Saturday, September 27, 2008
Blame the Storks,
When a couple of Bloggers left comments on my last post asking me to pass along their thanks to my mother for having me, I chucked to myself, gave a tut tut and promptly forgot their request. Oh don’t get me wrong. It was a noble gesture. Very kind. Really sweet. Possibly sexy if I reconstructed the reason behind their thanks but the problem with acting on their suggestions was that no one took into consideration an important fact.
My mum is unofficially insane.
She’s been insane for a while, irreparably so. Long enough for me to know that there is no way to fix it and glaring enough for me to feel occasionally guilty.
Insanity, they say, is inherited. You get it from your children.
Guess which of her kid’s is responsible for driving her mad?
Okay. That’s a no brainier.
Stop giving me glaring looks. I’m not terribly proud of the fact that I’m responsible for 6 of the 8 wrinkles on my mum’s forehead. I keep pointing out to my mum that I didn’t exactly request for her when I was in heaven. I asked to be sent to either the Gates family or the Bush family. Some angel messed up with my paper work and sent me to some place called Nigeria. Home of the world’s smartest flies, 120 million people and the oldest known fossil (found clutching a preserved bag of golden coins); Nigeria was as unlikely a choice for my earth getaway as you could find.
But just as I came to fall in love with this disorganized country, finding within it countless little pieces of delight which a quick foray would never have revealed, I came to fall just as madly in love with my mum after getting over the fact that I probably would never have a Lear Jet with which to go to school.
My mum however, as far as falling in love was concerned, didn’t fall in as easily
I tasked her sanity right from Child birth. The Doctor, a man who I never got to meet but who I still feel pity for, walked over to her and stared whilst she groaned on the hospital bed.
We’re going to have to do a Caesarian he announced to the nurses. At that point his decision was stemmed from the need to save my Mum’s life. He needn’t have bothered. He should have asked me. My mum is the strongest woman I have ever met. She is also the queen of Multitasking. She could conduct a battle in War torn Germany, watch American Idol, figure out what needed to be bought in the house for supper and still have a baby just in time to catch the return of Idols after an advert. As it turned out, his life defining decision came to define certain things in my life. If anything the resultant scar would be reason for over a hundred speeches which I would come to hear from my mum,over flogging the persistent theme “You ruined my Bikini Days!”
My mum still insists that there has to be a record of me at Heathrow airport. As a 3 year old boy I somehow managed the astonishing feat of getting lost twice in the airport whilst still holding her hand. One minute I was there beside her asking her why those white men were looking at us that way. And the next, my mum was asking those white men if they happened to have seen a silly black baby come this way.
When I was five I tried to go for a record third MIA but my mum was ready. She pretended to look away whilst talking to a cousin of mine. Through the side of her eye she watched with astonishment as I made my move. I looked left, affecting an uninterested stare at a porter, and then right. I stole a surreptitious look at her supposedly busy self, and was satisfied with her apparent inattention. Sensing that the road seemed clear for my record making escape I made a slight shuffle away from her.
I don’t know about baby records but I’m sure Heathrow officials still watch a certain video which had a certain young boy screaming from the agony of having his ears turned in uncertain directions by an enraged mother. The video is probably filed under the folder “Barbaric acts of love by Africans.”
An hour later though I was on the plane heading back to Nigeria. The stewardess was conned by my toothy request to see the pilots flying the plane. My mum didn’t even protest. I got to seat in the cockpit with the Pilots whilst the white fools joked about “how solid a chap I was.” And how “great a pilot I would be in the future”
My mum didn’t smile when I returned. Maybe she was hoping the self eject button would malfunction and launch me back to heaven.
I was a confusing bundle of extremes.
My mum had come to happy terms with my brilliance at primary school. It was one of the few good sides to training an extremely mischievous child. Which was why she was shocked when she stumbled unto me lecturing the neighbors kids that a Gecko grew into a lizard which grew into a chameleon which grew into an alligator and inevitably into a Crocodile.
The kids next door stared with alarm at our fence which had lizards running everywhere and shivered with the thought of what it would be like in another 2 years when we had over a 100 crocodiles leaving in our backyards. When one of them found a Gecko crawling on the walls of his parlor his parents didn’t understand why he screamed so loudly.
I drove my mum crazy.
It’s an accepted fact now. Back then she fought hard against it. She refused to scream in frustration when she found me opening up our Black and white television because I wanted to fix it and add color. She refused to break out in tears when she realized that for the last month I had been flinging my uneaten Eba behind the bookshelf and waltzing to the kitchen with a cheery “I’m done.” Just so I could return to watching TV.
And when I replied to her request to put the machete away that the item in question was pronounced “Muh Shet ee” and not “Ma Chet!”—And could she repeat her request with the current pronunciation this time—she struggled really hard not to bury the machete in my neck.
We joke about it now.
She talks about how difficult a kid I was. How exasperated I used to make her feel. I laugh at her and pretend that I really can’t remember. It’s all an act. I really do. I remember the night I accidentally mixed her reserved 20 liters of petrol with 5 liters of kerosene. I remembered how angry she was when she worked in on me smoking the stub of a cigarette left by a guest. I remember how confused she used to be when I would be selected by Sunday school to represent them in Church quizzes saying I was by far the smartest and best Christian they had. I laugh as she jokes about these moments and I marvel at the resilience she showed through it all. Lord knows I wouldn’t have stood for it. I would have invited the kid for a trip to Lagos. Pulled over in the middle of the highway and toss his sorry butt unto the smarting tarmac. Fortunately my mum was much nicer. She just hung in there and got very very very good with the cane.
Every year my mum asks me if she is getting her Jeep.
I and my other siblings joke about it. (No I wasn’t the only child. There are 4 of us). We have all come to the decision that until we get our mum the Jeep she craves she never truly will forgive us for driving her mad. My younger brother, who gave my mum one of the remaining two wrinkles the week he was suspended for cooking corn stolen from a teacher’s farm, joked about it last month. We are getting weary of joking though. We have decided that next year we will seriously consider fulfilling the woman’s request even though she already has two and a half cars ( don’t get me started on the 20 year old Nissan she refuses to sell.). It is the least we can do, my sister said to me. I agreed with her, my mum has done a lot more than put up with us. She has sought to make us proud.When my mum teased my sister last year to consider getting married soon, my sister retorted that she wouldn’t consider the idea unless the invitation card sported the words “The family or Dr. Mrs. Thigszerlty..”
5 months later my mum registered and begun her PhD program.
“That woman self.” My sister groaned to me. “Now I have to get married.”
I will pass on all your thanks.
But I’ll need to do it in a much grander way. Simply saying thank you to a woman who we ( my siblings and I) collectively drove mad might not be enough. We need to do something to show that we are madly in love with her. That we are grateful to her for her persistent and occasional humorously role in our upbringing. (“AIDS is not like love” she once told us. “It is forever!”)
My sister has announced that from next month we shall all mandatorily chip into a “Mummy Present” foundationesque account which she is going to open. I am okay with the idea. Even better I am delighted with it. It is the least I can do to show my love for a woman who treated me with unbelievable patience in the midst of baffling stupidity.
I remember once I stood beside her in the kitchen as she strove to teach me the secrets of cooking. I watched as she stared the Jollof rice with a wooden spoon.
“Don’t stir the food with a metal spoon in a metal pot. The rice will just start burning.” She informed me.
I nodded my seven year old head in silent acknowledgment.
“What happens..” I asked. “If you stir it using a Plastic spoon in a plastic pot?”