This process we call growth occurs in many forms like the moment you realize you can no longer slide your head through a railing, the day you discover that your favorite pair of shoe is a size too small, the realization that choosing chocolate over money is dumb and the ‘no shitting’ moment when you conclude that babies aren’t always cute and your father is a despicable scumbag.
Growth for my family started the day aunty Udy slapped mother and called her by her name – Angela.
“I am pregnant Angela, do your worst let me see!” she had said with a threatening tone over father’s shoulders who had been trying to keep the peace. My spineless mother was in total awe as she nursed her left cheek which was still red from Aunty Udy’s slap. Father was ashamed. God forbid he raised his head to face us – his children, especially Eme whom he had boasted to about his high morals and principles.
“Tell her!” Aunty Udy yelled at father, “Tell her who owns this baby, tell her all you have been telling me; all you promised me”. she was now clapping her hands as she spoke and I could hear her voice build up to a more defensive tone. Father turned to face mother whose face was now as white as a ghost except for the part where Aunty Udy had imprinted her hand. Mother was shocked and terrified, in fact, she was flabbergasted at Aunty Udy’s news and change in attitude. I could not see her face clearly as she had her back to us but I could tell her eyes were watery and she kept mumbling the word ‘Iyammi’, throwing herself into self-pity as expected.
Brother Eme, on the other hand, was disgusted, disappointed and terribly angry. If I didn’t know any better I would say I had seen smoke rise from his square head. He had fled the house not long after Aunty Udy’s slap. I like to assume he was in disbelieve and had been too angry to stand and watch; brother Eme was hot-tempered. Father always told him, ‘cool-down, this attitude will not take you far’. This same father whom he had always aspired to be like was the reason for mother’s shame. Our father had taken likening in a maid, impregnated her and watched her slap our mother. Eme should have beaten Aunty Udy black and blue that day but he had thought it better to leave home, calm down and think. He will later come to regret that action and declare it as the last time anyone dared to shame mother.
Of everyone who had been standing in our hot rugged parlour that afternoon, I was the least astounded. Even though I was shocked at aunty Udy’s pregnancy, father’s infidelity wasn’t news to me. I remember the first time I had seen him kiss a woman, it was aunty Iyabo’s step-daughter, she was the modern ‘sisi’. The kind who lined her lips before applying lipstick, who shaved off her eyebrows to draw a thin line, always dressed in short skirts and wedge heels. The kind who never let her red painted nails chip away before having a manicure, who possessed tires for a waist but still felt confident in a tight mono strap top. I had watched with so much interest at the way he had used one hand to caress her waist and the other was placed at the back of her head to keep it in place, the way he had closed his eyes and channelled a dreamy face. It had all come so natural to him. I was not even disappointed then, instead, I had slept on the memory of that kiss for days as though it happened to me and try as I may have, I always failed to picture mother in his arms. Mother seemed too rigid to want to kiss in such a delicate manner and I kept wondering if she had anything under her bubus.
Another reason father’s infidelity was no surprise was because of the quarrel I had witnessed. It was a hot afternoon and I returned from school under the merciless sun to meet aunty Udy cursing at father. that was the day I knew she had a ‘sharp’ mouth. She called him all kinds of things including bastard! My jaw almost dropped when I saw my Professor father begin to kneel and apologise. I had yelped ‘eh’ and used my hand to shut my mouth immediately but he must have heard as he stood immediately and turned to me with a fierce look. We never discussed what had happened that day probably because he didn’t expect me to understand and he had been right.
However, after watching aunty Udy slap mother, I understood what blinding clarity meant. While everyone was experiencing one form of shock or another, I had experienced growth in my lady brain. It felt as if scales had fallen from my eyes and I could now see clearly the source of aunty Udy’s courage and guts… it all came from no where other than father’s monkey business with her.