It was like Childhood days again but this time around, not in penury but in abundance. I spent over a month with Mama and Baba Miko, freedom is sweet! It takes people like us to appreciate the importance of freedom.
Imagine a situation where I wake up in the morning and take my bath and eat Mama’s or Baba Miko’s delicious meal, then I decide on how to spend the day; do I go to Mama’s Shop? or do I go with Baba Miko to work? or do I just enter into the Campus of Ebonyi state university and feed my eyes? It was 1998 and Ebonyi state had been carved out of Enugu state so they have their own university now. Abakaliki had become a Capital City and the prospect for development in the town had made Baba Miko changed his mind about going back home, he planned to set up a furniture making business in Abakaliki because he envisaged that the demand for Wood works would increase with the influx of People into the new Capital City.
Sometimes I just sit at home and watch movies as long as N.E.P.A permits, the generator Baba Miko bought had been transferred to Mama’s Shop but they planned to buy another for home use. I was indeed enjoying myself here with Mama, I determine the food that we eat in the House as Mama would always ask me of my choice of food before entering the Kitchen to cook, if it was Baba Miko that wants to cook too, he does the same. Baba Miko was never married so he had been doing his own cooking all his adult life.
The family bond that eluded me as a Child, I began to experience at adult hood. Baba Miko was a natural Father figure to me and I took him as such immediately, the relationship between him and Mama was like that of two Pigeons in love.
The two of us were always teasing Mama in her pregnant state; we assisted with the house chores and in the Kitchen too. I do the dishes after our meals and I clean up the house in the Mornings, that is if Baba Miko does not beat me to it, but it was generally fun and peaceful, I never heard the two raise voice at each other through out my stay with them, Baba Miko has a very large heart and he still sees my mother as that sixteen year old Girl he wooed twenty six years ago, he adored her and now that she was expecting his baby, he practically pampers her like a baby. This is what my mother had missed all this years for marrying the lazy handsome honey coated tongued Man called My Father!
I was excited with the fact that I was expecting a younger Sibling, mama and I wished it would be a Boy because we thought it would make Baba Miko happy but Baba Miko insisted he preferred a girl as he already had a Son in me, he said he needs just a daughter to join me in the family and after that, he doesn’t want any more Children, he wanted Mama to rest. But Mama told me in secret that if God permits, she will bear him three Kids within three years, she said she cannot have just one Child for him, she said he needs Children that would bear his name.
The first day I followed Mama to her Shop was a Friday and I was over whelmed. The way Students trooped into her Shop to make their hair for weekend runs was alarming; there was no more space to sit down and the Students were collecting numbers as they waited for their turns. Mama had two paid assistants that helped out at the Shop yet they could not rest because the Students kept pouring in.
The Students say Mama’s hand does not give them headache couple with the fact that her job was very neat. Mama had no choice than give them value for their money because she knew where she was coming from. In the Village where she was, she could plait someone hair and at the end they resort to quarreling because the Person would not tell her from the onset that she does not have money. In the Village the hair she plaits for one hundred naira, she collects three hundred naira at Abakaliki. Washing and setting in Abakaliki is done at three times the price in the Village so why won’t she put in her best?
I had to assist in plaiting and fixing weave-on for some of the Students that day and I received a lot of tips. The Girls were confused as to who should make their hair between me and mama because our works are exactly the same. They said we were apprenticed under the same Tutor. Mama was to them my elder Sister for no one could ever believe she was my mother so there was no need telling them otherwise. Even though they heard me calling her Mama, they thought it was her pet name from Childhood.
Mama’s level in Abakaliki had actually changed and for the fact that she does business in a Campus environment, she had to change and adapt to the fashion en-vogue, she never wore Buba and wrapper to work, she wears jeans and T shirts or Skirt and blouse, her graying hair now looks dark and lovely courtesy of the several sheens and hair treatments she applied for she changed her hair style weekly, mama had a Baby face naturally so she passed for a young educated lady in her twenties. The only handicap was that she could not speak fluent English and she has a strong Yoruba accent so she settled for the Pidgin English she could speak well.
I started to frequent her Shop regularly for the next two weeks, first because I needed to help her make more money and secondly to flirt with the Girls. It was not easy for me to take my eyes off the girls that came to mama’s Shop! My Gawd! Igbo girls are beautiful! In all my life I had never been in company of young girls like this, I had never being in a position where I interfaced with so many girls, I had not gone to the university by then so it was very difficult for me to see a skimpily dressed beautiful Lady without losing concentration, I tried not to stare by could not help it, how could one be plaiting a lady’s hair and just below my eyes her cleavage is open and gaping at me? My heart beat was always running fast.
And just as one girl is leaving another beauty comes in with her charms. I was in bondage, a bondage I did not want to be free from. It was at mama’s shop that I came to understand the term ‘beauty is in the eyes of the beholder’ and beauty comes in different sizes and shapes!
It was mama that came to my rescue, she had been watching me all this while as my mouth dropped open and my eyes pop out at the sight of any beautiful or skimpily dressed Lady. She said I should voice out my thoughts instead of staring like the severed head of a cow on the butcher’s slab.
Pay them compliments! She had told me; tell them what you admire in them, if it is the eyes or the dress or the hair! Tell them how beautiful they look and flatter them, tell them they are torturing you and you would have loved to go out with them if not that you are engaged to their sister! She said if a girl comes to make her hair I should pay her compliments and when she is done I should flatter her more.
That was how I earned the name “Ogo” or in-law amongst the girls and I was free with all of them, I was free to stare freely and openly while paying compliments while the girls purposely flaunt it for me to see the more! Jeez I missed mama’s Shop in Abakaliki. But that was when I started to respect male stylists everywhere in the world. They are actually living in self imposed psychological bondage.
Some of the Students wanted to know my department as they thought I was a student of Ebonyi state University helping out my elder Sister at my lecture free periods, I told them I was in E.S.U.T Enugu.
I started going to mama’s shop earlier than mama while she comes later with my food and we work together till 5.30PM before going home to prepare and eat dinner with Babe Miko if he is on day duty, but if he is on night duty, he prepares dinner for us before leaving for work, he leaves the house by 5.30pm till 6.00am the next day.
To Be Continued