”
“These are important guests, Kofi, so, we have to lodged them in international hotels. It will cost more than those near us, but it would be worth it.”
“You’re right, auntie. Maybe we should wait a bit for Auntie Coco to show up. She’s a very capable lady; an able assistant to Mr. Kwenta.”
“That’s what I thought too. But just how do I handle this? We can’t take them to the house first, and then start looking for accommodation for them. That would be embarrassing, as it would seem as if we were unprepared. The bridegroom had asked us if they should book their accommodation and that of his parents and guests on line from the U.K., but we told them not to worry. And then this had to happen.”
God certainly loves me. Just as I was going to say we should drive to Liberation Road and check them into any international hotel there, one of Tayo’s drivers rushed forward from the car park.
“Madam, I’m sorry I’m this late, ma. I missed my way. It’s a long time since I came to this airport. Er, I have a note from my madam for you, and she says it’s urgent. I got to the house and they told me to meet you here. Sorry madam, that I didn’t arrive before the plane landed.”
“Oh, don’t worry. You’re here now. That’s all that matters. We didn’t even count on you joining us here. Did your madam explain what you’re to do?”
“Treena dear,” said Tayo in the note. “I hope you’ve forgiven me the several things I’ve done recently to upset you. I’m so so sorry. You know that wasn’t me who behaved that way. It was just one of those things one can’t explain. I should have asked you first before inviting Seb to take the same aso-ebi with the gals. I wanted it to be a pleasant surprise to you when he changes into another outfit and it’s in the same material with us. The others know, though. Forgive, Treena love. Seb is a good guy.
As for the way I reacted when you wanted to see mama in Abeokuta; all I can say is that I can’t understand what came over me. My mother is your mother, and vice versa, so, why would I get rude when you were showing concern for her? My behaviour is a mystery to me myself. Sorry o! Call me later when it’s convenient for you to do so. Wish I were around to help out with the guests from Europe. I’ve sent Jet with a vehicle to ferry specifically, Robert’s parents and their guests around and generally be
at their service until they leave Accra. God willing, I might be able to make it for the church wedding. Love you much! – Tayo.”
See how generous Tayo is! I forgave her at once, and quickly sent her a text to that effect. Suddenly, it didn’t matter if Seb wore the same material as the gals. What about Belinda? a small voice asked me. Perish Belinda! I was too glad that my best friend had apologized for hurting me that I couldn’t care at that moment if Belinda carries Seb on her head at the wedding.
Like a reader of this column texted to tell me, everyone knows I’m the mother of the bride, so, I shouldn’t worry about what Belinda would wear at the wedding. Sound advice. Thank you, my sister. Now, Tayo’s offer was most helpful and very timely. I was going to offer our guests my car, but Tayo’s jeep is definitely more roomy and sophisticated than my saloon car.
I quickly introduced Jet to Robert’s parents and told them that he would be at their beck and call throughout their stay in Ghana. They expressed their gratitude. I could see that respect for me and all I stand for, had gone a notch higher when they saw the vehicle. My problem became where to ask Jet to take them. Coco who had handled the hotel arrangements wasn’t with us at the airport. I sighed.
Maybe I should take my dad’s driver’s advice that we all head for the family house, and then get them hotel accommodation from there. We would feed them there, and I could ring up Seb to ask where Coco had booked them. I began to think up the nice excuses I would give for not booking before their arrival. I told Jet to follow the rest of us in a convoy to the family house.
“Alright ma,” he said, but then drew near me to explain that Seb had told him to link up with Coco as soon as he arrived in town, to know which hotel to take them to. He did and was told it was the ……… on Liberation Road.
“That’s fine,” I told him, with great relief. “It’s central to every where. Let’s go there first to settle in the guests.” Coco had used the name of the company to book six rooms.
I asked Heather if they would like to stay at the hotel right away, or use it the night of the wedding. They opted to go with me to the family house, as the priest might need to see them.
On our way to the family house after checking in Robert’s parents and their three guests, Heather snuggled up to me to tell me that she and Robert had decided that they would spend only the night at the hotel and then travel to Britain the next day.
“Well, it would be nice to have both staying close to us. Kofi has told me that there are small but decent hotels close to the family house. Maybe you could book into one.”
“But mum, there’s an empty chalet in the grounds that we can stay in. We stayed there when we came in December and it was very comfy. Milwan could stay in another. Aren’t there about six chalets in all?”
“Oh, there’s no accommodation problem in the family compound, but I thought you might want Robert and you to stay by yourselves somewhere else.”
“Mum! Aren’t we going to stay by ourselves throughout our lives, by the grace of God? I want to be close to you and dad for the last time before I go off to leave with my husband.”
That touched my heart and I went all tender as I hugged her.
“Besides, mum, Robert said we should save Auntie Tayo some dollars in accommodation. That hotel on Liberation Road is so costly. Double room starts at almost five hundred dollars a night.”
“Yes, but it’s a one off thing, darling Heather. You and Robert won’t be there every day. We want you to be comfy. It’s your wedding, for God’s sake. By the way, what has Tayo got to do with the accommodation?”
“Mum, didn’t dad tell you? She’s paying for all of us from Europe. She told us a month ago that that’s part of her wedding gift to us. So, there are five guests already there now. That’s a whopping $2,500 per night! They will stay four nights! That’s a lot of money. We didn’t want to add to that.”
I reeled and reeled in my seat. I’m sure I would have toppled over if I hadn’t been sitting down.
Tayo had paid, or was going to pay all that money?”
”I think she’s already given the money to aunt Coco. Uncle Shola, auntie Tayo’s general manager made all the arrangements through auntie Coco, and then informed us. We then told him we would spend only one night there, so that he knows precisely how much to give out. Dad knows too. Oh mum! We just don’t know how to express our gratitude to auntie Tayo. And all this coming after the death of her beloved father. Milwan, Robert and I have spoken to her several times since it happened. We’re all overwhelmed. You and dad must thank her too. She’s awesome.”
I was subdued and silent all the way home. Is there no end to Tayo’s generosity? And there was I being petty about aso-ebi and all that. Brother Gabriel will be ashamed of me when I tell him how I’ve been behaving. ‘Ungodly’ readily comes to mind.