“….My name is Lara Adelaja and I believe that our mothers of tomorrow can only be made today and our fathers of tomorrow will learn to decide today. What role would you have played looking back, (in future), in laying these foundations for our nation’s future homes?”
The crowd cheers! Applauds resounding though every corner of the hall accommodating over a thousand guests which in its majority were; intellectuals, entrepreneurs, working class individuals and those of great affluence. The audience was marveled at the aptness and commitment of Lara’s speech. The appreciation felt by the majority of guests in attendance was one that engulfed the atmosphere; you could almost taste the emotion. The three-day seminar on “The Nigerian future; parenting, family and the home” was just concluded and Lara the youngest and last guest speaker for the event gave a commendable closing speech!
Lara smiles with satisfaction and in humility; a shy adjustment of her lips in an upward motion that clearly gave away the fact that she was happy and in that moment fulfilled. She knew what she said was accepted not because it was a fancy speech or was knitted perfectly with all the right figures of speech or laced with the perfect elements of communication but on the contrary, she knew all that aside, her audience welcomed her speech because this was her reality (even if they were unaware of it), her life’s experience, HER TRUTH! and she approved herself.
“Omolara wa” a soft and bothered voice beckons as Lara attempts to climb the stairs to her room. (They had now arrived at their home in Lekki, Lagos Nigeria).
She pauses and looks back at her mum who is about some inches away from the stairway. She sees her mum is serious about her returning down to the parlor where she was but more than that she sees questions and can tell something’s up.
“Is everything alright mum?” There is no reply.
“Okay… mummy can it wait then? It was quite a night you know… let’s just do this tomorrow morning. I PROMISE! You’ll be fine and I’ll be all ears tomorrow”.
(Now Lara is a 28 year old – only child, who is single, a lawyer cum writer, doing pretty well for herself professionally and financially, was born privileged but lost her dad in her early 20’s, still lives with her mum but is basically the epitome of independence regardless.)
“No love, it cannot wait. Ejo, wa seh”. Lara’s mum replies and sits carefully on the brown three seater leather sofa. As she replies her daughter, she evens out the further end of the sofa presumably; showing that this was no careless conversation they were about to have and she wants her close while they were at it.
Lara although tired, didn’t need to be hit in the head to understand her mum was not going to postpone this. She steps down, almost grudgingly but understandably too, takes a sit at the ‘imposed’ side of the leather sofa, places her palm on her mum’s lap (in which a lovely print silk dress flowed on) and gently pats it.
“Is everything alright mum?” she asks again, but this time meaningfully.
Lara’s mum gauges Lara’s palm on her lap with one hand and adjusts lara’s slightly leaned face with her other palm, gently. She smiles.
“Omolara mi, I am so proud of you! I am blessed by you and blessed to have you and I am thankful everyday for you. Today, I couldn’t have been more proud, I wept in my chair, from pride but honestly, more from the painful knowledge that, omo mi so ooto lati inu okan o! That was just your heart you poured out”.
“I know we did not do right by you; I did not do right by you as a parent, a mother. It is me, I, all of it is me”. She shakes her head regretfully and tears slide down. “Now it has taken almost 28 years, your father’s passing away and seeing you become a respectful, strong and independent woman; the complete opposite of my early life as your mother, to realise that I could have ruined your life, your already promising future… I could have lost!”.
She is now crying.
Lara is so emotional too, she wants to tell her mum that it is okay and she should please stop weeping, that she was just being intelligent and merely attaching her emotion to the speech for emphasis, but she knew that was a lie. She knew it was every bit relative. She was thankful within for the opportunity that allowed this conversation, she knew this was truce and she knew what needed to be said had to be and the opportunity must be grabbed by the horns. Lara wanted to feel peace for them both after this night but she wanted one that was transparent and not just comforting, just coz.
“Mummy, I am sorry and you are right. You are right to say you could have ruined my life. You are right to say it was all you. Mummy you were not there, you almost never were and if not for the angel God brought to our home in the person of a nanny – Mummy Joe, this might have been a different story”. She straightens herself, away from her mum’s side and now facing the opposite two seater sofa, staring in the wide, her chin supported by her palm formed into a fist. She continues.
“If not for Mummy Joe coming to my room every time I was back home from boarding school for the holiday, to check my things and caution me when she saw a property she had a hint wasn’t mine; I would have made it a habit to collect things and bring them home with no concern because, you were too busy with other peoples events to check on your daughter returning from the dangerous nest of a secondary school”.
“If not for the diligent eyes and motherly concern mummy Joe had to call me, comfort me and speak to me so kindly yet with such stern, about guys and how it was not time yet to open myself up to love, when my first boyfriend in secondary school cheated and broke up with me; I would never have held my head up high and deliberately learnt to choose right, chose becoming a better me as opposed the cliche of being a better option for a guy”.
“Mummy, I know daddy was always on one trip or the other, you? One event, function, meeting, program or the other, you both worked so hard and made life comfortable for me and I will always be grateful for that, but at what cost? Attention? One time, you were on a business call for hours, I ran to your office in the house to tell you I was bleeding and felt so cramped in my tummy area but you were so engrossed in your business call, you didn’t see the confusion and fear in my face when you told me you will meet me in 30 minutes. I walked out of your office and it only took a glance for mummy Joe to know something serious was happening. That afternoon, she put me through the “menstrual cycle class” and reminded me what I already had a hint on from jist. Mummy, your 30 minutes never came!”.
“What about cooking, cleaning, domestication? Yes, we had mummy Joe and Banji the laundry man who were very diligent at their jobs but because now hanging with mummy Joe was more fun and relieving, even without knowing it, I got interested in being the one to put the cubes of maggi into the cooking pot, doing first to finish washing dishes or daring mummy Joe to cleaning the rooms in the house best and all that. I’m very sure mummy Joe wouldn’t have imposed because it was her job and she was paid pretty well to do it, but seeing the joy I had from just hanging with her and knowing that in the end, the tricks I picked up – domestication, would be good for me, she never stopped until it became a part of me. I even had to be discreet too because, I didn’t want you thinking I was taking over the nanny turned helps job. Oh no! You wouldn’t have had it and that would have cost her daily bread”.
“Mummy you did a lot! There’s so much more but there is no point now, I love you so much and I am thankful that along the line you realized that you really didn’t do so much in terms of contributing to the better woman I am, but I know you love me, always did too and putting your money were you couldn’t be, brought in someone that could do that job, but here is the thing though”
She now faces her mum and holds here palms tight, with intent and care still.
“Mummy, what if it was not mummy Joe? What if I was rude and disrespectful and couldn’t learn from anyone that wasn’t blood related? What if she could care less about my ignorance and only cared about her pay? What kind of woman would you have been looking at today? What kind of mother, wife, would I prepare to be?”.
She hugs her mum who is broken now but grateful to God, for being ever so faithful despite her unfaithfulness. Lara’s mum holds Lara’s head in her palms and promises…
“My baby, I am so sorry, I love you and WO ! As long as I am alive on this earth, I will be the mother you wished you had, to your children – my grand children”.
Lara’s mum hugs her again and asks rhetorically…
“What kind of home did I build”?