Mine is a twisted story but I’ll try to break it down.
My mother got pregnant when she was 14 years in form two in secondary school, back when JSS and SS hadn’t been introduced into our school system. She got pregnant for a fellow student who denied responsibility; my mother had to stop schooling.
In those days, once a girl got pregnant, everything stopped for her, particularly if she came from a not too well-off family. It was a struggle to get her to school because I was told her father died, which is why the photo of the man I looked at as grandpa is actually my step grandpa. My grandma remarried and had other children with this grandpa in the photo.
So, I was born a bastard! And you know the story of bastards, they are the accursed of the society. They are cursed among family members and they are things of shame. And so I grew up with my grandmother in the village, hidden from the rest of the world while my mother came to Lagos to make some meaning of her life.
What I have told you so far is the true story but this is what I was made to believe for most of my young life.
I grew up thinking my mother was my big sister and that my grandma was my real mother; my grandma had a mother too at that time I was growing up, she was the one I called grandma (in reality, she was my great grandma, you get this?)
No one in my family told me ‘big sister’ was my real mother. I always gazed at her photos in my grandma’s weather beaten album back then and would say I wished big sister would come and take me to Lagos because I was quite a troublesome child growing up. I fought with virtually everyone. I even beat the boys so I had few friends and many times when I fought, I was always abused and called a bastard!
My ‘mother’ and ‘grandmother’, would tell me to ignore them because no child is a bastard as no child fell from heaven without a father and mother being a part of the child’s making. They would cite different aspects of life telling me to ignore people’s vicious jibes at me.
So, I grew up thinking my other aunts and uncles were my older siblings and that I was the last born of my ‘mother.’
One day, I came back from school, I must have been about 14 or 15 at that time, and met ‘big sister’ and ‘my mother’ in a heated argument. My joy at seeing big sister faded fast because she didn’t even seem to notice I was there as she repeatedly accused ‘my mother’ of ruining her life. She was wagging threatening fingers at ‘my mother,’ to her face!
I had no idea what the topic of discussion was but both women were trading hurtful words with ‘my mother’ asking ‘big sister’ if she wanted to beat her again and saying big sister was irresponsible and that she was tired of covering up for her, to which big sister replied that my mother’s witchcraft would not work on her anymore.
I was angry that ‘big sister’ had the audacity to insult ‘my mother’, I didn’t care that she was my ‘big sister,’ she had no right to insult ‘my mother.’
I told you I was a fighter growing up; look at me, I am big and back then, though I was bony, you didn’t want to have a taste of my fist. I went straight to attack ‘big sister.’ I hit her and pummeled her to the ground.
‘Oby no, stop it, you will kill her, stop it!’
I didn’t hear the shouts telling me to stop hitting ‘big sister.’ I was angry that she forgot us in the village and she now returned to make ‘my mother’ cry. I wasn’t going to take that nonsense, not even if it meant she wouldn’t take me to Lagos.
There was so much noise, ‘my mother’ was shouting, ‘big sister’ was screaming and cursing, me, I was busy beating my ‘big sister’, a few neighbours had gathered to separate us…
‘My grandma’ came out, she saw ‘my mother’ trying to pull me off ‘big sister’, she saw ‘big sister’ fighting back at me, it killed the old woman, she just staggered backwards, backwards, I think she hit her leg because she slumped and died!
Yes, ‘grandma’ died that day.
There was so much commotion that day, ‘my mother’ was crying, ‘big sister’ was angry but also crying, except me, I still had so much anger in me.
That day, ‘big sister’ returned to Lagos, and vowed never to come see us again, she said ‘grandma’ was the only reason she came in the first place and with grandma gone, she wanted nothing to do with ‘our mother.’
Throughout the mourning period, the burial, everything, my family told me nothing about my real mother; why nobody thought to tell me I beat my own mother, I don’t know; maybe they didn’t know better, I really don’t know.
And as for me, I didn’t know to ask anyway, until I became pregnant in my SS2 year.
Yes, I was a wild child. I had been having sex since I was 14, a common thing amongst my age mates back then. We would choose who we wanted and skip school and be there with boys…you know now.
I was vomiting one morning when my mother came to me, ‘Oby, you don carry belle, Oby you don carry belle.’
I knew I was pregnant, why deny it? I said, ‘Mma, I am sorry.’
‘My mother’ was not angry, she was just crying…she sat on the floor. Then she began to sing about curses, you know in our language, when a woman is sad, she will be singing native songs to explain her story and bury her pain.
So, I sat with her on the floor and was crying, that would be the first time I truly felt remorseful about anything. I had friends who had babies and went back to school the following year, so for me, it was no big deal. I was very naïve.
Let me cut the story. That day, my mother told me that she was not my real mother, that big sister is my real mother! She then told me that my grandma is my great grandma and that she, is my grand ma!
Why didn’t anybody tell me all these years?
To make matters even worse, she said, she gave birth to big sister when she was a teenager, big sister gave birth to me as a teenager and now I was also pregnant, a teenager!
She said she would do anything to reverse the curse; she believes it is a curse. I believe it too. I beat my own mother, big sister beat hers too when she was being raised by my great grandma whom she thought was her mother… you see the thread?
So, after I gave birth to my daughter, I told her upfront, I am your mother, big sister is your grandmother, and Mma is your great grandmother.
My daughter is a doctor today, she is such a sweet, sweet child. She lives abroad with her husband and two children. I made sure I told her who was who and with God on my side, the curse was finally broken.
(series written and edited by Peju Akande and based on true stories)