Oh boy…it has been a while. I have so many unfinished stories. Endings seem to escape me these days. Maybe like Inem and Tomwari, I am concentrating too much on happy endings and forgetting to appreciate the storytelling process.
This story has its hiccups but I love it still. Inem is one female character that I do love…I won’t lie, I made up her name. Lol. Inem, Idomokidem… If anyone can translate this in their language, please feel free.
Here is to a wonderful March towards the good things.
In the beginning was the joy. Pure unbridled joy that no one had to look too hard for before they noticed it. It was easy enough to find in the glow of their young skin, in the fire in their eyes, in the way they could not keep their hands off each other.
It was the kind of joy that outshone stars and outsang minstrels. It was the kind of joy that only love could bring about.
But that was in the beginning and the thing about beginnings was that they started things they were never able to finish. Finishing things off was the job of endings but endings, just like beginnings, were nothing but static points in the journey of life. Most people tended to focus on endings and beginnings and forgot to enjoy the green, green grass and still waters of life.
A little while after teeing off their relationship, Tomwari and Inem had their first fight. Words were thrown around and sentences were strung together; love died a little and seeds for the end were sown. The fight didn’t last long. First fights never do; and soon enough they were back in the blind stupor that is young love.
They got married soon after that fight, as if in defiance to it. They even had a big old wedding to celebrate the end of their beginning. In their wedding photo album, joy forces you to take notice of the way it curves Inem’s lips, the way it fills Tomwari’s eyes, the way it swells Inem’s belly…
But joy didn’t stick around for too long. One month after the wedding, Inem miscarried and Tomwari blamed her. If only she had not insisted on going to Abeokuta with her friends on a ‘girls trip’. If only she had paid mind to the doctor’s orders to be careful. If only she wasn’t so headstrong and so beautiful at the same time.
Inem on her own part wore her guilt like a favorite piece of clothing. Soon it was all that she knew; to be guilty of wrongs and of rights.There was no place for joy where blame, guilt and sorrow were being nurtured and so it fled their home. Not too long after joy took its leave, Tomwari said the ‘D’ word for the first time.
He came home one day to find his wife passed out cold in their living room, the bottle of Johnny Walker he purchased only a week before emptied.
When she regained consciousness, he made her coffee and as they drank the bitter elixir, he said ‘I want a divorce.’
She looked outside the window to the darkness that lay beyond their well-lighted home and said nothing.
‘Did you hear me, Idomokidem? I said I want…’
‘I heard you perfectly well.’ She cut in.
‘So you are okay with it then?’ He asked after a while had passed and the woman continued to stare at the darkness.
She said nothing and raised the coffee cup to her mouth.
Tomwari sighed and went to bed. He stared at the ceiling for a long time before falling asleep. In the kitchen, Inem made another cup of coffee and watched the darkness.
The photos don’t tell me this part of the tale. I gleaned that from Inem. She likes to joke that back in the day when you needed a photograph taken, you hired someone. Now everyone and their mother were professional photographers. She tells this joke with a wistfulness and I wonder what memories she has lost, what memories she is afraid of losing.
The next photo album I look at commemorates the twins’ christening. To an untrained eye and to someone with no background on the story, these photos paint a similar picture to that of the wedding.
The joy is back but I know better.
Unlike the wedding where everywhere you turned, joy screamed at you, the joy at the christening is subdued; a recovering cripple learning to walk again. You can tell from the concentration on Inem’s face and Tomwari’s set jaw that joy is no longer taken for granted; it is now something they work at. You can tell they are no longer stuck on tees and holes; they are more concerned about the journey now.
There are many other photo albums capturing different events in their 34 year old marriage. The twins’ first birthday. Inem’s surprise 30th birthday party. The twins fifth birthday. Vacations in New York and the South of France. The twins in matching golf outfits. Tomwari’s pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Inem’s father’s funeral. Some family friend’s pool party. The Disney World trip.
It is almost 2pm and I am ready for a break. It has been 3 hours since I began and I think I have seen enough.
Taiye and Tomwari are wearing matching golf shirts and heading to the golf course. They wave me a goodbye and I return the favor from where I sit surrounded by the past.
I find Inem in the garden where she plants tomatoes and Ugu leaves. In her wedding photos, she is not holding a bouquet of flowers. Inem doesn’t like flowers. She is practical and only grows what she can eat.
I kneel and grab a small shovel to help her with her plants.
My mother is not as beautiful as she used to be but her face still commands attention with its piercing brown eyes and cheekbones that can slice paper in two.
‘The ‘Tiger Woods’ have left us to ourselves I see.’ She says as I add mulch to the small bed she is working on.
‘Yes,’ I say.
She nods her gray head and we move onto the next bed.
‘So?’ She asks.
‘So,’ I answer, smiling at her.
She grins back and I can almost see the cheeky young bride she once was.
‘You are too much like me,’ she tells me. ‘But you know you want to tell me so tell me.’ She winks and I laugh.
My mother knows me well. My heart is full and my mouth ready to ease its burden. I am getting married in three weeks. Two days ago, I came home to my mother and whispered my fears to her and how I thought it best to call off the wedding. She made me Afang soup and Fufu and sent me to sleep in my old room.
The next day, she stole my father’s country club pass and took me golfing. My parents have golfed together for as long as I can remember and as soon as I and Taiye could handle golf clubs, we have held one in our hands.
This morning, she loaded me with the photo albums and sent me in search of what I thought was lost.
I hesitate but only for a little while before speaking.
‘What happened that night, Mum?’ I ask.
She is startled and stops tending her plants. She is surprised at my question. She sent me in search of answers and I come back with questions. But I am my mother’s daughter so she smiles and returns to her Ugu plants.
‘Your father was going to leave me. We had gotten married so young and were foolish enough to take things for granted. We wanted happy endings every time, and all the time. We wanted the joy of the beginning always. What we failed to realize was that joy, just like golf clubs were our responsibility. You don’t show up to play without your clubs. You don’t show up to life without your own joy. I did what you did today. I brought out the memories, and reminded myself of the joy we used to have. The next morning, I smiled at your father and made him breakfast like I used to before the miscarriage. That evening, he hurried home from work and we danced to all the songs we had fallen in love to.’
‘Getting married is a beginning. Marriage itself is a process, not the end. The best golfers focus on the process and not the outcome. Everyone will miss a hole or two. It doesn’t mean you give up. It just means you find a way to try again. Remember that when you feel like giving up on Sosa. Remember that when joy seems to be hard to do. I might not be here always to remind you but remember.’
‘So you think I am ready?’ I ask my mother. We have made our way to the tomatoes section of her garden and are harvesting the juicy red and yellow vegetables for dinner.
My mother smiles her trademark gap toothed smile and cocks one eyebrow.
‘It depends,’ she says.
‘On?’ I ask.
‘On if you have been practicing. Are you and Sosa having good sex?’
I am shocked and almost drop my bowl of tomatoes.
My mother laughs and my fears fade away. When she is done with mirth, she reaches for my hand and clasps it to her face.
‘Omokehinde Uyaiobong Asenath, no one is ever ready for life but if anyone is, it is you,’ she tells me and tears well up in my eyes.
Dinner is my mother’s trademark African Jollof Rice and peppered snail. We sit at the dining table, everyone and joy. I look at my mother and father for as long as I can. I never want to forget this picture; the laugh lines etched deep in their faces, the love in the eyes, the joy that sits in between them. When I and Sosa have bad times, I will bring out this picture and remember that joy, just like golf clubs are my responsibility.
Photo credits: Simi Afun-Ogidan Photography– Y’all contact him for your weddings and etc….
Song of the day: Charles Jenkins – Awesome