Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A Piece for Mama -- Happy Birthday!

At a funeral for a friend’s father a few months ago, I couldn’t hold back tears at the nice epitaphs in the program. I wished he could read the nice things his progeny had written about him, and hoped they’d told him those sweet things when he was alive. I decided that day to frequently write about my parents while they’re still here to read.

This one is for my mother, who is a year older today. If you cannot read it all, please skip through to the end and please leave a comment. I’ll print them all out, and have a ball reading them to her this weekend.

Beautiful is your name;
Wonderful is what you are to me;
It's you I see in my dreams;
Everyday and I pray for you;
Queen of my life;
You're so beautiful mama;
You're beautiful;
Emi n wa mama kan;
Ta lori yeye yen;
Mama mi o roju ri;
And that's why I'm loving you.

I returned home from junior secondary school one day in a rage. My schoolbag had fallen apart the previous day, and left with no option – I carried my books to school in my mother’s handbag. The humiliation was epic! I was taunted everywhere I turned. Two classmates walked behind me as I went home, teasing me as we went. I dashed into our house, murderous, looking for a knife; and ran into my mother. A lecture about murder quickly turned into a discussion about living within your means and ended with us reading from The Richest Man in Babylon. I have since forgotten the students who made me feel so miserable, but the lessons from that discussion will stay with me forever.

I fell in love with Real Madrid via PlayStation One soccer in 2001. You didn’t have to be good to win games with Real Madrid, and I loved to win. I couldn’t afford the charge to play, so I started stealing from my mother. I frequently snuck away to play and lied about my absences. Then one day, she found out what I’d been doing and where I’d been going. She didn’t feel strong enough to administer a flogging, so she sent for a neighbour who flogged me till I could not feel my back. After he left, she told me how I’d eventually be able to play all the games I wanted if I would pay the price in diligence first. I stopped stealing, and didn’t touch a PlayStation pad for five years after that day.

I was invited to test for a temporary data entry position at the National Bureau of Statistics during an ASUU strike in 2007. Bored silly and eager to make money, I showed up for the test – took one look at the crowd – and turned back. There were no less than 500 people testing for two positions! I called my mother and told her I was leaving because there were too many people. When I got home, she told me she hadn’t raised a coward and she was surprised I left because I was afraid to compete. I went back and aced the test, and got offered a position. I never got to do the job as ASUU called off their strike shortly after, but I learnt the importance of sticking it out.

In my final year of University, my mother casually asked one day what my plans were and if I was applying to any jobs already. I told her I had compiled lists of my classmates for tests in the Oil and Gas services sector, but I wasn’t interested and hadn’t applied. In her usual reassuring way, she said it was alright. She told me she would always trust and support my choices, as she was confident she had taught me enough to make the right choices and seek help if I was unsure. I don’t recall responding to that. I realized that day what I should aspire to achieve with my own children – teach them enough in their formative years to have that much confidence in them later on.

Nitori omo o jiya;
Ni le oko;
Mama mi ko roju ri;
And that's why am loving you;
Ebami kira fun mama mi;
Orisha bi iya o;
Ko si laiye;
Woman there is;
No one like you;

Mrs. Ko is an amazing woman. In an essay I wrote in junior secondary school, I described her as a miracle worker – because she would often make something out of nothing. Besides us three, I have seen my mother latch on to the many young people who lived with us when they had nowhere to go and not let go until they made something out of their lives. She has taught me, and many others, the virtues of diligence, faith, fair competition, and self-confidence.

I sometimes think about my legacy, and how I would like the world to remember me. When it’s all been said and done, let it be remembered among other things that I was the kind of father my mother was.

Happy birthday, Momma!

NB: Lyrics are from Asa's song, "So Beautiful".

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