I walked down the familiar street leading to my house; church street, yes, that was the name. It had been 6 months since I treaded that path, and fortunately, nothing had changed; on your left, the dentist’s office, with its slime green, slightly browned walls still remained the first thing you would see on entering the street. I always wondered who could have chosen such a terrible colour for an office, but I lived in Lagos; anything goes. The next shop was Mama Jennifer’s shop; I wonder where Jennifer was now, I quite missed our unspoken rivalry. Her mother sold baby things and children clothes, from pampers to feeding bottles to children shoes, she had it all.
Then came the food stalls, the tomato seller, with her tiny, almost rotten tomatoes, beckoning unto people with tales of “ah! Ko ti baje oo! Mo sese ra lana”. She said that everyday. Next was the confectioners store, well, no one actually called them that, we just referred to them as “snacks people”. I really missed this place. While I took a walk down the road, greetings were showered on me from all sides of the street.
“Cheii! Nwam oo! How have you been? You’ve added weight oo”
“My daughter! You are back? How’s school?”
I grew up here, I watched many of these shops come to being, saw the birth of children, marriage of lovers, and on few occasions, the collapse of some enterprises; basically, this was my home, my people.
I finally stopped by my favourite stall. “Mama Ifeoma, good afternoon oo, I just waka come your side, make I just show face small, tell you say I don come back from school”. My pidgin was incredulous, but at least I could communicate what it was I had to say.
“Eehwooh! Papa Ifeoma, come see Ekene wey dey go secondary school for our backyard here oo! See as she don big finish!” Mama Ifeoma was like that, very dramatic, but it was all part of her charm which I enjoyed so much. She took me into a fierce embrace, practically squeezing all the fat I accrued over my six months in the U.S.
She gave me a once over, and finally speaking, she said “all this ndi ocha food you dey chop no good for you oo, see as your colour no dey shine again. Oya, take this pepper soup leaves, cook am, drink am, your colour go come back, chap chap” she emphasised that last part by snapping her fingers rapidly twice. “Thank you ma ooo!” I replied politely as I took my leave. “Greet your mother for me oo, tell her say I dey come sew clothes for her hand”, she shouted as I left her shop. I laughed heartily. Mama Ifeoma always said that, but she never came, she didn’t even know where precisely I lived. This is where I am from, a closely knit community that takes care of its inhabitants, that don’t know precisely where you live, but are more than willing to invite you into their homes. My support system.
Do you have a support system? A small group of people that are constantly there for you, and even when they are not there, you are assured of their unwavering support? If you do have that luxury, I’m glad, and if you don’t, I hope that one day, you would have something as beautiful as that.