By Treena Kwenta
Hi Readers! Praise God! We had very fine weather for the traditional wedding. There was some harmattan haze at first, but as the day progressed, this dissipated, revealing a clear sky. Early that morning, Seb sent text messages round that all our guests from Lagos should meet at one of his flats in town for brunch, so that he and I could introduce them to Robert and his parents.
The gals were excited about this, as it gave us an opportunity to showcase Lagos with our outfits. It was while we were getting ready that it occurred to me that I should ring up the area manager of my company in Jos to ask for a vehicle for the day, since no vehicle had been allocated to the gals. Patrick, Seb’s brother, had been driving nanny and I around since we arrived, but he’s been assigned to other guests. The manager readily obliged.
“Madam, there’s no problem about that at all,” he said. “When you asked for one for the trip to Abuja, I had suggested that you keep it for the duration of your stay here, but you declined.”
“Thank you so much, Kwamp. I didn’t think I would need a vehicle on standby. I didn’t want to disrupt your normal schedule.” ”Madam, you’re very welcome to do so. Other top management staff ask for two or three vehicles for their use while here and we’re able to accommodate that. Ma, you’re being very modest.”
“Ah well, there should be no abuse of position. Thanks for your willingness to help.”
“Ma, staff here are surprised that you didn’t invite them to your daughter’s traditional wedding. We heard of it through the driver who took you to Abuja. Haba! I hope we haven’t offended you. How can our boss keep us out of such a thing? The feeling in the office is that you probably think we’re too rural, compared with our Lagos staff, to be invited.”
“Oh no, Kwamp! It’s wrong of anyone to think that way. What does being rural mean? There’s nothing rural about Jos or anywhere else for that matter. Being refined is in a person’s personality, not his or her location. You can live in the most advanced city in the world and yet be unrefined. Not inviting staff here was just an omission on my part. It wasn’t snobbery. I’m so sorry.”
“That’s alright, ma. We would want to come lend our support. How many people can I send to come serve or help out in any form, ma?”
“That’s very kind of you, Kwamp. You’re all welcome to attend. Come as early as you can. The ceremony starts at 2 pm. Any number of helpers is welcome.”
“See now?” said Tayo, after I ended the conversation. “I told you yesterday that you should ask your local office for help, but you refused, saying you didn’t want to do what can be reported back to the headquarters in Lagos. Who does this branch report to? Isn’t it you?”
“Stop all this silly modesty, Treena dear. We shall definitely need more than one vehicle. Robert and his parents need a posh vehicle to use. Don’t forget that they’ll be conveying a lot of items to this place for the wedding. Have you thought of that? Here give me your man’s number and I’ll ring him to ask him to send all the vehicles they can afford to send. Today’s Saturday, so, it’s work-free. I hope he’ll be able to get enough drivers to man them; and your late invitation to staff will be honoured. We need as many hands as we can get to help out.”
“I’ll ring him up myself. Why didn’t you suggest all these to me earlier? There you were dancing the time away when there were important things to be arranged,” I told the hell-raiser.
“Would you have listened? You were so wrapped up thinking of how you’d punish Seb for offending you, that you were distant from us all. I’ve told you a million times that anger, grudge and malice, rob us of good reasoning. ”
“See who’s preaching about grudge,” I flung at her.
“Sheath your swords gals,” said Liz. “Let’s get moving. Brunch is at eleven. We need to get back here fast, at least, half past noon, to start getting ready.”
Flurry of activities. Three vehicles came for us. A mini bus brought ten members of staff from our local office. The Kwenta family looked on in awe as these zoomed into the spacious compound. I took the staff over to mama and told her that they had come to help out. She was glad.
I took a quick peek at my daughter next door to mama’s room, where her aunties and age-mates have been waiting on her hand and foot since she arrived..
She looked radiant as she whispered to me. “”Mum, I think I’ve put on some weight these few days that I’ve been imprisoned here for preparations. I missed seeing Robert. We speak on the phone several times a day, but it’s not the same thing as we being together.”
“My darling, you look ravishing! Persevere. The rest is good for you. I’m sure Robert is missing you too.”
“Give him my love, mum, and enjoy yourself.”
I joined the gals and we raced to the venue of the brunch. It wasn’t anything grand, but it was a classy affair. Robert and his parents were glad to see us.
I told them that the two vehicles that accompanied us there, were for their use.
“This is great. Such lovely vehicles. Thank you, mum,” said Robert. I cocked an eye at his mother, to see how she reacted to him calling me ‘mum’. She seemed quite relaxed about it. I introduced her and the husband to the gals and there were smiles all round.
“I don’t know about you,”said the husband, “but I think we should get rid of formalities and address one another by the first name. Now, I’m Cyril, and my lovely wife here is Gertrude. May I call you Treena?”
“Yes, of course. This is Tayo, this is Becky, this is Liz and this is Boma. We’re bosom friends, and we all live with our families in Lagos. And er, we’re all still gainfully employed in diverse professions. ” Did I need to say that? Of course. I didn’t want them to think that I and my friends are layabouts.
“That’s what I like about African ladies,” said Gertrude. “They form support groups that render help to one another. Cyril dear, can you remember those our Nigerian neighbours in Paris who always had their kinsmen around frequently? They livened up the area.”
“Oh yes! We looked forward to seeing them around. Such togetherness and zest for life. We had a wonderful time there. Even here, we’ve been looking out of our windows at the surroundings, and it’s just like back home in St. Lucia – people clustering together and helping one another.”
It was at that point that Seb came in with my brothers and their wives, and Joe’s church members. Introductions were made, and we made our way to the large room where the buffet had been laid. The dishes were varied Nigerian dishes and were mouth-watering. We washed everything down with wine. Joe, his brethren and Milwan wouldn’t touch the wine. Neither did Robert who kept serving it to the rest of us who were drinking. He merely touched his lips with the glass, but I noticed that he didn’t sip anything.
Seb stood up to make a short speech of welcome, beginning with, ‘My darling Treena and I welcome our guests to this lovely city of JOS, the capital of Plateau State.’ At the end of it, he distributed postcards and small souvenirs of the tourist places in Jos. I didn’t know that there existed such cards.
“Sorry to hurry up everybody, but people will shortly be here to dressed up the bridegroom and his parents in our traditional outfits of the Tivis,” he told us. “And the rest of us must go back to my family house to get ready. Er, Robert, the items you’re bringing for the traditional wedding have been loaded into the minibus that dear Treena brought along. There’s also a jeep for the three of you to use for the duration of your stay in Jos. All courtesy of Treena’s company’s local office here.” I noticed that Robert and his parents were looking at me with some respect. I smiled, feeling ten feet tall.
Seb then turned to the rest of us to explain that the money for the items being presented by Robert’s family came from Robert’s dad.
“Ah, we were wondering about that,” said my brother, Benny, with a short laughter.
“Oh no!”said Seb, joining in the laughter. “ A bride’s father can’t pay for the items that the bridegroom’s family would present to him and his people. Robert’s dad gave money to my brother Patrick, and he and my sisters went to buy the items. So, our custom wasn’t tampered with.”
Applause. No, I don’t know if what Seb said was true. It was the first I was hearing of it. Whatever! I was so happy that my daughter was getting married to a man she loves and who loves her, that I wasn’t bothered about protocol.
The gals all raced back to the family house to get ready. When it was my turn to come out and join the gathering, the gals accompanied me, all in the same outfit, and we made a grand entry.
Robert and his parents looked regal in the Tivi traditional wear. They moved awkwardly, but they looked very happy.
Heather was the loveliest bride I had ever seen. No kidding! She looked wonderful and Robert’s eyes where on her where she was sandwiched between papa and mama for most of the time.
When at last the bride was placed on his dad’s knees, he dashed forward to grab her, but Patrick and Milwan restrained him. Laughter.
A heard a small sob near me, and I turned. It was Boma who was shedding tears of joy.
“I’m so happy for you, Treena dear.”
I murmured my thanks. I was happy, but I had been praying inwardly that the love for my daughter that was visible in Robert that day, would last forever.
My mind went back to my own engagement party in London. My heart was bursting with love for Seb and he could hardly keep his eyes and hands off me, but some years down the road, he was dishing out his love and body to other girls.
A morbid thought at a wedding? Well, I’m human, aren’t I?