-the fun-loving, but hardworking single parent
By Treena Kwenta
Hi Readers! The days are simply flying past! It seems a million years ago that we all went up to Jos for Heather’s traditional wedding. The couple have since paid a visit to Robert’s relatives in the West Indies and have returned to their desks in Britain.
I couldn’t resist asking my daughter how she was received by her in-laws in the three West Indian countries that they visited. At first she was reluctant to discuss the issue; maybe Robert was with her at the time I asked. But trust me. I found a suitable occasion to bring it up again. I woke up to ring her up at midnight, which was actually 11pm, their time, when I knew Robert must have left for his bedsit in nearby Greenford.
“Mum!” she responded delightedly as soon as I asked the question again. “Good old mum! You want stuff for your page, right?”
“Not really, but hey, why not? It’s something my readers, particularly the ladies, would Want to know. It isn’t every day that our girls marry West Indian men. But the truth is that most
mothers, if not all, want to know how their daughter’s in-laws received her. If you had married a Nigerian man, I would still have asked how his people received you.”
“You’re right, mum. I suppose I would do that too when I have married children, not just my daughter, but my son as well.”
“I’m glad you see my point,Heather dear. I hope I’m not disturbing your sleep.”
“Oh no, mum. You’re welcome to call your child anytime, surely? I don’t think Milwan and I would get to a point where we would resent taking your calls. God forbid! Uncle Joe tells us that that is an abomination in the eyes of God and man. That apart, we love you, mum.”
“Darling, that’s kind of you. Heather dear. That gives me a good feeling. Thank you.”
“Oh, thank you, too, mum. Where would you want me to start?”
“Start from your arrival at your first port of call. That was Kingston in Jamaica, wasn’t it?”
”Oh yes! Lovely place. That’s where Robert’s maternal relatives, including his grandmother ,who’s almost 90, live. We were met at the airport by Robert’s cousin, Jeff, a banker in the U.S. who made a dash home for the weekend, so that he could meet me. His mum is an elder sister to Robert’s mum. Nice man. Quite polished. He’s older than Robert, but is not yet married. He lives with a partner in New Jersey.
He received us warmly, and he drove us to see his mother, aunt Jane. She wasn’t that hot on me. She didn’t say anything nasty to me, but I could see resentment in her eyes. She kept looking at me with suspicion. I had hardly sat down when she began to bombard me with a lot of questions – what part of Nigeria I come from; where I was born and raised, who my parents are, what they do, and where they live. Robert criss-crossedhis legs twice, indicating that I should be patient and not take offence.”
“”You already have secret signals together?” I asked, pleased. You know me! Ever the romantic!
”We have mum.” Heather responded with a laugh. ”I brought it into our relationship, and I learnt it from you and dad. Milwan and I observed that when we were still children. I told Robert quite early on in our relationship that we have to have secret signs, with which to communicate while with other people. He bought the idea at once and he uses it more often than I do.””
”I see. That’s great for a couple, you know – secret signs and signals. How cute! Er. did I hear you yawn, Heather dear? We can postpone this conversation till another time, if you like. You have to have enough sleep so that you can wake up refreshed for work tomorrow. Tomorrow is a public holiday here – the Prophet’s birthday, so, I can sleep as late as I can.””
“”Mum, that’s what I miss here; the numerous holidays we have in Nigeria. Bliss. But mum, don’t worry about me. I usually sleep around midnight, and I love hearing my lovely mum’s voice. Besides, this is your call, so, my credit is safe. Ha! Ha!””
”Ha! Ha! to you too, young lady! So, Robert gave a secret signal to indicate that you should tolerate his aunt’s hostility to you?”
”Well, she wasn’t exactly hostile, but I just had this feeling that she didn’t like me. She probably felt that Robert was wasted on a Nigerian girl, and she would have preferred him marrying a West Indian girl, who knows? I suppose that’s normal in most cultures.”
”Maybe. Or. she could be one of those women who never approve of pretty young ladies.
There are disagreeable people like that. Thank God you and Robert are going to live hundreds of kilometres away from her. I hope you weren’t too upset?”
”Just a little bit, mum. Since my own families gave Robert and his parents a very warm welcome in Nigeria, I had expected the same from his people. And anyway, I was married to this auntie’s nephew, not her son. Jeff left Robert and me with her after introducing us to her.
I suppose he knew his mother well, and didn’t want to witness her ill mood. Well, I hid my feelings well, gave her the presents I had brought her, and was very polite to her, but I refused to visit her again before we left.””
“How did Robert react to his aunt’s sour reception of you?”
”Oh, he was most apologetic. He told me not to worry; that she’s a good person beneath that veil of resentment. He said she’s always felt that life hadn’t treated her kindly, compared with her younger sister (Robert’s mum), who’s still blissfully married, and whose husband’s diplomatic career has given her the opportunity to see many countries.
She’s a retired nurse whose husband walked out on her in Britain, when she was expecting their fourth child. She had to raise all her four kids by herself. I suppose that can make a woman bitter. Still, the children are all grown now, and on their own. She should relax and be more friendly.”
”’Ah, well, every human being has a minus in his/her life. It’s the way we react to what happens to us that determines our happiness. A failed marriage hasn’t made me an unhappy and sinister person, and Icertainly don’t feel deprived, or envious of anyone for anything. That’s one person who should not be invited to the wedding. She would ruin everything with her morose countenance. What am I saying? She wouldn’t come all the way from Jamaica to attend a wedding in Accra. No way!”
”She said she would come, if Robert can sponsor the trip. Robert just laughed and told her that
he would see what he can do.”
”Was he kidding?”
“He was, mum. Where would he find the funds to do that? We need all the money we can get to
keep afloat. Weddings are so expensive.”
“They will always be. Now, don’t worry about the various native attires that you and Robert will wear at the reception. I’ll take care of that. The gals will change three times too, but into materials different from yours. We’ve placed special orders with that lady in Alade market who travels to Switzerland to buy her stuff. Her things are expensive but unique. You’ll look fab in them. You know that you both will need to change from the white wedding outfits, and into Nigerian outfits. You’ll change three times at the reception.”
“What, what, what? Mum, did I hear you right? Milwan, come and hear what mum’s saying o!
She said Robert and I will change outfits several times during the wedding reception in Accra.
Come and rescue me o!”
Milwan rushed to take the phone from the sister.
“Mumsie, I love you,” was the crafty boy’s opening line.
“I love you too,” Heather came to say into the phone.
“That makes three of us in love with one another, as, I declare that I love you both, too”. I told the ‘cunning’ siblings. “ Now that we’ve settled our feelings for one another, why is my suggestion of changes of outfits such a shock to both of you? You can’t remain in the same
wedding dress throughout the reception. You have to change.”
“That’s true, mum,” said Milwan. “The couple change into the outfits they’re going on honeymoon in, because they’ll go straight from the venue to the airport, or take the car or bus they’re going to travel in. You mean well, mum, but we may draw adverse remarks in Accra if during the reception Heather and Robert go to change outfits several times. Let’s skip that on the agenda, mum.”
“Hm, I’ll be the laughing stock among my friends. Don’t forget that many friends are coming in the luxury buses we shall hire for guests from Nigeria. They’ll think that your dad and I had no money to spend on our only daughter.”
“Mum, that shocks me. Don’t tell me that you still care about ail that stuff of dressing to ‘oppress’other people. Ah! Ah! The gals are above that sort of thing, now. Shall I speak to auntie Tayo about this? I know you all take decisions together; particularly about what to wear and where. “
“We do. I don’t know how they will react to this.”
“I’ll explain to auntie Tayo and she’ll tell the others. Oh, they’ll take it well, mum. These are civilized ladies who know what it is to be embarrassed. They’re refined people. Changing outfits several times was okay at the traditional wedding in Jos, but I don’t think that fits into a white wedding reception.”
“But it’s part of our culture, Milwan dear. We shouldn’t be ashamed of our culture. It’s rich and very vibrant. It’s what sets Nigerians apart from other cultures.”
“I’m sure you’re right, mum. but…”
“Think of what Belinda, your dad’s fiancee, would think and say if there’s no change of outfits. She would go mock us behind our backs. She said in Jos that she wouldn’t want any of her yet-to-be married children marry in a rural…”
“Oh dear! Is this my mother talking? Sorry to cut in, mum, you’re miles apart from that auntie, much as my sister and I, like and respect her. She knows that. Everyone knows that. Mum you must never let yourself be upset by what she says. Never! In fact. Heather and I had it in mind while in Jos to tell you that, but we couldn’t get round to it. So, mum, changing into several outfits is out, if you don’t mind. I shall ring up auntie Tayo and…”
“No, I’ll handle that. It should be alright. We won’t do what the bride doesn’t want. It’s her big day.”
“That’s my mum! Heather, come here and appreciate our lovely, loving and understanding mum.”
For the next half a minute both of them were heaping praises on me, until my credit ran out.