“Wow… that’s smart…”
Like Mother telling me, “If you turn yourself to sugar, dem go lick you finish.” [Translation: Well, if you turn yourself to sugar, you shall be licked finish.]
and: “Abeggi, any where wey wrapper wan tear, make e tear. When you don patch-patch all the past tear-tear, e go reach stage wey be say you sef go taayah. Once you reach that stage, na to throway face dey march dey go.” [Translation: Do your best and leave the rest].
And my personal favourite from Mother: “You, who are running, and clutching your wrapper to your chest have no real problems. You still have shame, you still care enough about people watching that you do not want the wrapper fall from your chest – thereby exposing your breasts. For when you have a REAL problem; like lion pursuing you with pawa… you will fling your wrapper to one side, and fling your breasts to the other side. All you will care about is making sure that lion does not catch you…”
I remember her chuckling as she rounded that one off to me that day. Then she continued, “Now, that’s the quality of problem you better pray never to have: the kind of problem that will make you forget to hold your breasts while running.” She smiled at me and walked away.
“Damnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn! Now, that’s smart…”
And then my sister said another good one, “No matter how much you think somebody hates you, they cannot hate you every second of every day.”
For example, only a mad person will be chanting I-hate-so-so-and-so while they are sleeping or taking a dump.
*chuckles* I love my family, and I have to say that my people are an interesting mix between religion and philosophy, and the funny and the wise.
Perhaps the wisest words of all – shared to me freely – was from the prayer warrior; my aunt.
It was one of those years we used to accompany Mother to the big-church in that big-city. It was some time just before midnight, and we had to celebrate and pray with other Christian-folk about the coming new year. I remember that we had come not early enough, which meant that finding seating for myself, my aunt, and Mother was a challenge.
And so, while we walked through a sea of people, of worship and glory, Mother forged ahead, while Aunty and I fell behind – trying to catch up.
I must have had to lace my shoes, because I remember stopping to fiddle with my shoes, while Aunty stayed close. When I got up, I saw my aunt look around us, at that sea of people – with a look of such wistfulness, I had never seen before. It was so peculiar, that I had to ask her if she was alright.
She turned to me, slowly and deliberately, and said the most shocking, unexpected thing. She reached her hands to me… she said, “My dear, prayer is good. But while you are still young, I pray that you live a life, where you don’t have to pray, pray, pray… to sustain your happiness.”
To say I was shocked was an understatement. Here was my aunt, my beautiful, virtuous, kind and wise Christian prayer warrior of a woman, telling me she wished a life for me where I didn’t have to pray, pray, pray… I did not understand it AT ALL. She, who fasted and she prayed A LOT. She, who was as devout as devout could be.
So I asked her to explain, please.
She said, “I know that I am a born-again Christian, and I know that this might shock you to hear, but look at all these people here, praying… begging God for one thing or the other, beseeching God. Majority of the people here are women, and majority of the women here are here because of family/foundational issues. You may not understand this wish I have for you, but bear with me while I try to explain further.”
OKAYYYYYYYY, GO ON SO’UN.
She continued, “Imagine you come from a family of kpians, and so, you learn to pray, pray, pray for God to deliver you from your “village people.” He does, and life continues. You get older and start dating, and perhaps the man you have chosen too has his own familial kpians, you pray, pray, pray for God to deliver you all from wickedness, and perhaps again, God does this, and life goes on.”
“You want to write JAMB, but your result was seized, perhaps over and over again, and so you pray, pray, pray to God to pass the almighty JAMB so you can get a university education. God answers this prayer, you get into the school of your choice, and you meet someone special…”
“Sometime in your relationship, the man eye don dey waka, and so you pray, pray, pray to God to straighten his eyes back to you and bind the side chics with the Holy Ghost fire. Okay, so that side chic goes, and you’ve been dating for years, and the guy still refuses to propose, and so you pray, pray, pray that he does so. He finally does, and you are happy, but perhaps he cheats again, perhaps he has cold-feet and won’t choose a wedding date, perhaps one or both of you fall on hard financial times, or an ex from hell suddenly shows up, so what do you do? You start to pray, pray, pray again.
You get married, only to deal with in-law wahala, and so you pray, pray, pray. You want a child, but none is coming, what do you do? You pray, pray, pray some more. Perhaps you have only girls, you pray, pray, pray afresh for a son, a heir to bear the father’s name because the man and his family NEED A SON.
School fees nko? pray, pray, pray that all goes well with both your finances so you can afford it three times a year. As your child/children/family grows, you pray, pray, pray that their skoin-skoin is just temporary, and not because of “village-people”, or whatever horrors you are convinced you need to pray against.
As a woman, you pray, pray, pray for yourself, your spouse, your marriage, your children. Before you know it, you are fifty years old, or you’re sixty. You’ve spent your whole life praying, praying, praying…”
Before you know it, you realize you haven’t really lived. You realize that you’ve spent more than half of your life agitated against all the things you had to pray for and against… And so what do you do?” she turned to look at me.
Omo, I just looked at the sky, at my feet, anywhere. I could say nothing, for I had no words. I knew… with every breath of my soul, that something profound had been shared with me.
And so she said, “To pray is good, but to thank is better. And so my dear, may God give you a life where you don’t have to pray, pray, pray to sustain your happiness. May it come easy for you, and may you keep saying, thank You, thank You, thank You God.”
She looked at me and smiled, because she knew I finally understood.
And so, my lovelies, based on your life and experiences, how do you interprete her words? Would you rather have a life of binding and casting, or would you have one of gratitude? For me, her words means this, “Shine your eyes for your self, shine your eyes before choosing anything. Or else, na OYO you dey.