I remember one time, mama just got back from a party, her gele (head tie) pushed up to rest on her forehead, indicating tiredness from too much Jollof (literally and figuratively). I was seated by the landline, waiting on a call from my abroad boyfriend while I read a Nora Roberts novel. I was immersed in the book, so I greeted her with the least enthusiasm ever, Ekaabo (Translation: Welcome).
“Hmmmm” she responded. If my brain was functioning at capacity at the time, I would have known that was a bad sign, but Nora Roberts got me hooked. I didn’t have time for anything or anyone, not even my own mother who pushed me out of her jajaina. From the corner of my eye, I saw mama remove her gele without untying it and handed it over to me. This is the way our living room was set up: Our landline had a special table and chair away from the living room sette, right behind the 3-seater. The 3 seater was closely connected with stools in the middle as demarcators. Mum was seated on the 3-seater which means she had two stools, a couple of settes and the extra space beside her to place her gele.
But she avoided all those and passed it to me. Still distracted, I collected the gele and asked: “what should I do with this?”.She mumbled something, I didn’t hear. I believe I was reading the chapter where the hunk had slammed the door and walked away, leaving his romantic interest sprawled on the floor crying in agony. Did she hold her chest to keep her heart from breaking into tiny little pieces? I can’t remember. But, it was an agonising time in Nora Roberts land and I just needed to knw if the hunk would turn back to make things right. They always turn back. Still, I had to know.
In the midst of all these, I asked mama “ma?” She repeated herself “I said put it on my head now”. Oh. Okay. She was probably going out again. I dropped my novel, face down, and I moved the telephone designated chair closer to mama and helped place the gele firmly on her head. I checked to see that I had done a good job and then I attempted to move back to my previous position to continue reading.
I don’t know what landed on the floor first, the book, the chair or me. Mama had a mean backhand and she flung it straight in my direction, hitting me smack in the face, causing all of us (book, chair and I) to hit the floor almost simultaneously. Nora Roberts landed faded quickly, I returned to real life, where there was no hunk and my mum was queen. Shock kept me on the floor, as I watched mama calmly remove her gele and strut to her room with a warning side eye.
What have I done now? I thought ti myself. It took a minute but I eventually got it.
Damn Nora Roberts!