An Inventory Nine Years in the Making

by Rosie R.

On my first day back home in Nigeria, I kept my emotions in check as I hugged my father. He had lost weight and most of his bulk. It was hard to look a man in the face when you used to look up at him. I can’t stomach the fact that now; we have eye to eye contact. Did I grow a few inches or did he shrink? My mother’s once beautiful face had now aged. I was shocked at what the years had done to her.

On day two, my mother criticized my weight gain; my sisters criticized my choice of make-up and proceeded to teach how to make the perfect eyebrow “arch”. I did not argue but chose to save my energy for dealing with the Lagos heat and humidity.

On day three, I woke up coughing and hacking and unable to keep any food or liquid down. The dust and pollutants from the major road near the house had finally gotten to me.

On day five, I fled to Port Harcourt to my aunt’s, ignoring my mother’s disbelief at how I was able to plunk down N30,000 for a plane ticket when there was my sister’s upcoming wedding to pay for.

On day six, I gave in to delayed jetlag and slept until day seven and eight, waking to eat plate of rice now and again.

On day nine, I devoured two items on my list of foods to eat while in naija: pepper soup and isi ewu, having sampled others a week before – ube and abacha mmiri. I downed two Heinekens and half a bottle of wine at a People’s Club of Nigeria restaurant, while my big brother remarked, “Yeesh! You must have really needed that beer so badly.”

On day ten, we drove by car to my home town to start getting ready of my sister’s traditional wedding. Others were already there. The real family drama began when we found out no one had bothered to assign rooms to in the huge house my father thought was appropriate to build (when the going was good). We fought some more and the women won the best rooms in the house. The men sulked and wandered off to my uncle’s house in protest. As we unpacked, we realized this was the first time in the history of our family; we were technically under one roof at the same time. We planned to take a family portrait.

The next two days went by in a blur in a frenzy of cooking and cleaning and making sure the musicians were going to be on time, the MC was given the right time to show up, the chairs would be all white (they weren’t and the my sister became a real bridezilla), the canopies would be new ones, the umunna would show up on time and umuada would not make a nuisance of themselves. More drama came when my sister declared; “over my dead body” would she perform the traditional wine carrying ceremony through the village. I spent all my time putting out emotional fires and arguments over who was in charge of what (where were wedding planners when you needed one?) Somehow in the middle of this I had a mini breakdown as I realized I was losing my best friend to marital bliss. I took an hour off and sat in the bushes near our home and cried for a while. Then I went back to work.

After the traditional marriage and my sister was packed off to her new husband, who by the way was a total babe (and a doctor to boot), the rest of us went to visit my ailing grandmother. We never took that family portrait as the men were still sulking over something or the other.

With three days left to go before my trip ended, I got on Ekene Dili Chukwu bus and went back to Lagos to prepare for my flight back to the U.S. We left my dad at the village with the car.

“No one drives anymore. The police have gotten worse than the armed robbers,” my mother explained. The day before I left, I found out to my delight I was a good eight pounds lighter and more svelte. Folks, I think I have discovered a new weight loss plan!

Well, now that I am back in the pleasantly cold North Dakotan weather, (it was 20 degrees, -3 degrees with wind chill) I have tried without success to make an inventory of my trip … I was still staring at the screen when the phone rang. It was my physician. I strained to understand her heavy polish accent.

“Rahsie, it is Dr. Krzynski here. Jaaast gaaat ya blood wark baaack. You don’t haave da flu vairus but there iz a vairus present…”

After the phone call, I added, “possibility of malaria” to my inventory the list. Home sweet home.

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agogo September 12, 2008 - 8:23 am

Its been almost a year since you wrote this later, but my 1st time reading it. I can clearly relate with your story… I smiled reading the “Yeesh bit, Ube n abacha, pepper soup n isi ewu, Umunna n Umuada characterisation.” All these are what make us thick as a people n i really enjoyed the piece. My own visit comes up in November n i hope n pray it would be as smooth as yours….

Nelson January 21, 2008 - 7:45 pm

I am happy youcame home and when next you are coming please hint me so that i can also chat with you because you are an angel rosie


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