I am on my way to visit my mother not because tomorrow is Mother’s Day or because I miss her but because it is expected.
In my hand is a bag containing a new phone I just got her, new, but the same model as the one she had before which developed battery problems a few months back and makes charging difficult. My mother is not friends with technology, she wants to learn but I am not there to teach her, hence the same model.
I stop at a market before her area, it is already evening and I know she will be watching the road for me but I have to buy her a bag because the one she carries to church is getting old. You see, my mother goes to church every day: morning and evening and she has different bags for morning and evening church, the evening one wears faster because she puts a large torch in it. I am buying my mother an evening church bag.
My phone rings for about 10 seconds and stops. I do not bother to check, I know who it is. She might not be a friend to technology but she has perfected the art of flashing.
I dial her number with my second phone, the one that browses so it is almost always in my hand. You dey house abi you dey shop? I ask when she picks up. I wan go house now, make I wait for you? Abeg wait, I don dey near.
My mother smiles when she sights me coming down the street to her shop. My darling, how are you? I’m fine ma, I reply as she pats my back. Oya buy fish for me she says, motioning at the lady across from her who sells fried fish. I walk across. How much for the fish? This one na 500 naira, 600 naira, 300 naira, she replies pointing at each one. In my mind I am shocked. Since when did fried fish become so expensive? Abeg give me 300 naira own, I tell her and she wraps it up.
My mother has already locked up when I get back to her. I take one of the bags she’s carrying. Abeg small small make you no throway my soup. I switch the bags, I do not want to be responsible for spilled soup. You still dey cook for shop? Ehn, as na here I dey throughout I just cook soup make I go turn for house.
The distance to the house is far and we gist as we walk along, interrupted only when she stops to greet people, which is frequently. Everyone is her dear or darling. I have gotten used to sharing the endearments that for a long time I felt should be used for only me.
The tiles are cool on my feet as I enter the house after her. She hands me empty buckets from her bathroom to fill from the tap that is by the fence just outside her apartment. Fetch before the tank will empty, this one that they are fetching all the water, she says. We had passed by her neighbour washing clothes outside.
I am a child again whenever I am near my mother, the years seem to peel back and I am the teenager bringing buckets of water into the house.
What will you eat? Rice or eba?
Which soup you cook?
Egusi, na chicken I use o. I knew you were coming that’s why I made fresh soup.
But mummy I cannot eat meat na, because of my Lenten observance.
Ah. Thank God you bought that fish. I will put it inside the soup for you.
I decide on rice. I know my mother’s egusi soup. She doesn’t use ugwu leaves or bitter leaf, just fresh tomatoes. It is great for eating with rice.
The rice boils on the fire and she comes to sit beside me on bed.
Give me your phone, make I comot the sim card put for the new one.
Where the new one?
I hand it to her, I had removed it from my bag earlier. She side hugs me, holding me for a moment longer than normal.
It takes me fifteen minutes to realize I had bought a different model, misled by the network brand that covers all their phones in green casing.
Where is my inbox? When I press here, it usually take me to my inbox. This one is saying connection failed. You sure say na the same phone? It is my mother that brings my error to my notice.
The next thirty minutes is spent locating the phone torch, regulating the ring volume to her taste, making sure all her contacts transferred and removing the screen lock.
I remember the bag I had bought and give it to her. She immediately gets her torch to check the size. The bag is too small for it. I have succeeded in buying a morning church bag.
Is this a female bag or unisex? She asks, turning the bag in her hand.
Mummy I don’t know. It is a bag.
In the middle of our deliberations, the rice had gotten done and I served myself first. My mother stands beside me as I dish my food.
Take more, she says eyeing the small portion I had taken.
This one is okay ma.
We do not eat in silence. We have not been together in over a month. There is catching up to do, gist to be shared. Scolding to be administered. I am not a very dutiful daughter and she is not a very dutiful mother.
You don’t like picking your call.
Mummy I am busy. Sorry ma I will do better.
Mummy when you’re angry with me tell me. Instead of being so polite over the phone.
She is quiet, then she sighs.
Okay. I will try.
The gist continues till late into the night and we drift into our own businesses. Her with the beads of a rosary. Me with a new novel I brought along.
Put your leg on the bed so it doesn’t pain you in the morning. I had fallen asleep with my feet hanging off the bed.
By the time I wake up in the morning, she is already preparing for morning mass.
How is the back of the headtie? She asks as she preens in front of the mirror.
It is fine, I say even though I am looking at her through sleep hazy eyes.
Okay. Warm the soup for me before you leave.
I will not see her before I leave, her committee stays late after two masses and I have a meeting this afternoon.
I make eba when I return from second mass.
I cannot remember when last my mother says she loves me. I do not need her to. I taste her love in every swallow of the egusi covered eba. I feel in the wrapper she laid out for me the night before even before I asks. I see it in mirror, in my red lined lips that are so much like hers. I hear it in her laughter when she tells me I walk funny from the front but my ample buttocks and hips save me when viewed from behind. I cannot remember when I last I told her I love her either. I know she knows.
It might be a bit late but this is for ‘Mother’s Day’… As long as we live, everyday is a day to celebrate our mothers; the greatest gift to the world.
HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY TO ALL OUR MOTHERS – Those who have felt the joys of bringing to the world, and even those who sustain the joys of the world by giving. All mothers are special. May Aondo bless you all. SVA