My head was resting on Mama’s laps as I watched Papa dip the morsel of fufu in his plate into the bowl of Egusi soup and straight into his mouth. The gulping sound that followed the fufu’s journey was something I had become accustomed to as Papa’s Adam’s apple relaxed in satisfaction.
I couldn’t help but smile as my eyes moved from Papa chewing on the bushmeat from the soup to Mama who was busy stroking my hair. These to me were the most beautiful couple on planet earth, their unwavering love and loyalty towards each other for over forty years despite challenges and obstacles had been amazing. In fact, the best thing that could even happen to any human is having great parents and I could confidently count myself fortunate in that respect.
As Mama’s fingers cuddled my hair, I could feel the warmth embedded in them. Those hands had ground Bambara nuts to make Okpa, they had hawked Okpa in the morning market and Agidi at Oviegbe Night Market. Those palms had tilled the ground, made thousands of heaps over the years and planted varieties of crops, but now they had all grown weak covered with wrinkles.
Papa finished his meal and I helped to carry the plate and cup inside. I came out to find him reclining on his rickety old chair, he does that as a ritual, resting for about ten minutes after every dinner before getting up to do other things.
I resumed my position besides Mama as she sang softly to my hearing under the moonlit night. Papa’s eyes slowly closed in order for him to take a well deserved rest after a long day. As I watched him rest, my mind quickly flashed back to numerous instances when they had made sacrifices in order for me to complete my education: Mama borrowed money on some occasions, sold her wrappers and even had to go to work on people’s farm for money to pay my tuition. Papa on the other hand retired from the Railway Corporation with almost nothing, once while working in a sawmill after retirement, a log of wood fell on his leg that nearly damaged it. I also remembered vividly a night when he went in search of snails after a heavy downpour but fell in a pit filled with water, only for the timely arrival of Ndulue the hunter was he able to come out alive.
As these memories flooded my mind, a tear dropped from my eye and trickled down my cheek. I quickly wiped it off before Mama got to see it. All those sacrifices were beginning to pay off as I got a nice job in one of the biggest broadcasting corporations in the city not long after my graduation, and now just a few months later, I started a little project of building a modest Hoise for them.
Papa opened his eyes and sat up with the old chair squeaking as a result of its advanced age. He cleared his throat twice as was his custom to indicate that he was about to say something. Earlier in the day he had informed me that there was something important to be discussed later at night even though he didn’t tell me what exactly it was about.
“Was it about Okpara the bricklayer in charge of the building project and his constant demands? Or was Papa planning on asking when I would bring a suitor to introduce to them?” I sincerely could not tell but had to wait for him to speak.
“Chinyere my daughter” Papa started with his eyes fixed at me and a soothing smile over his face.
“Yes Papa” I answered.
“Onye Chi kelu anyi, the pride of her father and the joy of her mother. The eagle that flies in the cloudless sky with beauty and strength, you are indeed a blessing to your mother and to me” he said.
“Thank you Papa, you are the best parents anyone could ever wish for and I pray that I am able to put smiles on your faces for a very long time” I replied.
“Thank you my daughter” he said. “I told you that your mother and I would like to discuss something with you but before we get into the main detail, let me first tell you a story.”
My ears twitched in excitement when I heard that. Papa was an excellent orator, the best story teller in the entire seven communities combined. During special days, people from neighbouring communities came to listen to him at our village square. I guess it was from him I developed the love for public speaking which fostered my desire to study Mass Communications in the university.
“Many years ago” Papa started, “In the rainy month of June when the Uturukpa tree was beginning to blossom, a woman was going to the market when she heard the cry of a baby, she ignored the cry thinking that wherever the cry was coming from the mother would take care of it. But as she moved on, the cry became louder. Out of motherly instincts she tried to locate the area that the cry was coming from. She was surprised to see a baby tucked in a basket and abandoned besides the bush. The woman was scared and quickly ran home to call her husband and they both came to the spot where the baby was. Her blue eyes were one of the most beautiful things they had ever seen and they immediately developed great affection for her”.
At this point Mama let out a soft sigh. I couldn’t tell why she did that.
“However” Papa continued, “they wondered who could have abandoned a baby in such harsh condition and with ritualists on the prowl. They had been married for fifteen years without a child, so they felt that the baby was a gift from God. In order not to act rashly, they decided to report the matter to the police. The husband, after consulting with his wife asked if they could keep the baby. The officers accepted and gave them some documents to fill and sign on, which they readily did. That was how the baby came to be in their household for many years” Papa concluded.
“What a touching story Papa” I said. “That couple definitely deserve an award and I hope the baby repays them with lots of love and kindness.”
“It is a true life story my child” Mama, who had been silent said. “The baby in the story is – you. That was why we named you Chinyere because you are a gift to us from God”.
What? I could not believe that. Were they playing a prank on me?
The look on their faces suggested otherwise so it dawned on me that it was true. I let out a loud scream which scared the owls that had been listening to our conversation on our mango tree as they hurriedly flew away to safety.
It was a shocking revelation. My heart was torn and my bones grew limo. I fell back to Mama’s legs, buried my face between her knees and cried myself to sleep.
Humble Ogbonna, a Diction and Phonetics Instructor with a passion for writing sent in this entry from email@example.com