I had my first date at eleven. Mama, my heroine, fought so hard to birth Ije. Ije is Papa’s pride – our ‘golden child.’ Ije journeyed all the way to come to us. My birthday-mate! We awaited him for 10 years, 11 months, 29 days, 6 hours, and 53 seconds. But, Mama breathed her last when Ije cried his first. His cries ushered in more tears. It was our sweet sorrow – a son was born, but Mama died in the theatre fighting so he could live. I was a witness. That was my first date – a death-date!
After Death the tyrant snatched Mama from me, not even letting her teach me all I should know before her departure, I bore life on my shoulders, awaiting the day it too would break me.
Mama didn’t tell me Kelechi would cry a lot. She didn’t school me that I’d be wearing her shoes, and that my feet would never grow to fit in. When we needed Mama’s arms, we ran into her room but met with her empty chair instead.
Papa became my next-door-stranger. Mama did not also leave any notes on how to live with her husband in her absence. Life, and now death changed him. I worked harder than hard, more than when Mama was alive. I wanted to please Papa. But, no matter what I did, his heart had frozen. Sometimes, my heart was merry Mama left him. But, other times, after I had beat myself sore, then bitterness would remind me she left us too.
Mama once revealed to me that on my naming ceremony day, Papa was grinning from ear to ear when he announced to everyone: “Her name is Adaku! The child born into wealth!”
“The audience was super excited.” She boasted.
Odiegwu! When they had eaten a fat chunk of Papa’s lies?
Mama’s body had not even slept for long in the cold grave when Papa took me to Isuji, his brother. Papa said Isuji would take care of me. But no, I take care of Isuji’s libido! He makes me grease his bed everyday. My body is no longer mine – Isuji said he paid Papa for it.
What choices had I, but to become Ije’s mother, not forgetting my little sisters; Chisom, Nneka, Uju, and Kelechi. I would carry Ije on my back to the farm whether the sun smiled, or the rain cried. Ije stooled so much that he could have joined Mama too. But he stayed.
When I was a kid, Papa fed me with stories about a Blacksmith. “The Blacksmith who makes the Silver Spoons for everyone!” He’ll add a laugh to wash it down our small brains.
The story was the same, yet different. On some nights he’d say:
“…he went about checking every child’s mouth, using a broomstick to ensure that he would make exactly the spoon that fits. Some mouths are little, some really big. If a spoon does not fit, he takes it back…”
Whenever Papa shared those stories, I’d grin with excitement. Papa once told me how the Blacksmith gifted a girl a big spoon that she lacked nothing to herself. For every time Papa was going to share the same story, I’d quickly ask:
“Papa, why don’t we also have the Silver Spoon in our mouths?”
Fiam! Papa never had my answer. But he always had what he wanted us to hear.
So, he’ll smile and whisper: “The Blacksmith is still making yours.”
“Papa, why is he taking so long?” I was naïve!
“Because he is taking time to make yours special.”
I’d nod and agree with him. Since the Blacksmith was making one for me, a special one at that, then I needed all the patience not to ruin it.
But, here’s my story. I waited and waited, until I joined papa and mama on the farm just behind the nearly-fallen-apart thing of a house he made for a shelter. I was only seven years old then when toil met me. Papa taught me how to plant and harvest corn. We did everything our hands could bear, yet, only showed off our dirty palms. More toil awaited us every single day. Well, I waited still. Because the Blacksmith had spent his entire life in my childhood memories. So, I hoped, then even went on to pray for him to never die. That someday, I’d meet him – we would bond, he would fulfil Papa’s tales of him to me.
Years went by, yet, our lives stood still. We scraped by every day, while happiness watched us from a far distance, allowing sorrow taunt us. The Blacksmith never showed up. When I grew weary of waiting, the thoughts of him became shadows until he slipped into oblivion!
Papa stopped sharing his fake-tales. Well, not to me. I had an earful! Moreover, a Girl gats grow!
But, to my sisters, at least, they still craved bedtime stories.
In between, Papa became this angry bull who yelled at everything. He spoke to walls and broke every thing his hands caught, not forgetting to knock himself out when nothing replied back to him. Of course, who would? No one ever dared to. We sometimes thought Papa was mad.
I later consoled myself that Papa made up his stories. There was nothing like a Silver Spoon, nor a Blacksmith! If there was one, to him, I never existed!
Ada! Papa fooled you!
One day, I confronted Papa: “Did you make a mistake, am I really Adaku?”
Back then, when Papa and I used to play “Awele” together, that question was something he would normally tease me with a response like: “Ada… I didn’t make a mistake. You are the bringer of wealth…” “Ada nwee ndidi…”
But gradually, Papa knew he had fed me fat. He needed a safe hideout. That day when I confronted him, it was no laughing matter. Papa grabbed my neck and screamed in my face: “Adaku! The Silver Spoon didn’t go round!”
Okay! I get it! The joke is stale!
Here is the irony. I am unable to iron it straight:
“Why am I Adaku, and there is no wealth?”
My name, my fate, life, Papa’s stories, all vanity! No happiness! The only happy memory we bragged about was the birth of Ije. Ever since that day, happiness vanished forever!
Today, I clock 22. I remember Mama. If only I could turn back the hands of time, I’d never bear Adaku! Never!
I am stuck with a penniless, drunkard; Isuji, who grabs my neck for every time I say: “Please, don’t do this to me”.
I eat Isuji’s stench for dinner. At morning, when joy ought to come as they say, my siblings gather to a devotion of unspoken words, searching my eyes for their unanswered questions.
I am still asking too: “Where is the Blacksmith who makes the Silver Spoon?”