IMG-20141231-WA0004Mama Thankgod  had this open-teeth kind of smile that had me wishing I had good sets of teeth. Her smile seemed to come from somewhere deep down to radiate her entire being. She would laugh, then chuckle and her eyes would twinkle, almost like she was going to cry next. It was such a beautiful sight! That was the first thing that attracted me to her. The second thing was her igbotic accent. It was strong, rich, deep and very concentrated. It spooked me whenever she spoke to me in pidgin English; I could listen to her talk on and on in fluent Ibo without getting tired. She was that good! The third quality, and most comical of them all, was her idea of Jesus. Mama Thankgod was catholic but she sees vision. She seemed to see the Holy trinity from one angle: He was a consuming fire. Whenever she spoke about God, which she did most often with much passion, she would always talk about His power over Satan and all the demons God has destroyed and can destroy. She was an enigma! Always cheerful and always happy.
She wasn’t from Asaba, it was evident in her Ibo accent. She was from across the Niger; “Ndi Enugu kò bu,” mum had said. In English, that meant she was from Enugu. But I liked her nonetheless. I had met her one hot mid morning, last year when I was home during the strike, sitting on one of our kitchen stools in the backyard, licking grape; her bright eyes darting from one tree to another in search of more fruits. There were about a dozen more grapefruits at her feet with our kitchen knife at one end of her leg – an indication the grapes had been supplied from one of our trees.  I passed her front with my half chewed bread and empty cup of tea , trying futilely to avoid being hit by the seeds she was spitting out of her mouth and into the air. One seed hit my leg and two hit my upper left arm.
“Eewo Adammadu! Ndo o! Mistake.” she exclaimed as I wiped two slimy dots of fluid off my arm. “Na mistake, ndo.”
I nodded, staring at her. “Good morning ma.” I mouthed, trying to be polite even as my eyes began searching out my parents in the dense greenery of our backyard. Someone needed to clarify this woman’s identity before I left my spot.
“Ada kedu?” she asked, then smiled. “Omalicha nwa, dika papayi.” she laughed, then chuckled; her eyes twinkling.
My eyes stopped their search momentarily to rest on the strange woman with the beautiful smile. Who was she? She was dad’s friend, I had concluded from her ‘dika papayi’ – only dad’s friends thought I looked like him facially – But I was more curious to know who she was outside being dad’s friend.
“Mama Thankgod, ngwa bia kanyi kusie ifoó,” dad’s voice bellowed from the other side of the compound.
She looked at me hastily, smiling. “Ada, ngwa bye bye o.” she said and began packing the remaining untouched grapefruits into a bag I hadn’t noticed at her side. Then she stood, cleaned her hands on her wrapper, dusted her buttocks and walked off whistling, to talk with dad. I stood there enthralled, watching her tall slender frame walk off. MamaThankgod! I thought and began to laugh. Igbos and their funny names, why would anybody name their child Thankgod? I wished we had talked beyond ‘ndo’ and ‘dika papayi’. I really  wanted to hear more from this woman. When mommy called some minutes later to give me a bag filled with bitterleaf, cocoyam, onions and plaintain and said:  “Jeé nye mama Thankgod, she’s going,” I was ecstatic! I had finally got my opportunity to observe Mama Thankgod closely and maybe I could  talk to her, I reasoned as I went off.
The next time I saw her again though, was on a Sunday afternoon, last two weeks. She was her usual cheerful self, waiting under the cashew tree for us to come back from church. Daddy and mommy were very happy to see her. Daddy opened the front door then her invited in. I was also happy to see her, but I was tired and hungry; service had been extra long. She and my parents started discussing as soon as they got into the sitting room. The discussion was deep. In Ibo, they talked about religion and land then job . Mama Thankgod seemed worried. She didn’t say much to me. I didn’t have time either, Sunday rice hadn’t been cooked and I was hungry. When she was about to go, when I was half way done with eating my rice, she called me; “Ada biko, wete lim nmmiri o,” she said.  Then sang ‘dalu’ when I brought the water for her and she had drank to her fill. I smiled and nodded, Mama Thankgod, hadn’t changed and I was relieved.
The following day, I woke up to find her in the backyard, sitting on the kitchen stool and talking with mum. They were talking about God again and how he reveals things to man. Mama Thankgod was gesticulating wildly, her Ibo strong and sure as she described the wrath of God on the wicked; like she has seen God in action, I chuckled.
“Good morning, ma.” I greeted as I passed her to pick up the broom for the backyard.
“Marning! Ada, kedu?”
“Ofuma,” I replied.
“E lau kwa ofuma?”
I nodded and walked off to do my morning chores. Mama Thankgod didn’t leave until I had finished eating breakfast. She had talked with mum, helped feed the chickens mommy was rearing for New year sales, then talked with dad. She didnt greet me when she was going, I didn’t bother either; she must have forgotten I concluded. On Tuesday afternoon, daddy took Christmas short and shirt for Mama Thankgod’s son and chicken to her house; he said something about making somebody’s Christmas special as he went. Mama Thankgod didn’t come the next day to thank mommy as I expected and I was surprised. Nobody spoke of her in the house and I wondered how long it will take for her to come again.
Two days ago, mama Thankgod called daddy on phone. When daddy asked if she was fine and after a while said “Ogini mè?” then walked out, mommy started shaking her head and sighing.
“Her husband must have died.” mommy said quietly.
I shook my head sadly, “How do you know?”
“He has been sick na. Wa si nò kidney failure. They had to take him back to their village so his mother and sisters could take care of him. He was an Okada rider…”
Daddy walked in, shaking his head too. “Ò wugo!” he said to mommy. “They said she should start coming osiso, so she’s going back tomorrow. She said she doesn’t have transport money that if we want to see her, we should come very early tomorrow morning to Ozor’s house.”
“Uwa!! Hmmmm” mommy exclaimed and sighed deeply.
“What happened to life?” I asked, confused. There was more to this Mama Thankgod’s story I didn’t know and wanted to know.
Mommy looked at me, a deep frown on her face. “It’s wicked na and cruel! Young woman, nwa nke nnya! Widow at thirty-two!”
I blinked, not liking where the story was going at all. “How many children?”
“Seven. Seven children,” daddy answered. “Four had gone back with the man when he left. She would go with the remaining three tomorrow. We must go and see her tomorrow…”  Then he and mommy proceeded to tell me the story about Mama Thankgod.
I shook my head sad. long after I had heard all there was to know about Mama Thankgod, I was still worried about her. She was a beautiful cheerful lady who didn’t deserve such a bad ordeal this Christmas and New year period. How was she going to survive? I thought.
Early the next morning, yesterday, dad and mom took out some of my old clothes, Ebuka’s Christmas clothe that didnt size him and some money; “For the kids,” mommy said as they went to see Mama Thankgod.
I was left alone to wonder if I would see Mama Thankgod next 2015 Christmas, when I visited Asaba.


8 thoughts on “Mama Thankgod

  1. This is an enriching story.Kudos to you ekene,i felt it was a graphic story inspiring young people that God is all we need to confront our challenges.Keep the ink flowing and happy new year in

  2. finally!! have read something interesting today . even though I couldn’t pronounce some Igbo very interesting .wow!

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