Every Christmas, we go to the village. We go because Iya spends all year crying over the phone about how we never come to visit. Baba says families should be together during festivities. So we all go even though i find him puttering around with Uncle Sesan’s Staff and stones; he misses his golf. I miss all the coconut girls coming home for the holidays.By the time we make it back to the city, they are all gone. All i get is the tales of my friends whose kind parents understand adolescent needs.One Christmas, Baba loads us into the car and we drive down to the village. Iya is grinning like the village drunk when we arrive. She calls out to me ‘Akogun’. ‘Iya, please don’t call me that’. I see the hurt in her eyes. I do not care. I hug her. I have no choice. Baba’s eyes are worse than daggers placed in fire. I sulk throughout the rest of the day daydreaming about the girls with their ‘oyinbo’ accents and foreign smells.
Iya makes me go to river with her. I plead with Baba with my eyes but he pretends not to notice. on our way, Iya asks me if i have a girlfriend. I am stunned. I look back at her. She dares to ask me this. The reason why i am here in this remote village while my friends gallivant with coconut beauties in Surulere presumes to question my non-existent love life.. I look away and tell her i am too young. She laughs at me.
We talk. Actually Iya does most of the talking. She weaves yarns that sounds almost impossible to my ears. Still they are the best stories i have ever heard. We eat. We laugh. Most of all i get to know my grandaunt better. Or maybe, i am just reminded. I ask her why she always calls me Akogun. She tells me of the warriors of old. It was a title reserved for great men. She hopes i will be great someday. I tell her i am no warrior. Iya tells me its the heart that makes the warrior not the skill. The sun is setting when Iya tells me her old bones need rest. She asks me to take a photograph of her with my new camera.I tell her to pose for me.
She is sitting on a rock by the river in her favorite clothes. Sedate jewelry and that’s when i noticed she dressed up for me. She walked all the way to the river so we could be alone. Even though she still limps from her last fall. She woke up early to make a picnic lunch so i wouldn’t be hungry.She took off her head tie that covers the almost bald gray head so i could sit comfortably. Through my new camera lens, i see old love.
‘Akogun’, she calls out to me. ‘Hurry up. my buttock bones hurt’. I laugh and i take her picture. I will go ahead and become a great man. I will find me a ‘coconut’ beauty to marry. I will have my own children. I will show them the dog-eared photograph I have of Iya. I will try and show them the love in her bald head. The youth in her dancing eyes. The curve of her lips that is poised to call out my praise name. Her wrinkled skin that shines with hope for my future. They will sulk and hiss at me when i tell them its time to visit Iya. Someday they will see what i see in my grandaunt. Just like my father before me did. I trust Iya to show them.