Growing up for me was blissful. I had a father who would listen to me, empower me and reinforce in me, the fact that God fearfully and wonderfully created me. Daddy told me daily how I could be anything I wanted to be.
You see, my daddy was 30 years older than my mother. He was better educated in “terms of certificates” than her and he was greatly travelled gentleman. My mother on the flip side, was only a standard six holder, from more humble background but “a very intelligent woman” without the glory of “many a paper certificates”.
By virtue of the gap in their background, my mother’s mantra was to beat the discipline physically, by “fire by force” into one’s body. My father would discuss with you and explain very calmly, ensuring that you understood what and why you need to make recommended changes. The two had modus operandi that were the opposite of each other.
I look back and cannot remember the one time my father hit me or ever shouted at me. However, my mother was a “shouter” and the fact my ears are still on either side of my head to this day, remains a miracle. My ears where my “handles”! The two pieces of appendages that bore my entire body weight any time I erred. My mum would lift my siblings and I up using our ears and then twist it while we were suspended in mid air.
You would think we would be very scared of my mother because of her punitive measures – but the truth was, we were not. We looked forward to her methods as our ears gradually mutated to accommodate the pain. We feared my mum but the parent we truly respected was our daddy.
We used to joke amongst us “ mummy will only pull our ears and swing us from side to side. Then all will be well that ends well” Daddy on the other hand, “will preach to one daily till thy kingdom comes – the matter does not end. It becomes such a perpetual torment that we rather not upset the balance. We conformed with only one look from daddy. We had deep respect for daddy and superficial fear for mummy.
I shall share with you dear readers, an event that exemplifies the difference I am trying to explain. Once upon a fine day, on a certain Nigerian street, our mum sent me to boil some yam for pounded yam. I promptly went ahead to peel the yam and then put it on the cooker. I confidently added salt to the yam. When my mum asked me if I had put the yam on fire to make the pounded yam, I said yes. Then all of a sudden, she stopped in her tracks and asked me “did you put salt in the yam you are boiling?”
“Yes mummy I said. I put some salt. But it will not be too salty as I tasted it and it was okay.”At this point, my mother had started shouting and calling on over 10 generations of her ancestors to come and save her from me!
“Who puts salt in the yam being boiled to make pounded yam?”
“God, you know I am doing a good job oo! A great task of ensuring this girl can cook so that she will find a good man that will marry her. Yet, just to boil yam to pound yam, she is putting salt. This pounded yam will turn our very bad. It will be like mashed potato without any stickiness”
I ran away knowing that this time, not only my ears were in trouble. My daddy who had been engrossed in what ever it was he was reading, heard my mother’s screams! I am sure, that even the four corners of the earth must have heard her. My dad came to us and said in his calm but firm voice
“Please let my daughter be. I am not raising her to be a slave and cook to any man. Any man who wishes to eat pounded yam should please pound it himself and not think my daughter is a pounding machine. As for my meal today, I will have no pounded yam. I will just eat my boiled yam like that.”
My mother retorted with a shrill scream “If I do not train her well, they will laugh at me that I have failed. The enemies will laugh at me. God knows I have tried! Instead of the enemies to laugh at me, I will make sure I beat how to cook into this your big head!”
My father came in between us and saved by head on the day. He told me to follow him to the living room. My mother’s eyes were spitting lava but there was not much she could do – for when Pa. Richard spoke, all had to listen. Her inclusive!
When we got to the living room, my dad told me to sit down. Next he asked me if I understood why my mother was angry. I responded that it was because I used salt in boiling yam meant for pounding. What does the salt do to the yam? And why should you not put it, he asked?
“I do not know daddy. I do not know. Mummy never told me. She only just started shouting and calling on her ancestors to help!” I giggled. My father could not help laughing as he proceeded to explain to me, why I should never again put salt in yam meant for pounding.
“You see, my daughter, your cooking salt, is sodium chloride isn’t it? It is make up of ionic molecules that will break up the carbohydrate bounds in yam, thereby reducing the viscosity or binging force when you start to pound. The end result is that the pounded yam will not have the nice adhesive texture which makes our meal stand out but rather, will be fluffy and may not even mix uniformly. You spend more energy pounding that kind of yam and despite that, the end product is less than satisfactory to the taste buds.”
It was a eureka moment for me. Now I truly understood why I did not need to put salt in the yam for pounding ever again. Not that I was ever going to forget my mother’s screams and call on her ancestors in my entire life time, but I now would not just act didactically without not understanding the principles.
“Thank you daddy,” I said.
“You are welcome my daughter. The other thing I want you to understand is that even though you learn how to cook, you are not perfecting that skill because a man somewhere wants to eat. You are not perfecting that skill because it is your task to please one man. You will perfect your cooking skills because you need to make good healthy meals for your own self. If a man respects and pleases you in future, and you wish to express your acceptance of his good attitude by doing him the privilege of cooking him great meals, I have nothing against that. However, what I never want you to do, is to think that your life revolves around getting married to a man. You are first and foremost, a human being with pedigree unparalled. Remember whose’s daughter you are. Any man, worth his salt, will treasure and value you and that my daughter, will bring out the very loyal and loving best in you”.
I looked at my daddy as he spoke. I was grateful then that he rescued me from my mother and he gave me an enlightening domestic chemistry lesson. Today, I look back and I am eternally indebted to him for liberating my mind from that aspect of society that throws people into boxes led by cohorts like my mother. I am glad he unleashed my wings, so I could fly.
Well, what I never told my mother all those years, is that I actually never really had deep respect for her. I had fear “induced respect for her”. The type that after sometime, fades away when one can no longer be bothered by the shouts, rants, ancestor summons and even the physical bashing. The type that if not properly handled, could metamorphose into rebellion. I did not tell her how lucky she was to have my father who was a balancing act in our upbringing. I did not tell her how much I loved her for many years, because for a long time, I thought she did not love me. Now, some forty odd years down the line, I know better. My mother was a product of her environment and as such, she wanted to do the best to “be the good mother who raised the good daughters that would in turn, perpetuate the goodness of future female generations.”
Furthermore, I never told my mother that I was not interested in getting married for many years. The reason was because I knew it would break her heart. At the time, I was strongly determined marriage was not for me as “I could not suffer fools” and many of the male folks I encountered then, did not tick my box. Then, one day, I summoned courage and told her.
“My enemies are at work” she screamed! By the way, any thing my mother could not logically explain was attributed to her enemies. She continued her rant about them on the day, saying “But they will not succeed. You see how your father has over the years brain washed your mind? Now Richard is no more and he expects me to fix all of this? Where is my phone, I need to call my Pastor”
Fast forward a few years down the line after that incident and I came home with a boy who had dreadlocks and did not think I was born to be his cook. The dreadlocks did not appeal to my mum and she has never told me this; but I saw and still remember the look in her eyes that implied anything was better than my initial decision not to marry. She quickly accepted the young man.
The thing I never told her till today though, is that I was the hair twister. I locked my friend’s hair – my friend who would eventually become my husband. I do not think mummy needs to know I am the dreadlocks maker because; the ancestors need to earn their well-deserved rest. Do you think I should tell her? (Ha ha ha-ha). Let the comments roll
PS:This is an excerpt from a chapter in My Father’s Daughter which was featured on this blog before the book was published in 2017. The book has long been published and has been hailed as a “life manual”.In celebration of the author’s relationship with her father(Father’s day this month), we have featured this post again. “My Father’s Daughter by Dr Loretta Ogboro-Okor is now available on Amazon Kindle, Paper back and Okada books. Grab your copy NOW click to buy My Father’s Daughter