“Kukurukuuu”, our big rooster, crowed as usual, and it nearly put me off my sleep. My eyes were neither open nor closed. In trying to go back to sleep I rolled back and forth over both sides of my small wooden bed, covered with a mat. The room was partially dark, and warm, the sleepless rats were busy under my bed in search of food. The sound of grandma’s feet gradually died out on the floor. It was still dark. Several birds were whistling from the treetops near our house. I slowly dozed off again.”
Hello and welcome to our today’s short read. Our reading of today is from the book, Still Owing My Goodbye – a story about a young Nigerian boy who lived with his friends and family in a village.
In the story, Ehizoya, the young boy discovered that his identity was more complex than those of other children around him and he didn’t know why. He was connected to two villages and both were significant to him. His grandmother was a special figure in his life, the long rope that tied everything together, but she would not live to the end of the story, and she would not say goodbye to his adorable child).
Still Owing My Goodbye is actually the very first book I wrote after leavening Nigeria to Italy on the August of 2004. The story captured different elements of African culture, from traditional rites to agriculture, the masquerade dance, new yams festival and many more.
Although it’s not stated anywhere in the book, this is actually my first reaction to the representation of African image in the contemporary Italian/European media. And it was to me like, different from the over-sensation of African stories in the media, “this is how I grew up”; a normal child in an African village. Nothing complicated; just a normal child in a rather difficult world. That is my motivation for writing the book and I hope you enjoy the reading. Now back to the book.
“When I opened my eyes and struggled out of the bed, there were no more signs of grandma’s presence. I quickly left the room, thinking she might have gone to the market. The day was now bright, yet my eyes were still heavy with sleep. I yawned and stretched my body, like a little goat just rescued from a pool of cold water. It was when I looked at the ground that I realized everywhere had been neatly swept as I slept.
Grandma’s bare footprints were everywhere in the compound, wide and long, unlike my five-year-old feet. In our small kitchen, made of corrugated iron sheets, a faint flame burned, evidence that grandma had been there.
Due to the depth of our village, I could see the rising sun, round and glorious. The sunrays, like the colours of the rainbow, flashed across the village. Men hurried to their farms and women got ready for the market. It was the nature of Idubhuesọgban Village, one of the nine villages that made up the Amedokhian Community in Uromi. Historically, the Esan people trace their origins to the ancient kingdom of Benin. Esan is presently the second largest ethnic group in Edo state, in the south-south geographical zone of Nigeria.
Still standing along in one angle of our compound, I saw grandma coming from a distance, returning from the roadside after dropping a bag of cocoyam tubers she would take to the market to sell. She hurried down the road as if something was at stake. She needed to return to the road on time so she wouldn’t miss the local taxi to take her and the other village women to Uromi’s main market, about thirty kilometres from the village.
“Good morning, Mama.” I greeted.
She first rubbed my head with the tender gentleness of her hands before asking:
“Did you sleep well?”
I nodded my head, and held her hand all the way to our door. The sand was fresh under my bare feet. Behind us, a small goat snuck into our compound and was heading toward our kitchen. I quickly ran to chase it away.
Grandma had entered the house, and I could see the sense of urgency in her movements. She was wearing a pair of flat sandals, which made a tapping noise with each of her steps. Her hair was tied backwards with a piece of cloth, and the corners of each of her eyes were dotted, twice, with a liquefied white chalk, her common style of dressing for public places. Dangling on her ears were two red earrings, the shape of tiny fresh peppers.
Having opened the window to let fresh air into room, she noticed a neighbouring woman hurrying across to our house; she was caring a gallon of palm oil on her head.
“Ah, the driver has arrived.” grandma said to herself, and immediately grabbed her basket of vegetables, which was next to where I was sitting.
“I am going to the market.” she said, rushing out of the room. Before she left our compound she added in a louder voice, “Ehizoya, there is a pot of boiled yam and vegetables in the kitchen. Eat and join your friends to play until I return.”
“Okay, Mama. Good luck in the market.” I said, neither with much excitement nor sadness in my voice. I guess she didn’t hear me because she did not reply.
I stood by the window and watched her disappear into the distance of the road. It was as if she had disappeared into the clouds and would never come back. When I was much younger, standing in the very same position and seeing her disappear in the exact same way, I used to cry for a long time afterward. I would think I had lost her, but she always came back.
Even on that morning, I was unable to leave the window in a hurry. Instead, I sat on the edge of the window and thought of her getting to the market and selling her cocoyam tubers, as well as the noise and commotion she must have to endure in the busy market; the foodstuffs and my favourite peanuts she would buy before returning to the village; about when I would go to play with my friends and return home to wait for her, looking through the same window; when she will slowly appear in the distance of the road, the same way she had just disappeared.
I was not afraid of staying alone in the house, because I knew grandma would always be there with me, as she had.”
That is the end of our today’s reading. Do you want to get the full story “Still Owing My Goodbye”? Click on the link below to get a copy of the book.
Book link: Still Owing My Goodbye
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