It was mother’s call that jolted me from my sleep. It was 5:45 am. I hissed as I reached for my tablet. I had planned to sleep in till 10 am and leave at noon for my home town for the Christmas celebration with my family. I didn’t need anyone to interrupt my lazy-day plans so I had turned off my phones. Obviously, my mother couldn’t reach any of my regular lines so she called the line contained in my tablet.
“Nne, I need you to go to Afia Artisan and buy ten chickens. My brother called last night to say he was coming down to Isuochi with his entire family. I am so excited. Do you know I haven’t seen my sister-in-law and my nephews in two years? Your father and I are planning a big party. In addition to the jollof rice, I’ll be preparing three different soups and I want everything cooked with chicken. I need to remind these people that I haven’t lost my spirit of hospitality. . .”
I had to interrupt her at that point before she began another trip down memory lane on how she was one of the most-sought after spinsters in her time. Mother has refused to accept that I am nothing close to her as far as kitchen affairs are concerned. I’d rather spend Sundays at the movies than in the kitchen, cooking delicacy after delicacy just to have neighbours come over for dinner.
The last time mother visited me, we had a quarrel which left me moody for the entire three days she was around. I got in late from work to find my mother fuming in the sitting room. She arrived my house and went into my kitchen to find something to eat. My cupboards had no trace of foodstuff. The only things she found were packs of cereal, tins of milk, a jar of sugar and a pack of coffee. In my refrigerator, she found drinks, biscuits and a loaf of bread. So, I was to explain how a daughter of Lolo Maggie Anuntata had neither real food nor foodstuff in her house. It was an abominable act, in her words, because a woman needed to have evidence of her femininity clearly shown in her kitchen.
A text message followed about twenty minutes later: “I want three broiler chickens and seven old layers. The broilers should be cut into eight pieces each while the old layers should be six pieces each. Please do not mix them up. I know you have been trying to bring shame to me as your mother but for the sake of Christmas, behave like the girl I thought I trained.”
This was obviously going to be a ruined Christmas for me. I work really hard on my job so I treasure holidays. Even if I decide to be busy, going to the market would definitely not be an item on the agenda.
As I tried to wipe a drop of blood that spilled on my arm, someone tapped my shoulder. My Christmas horror multiplied. Standing behind me was a customer of the bank where I work. I had always disliked him but I never let him know because like everyone says, “The customer is king”. He was clumsy and was also something my friends and I refer to as spirinkaka. He replied a good morning with “you’re blessed”, spoke in tongues when an error on his cheque or deposit slip was pointed out to him. He never apologised when other customers on the queue criticised his sluggishness each time he was being attended to. He’d rather mutter, “What would Jesus do?” and walk away in a pompous gait.
He said he heard me give specific instructions to the chicken killers and was also impressed with the number of chickens I had come to buy.
This according to him was a perfect sign that I was wife material of very high quality. He told me he always admired me at the bank because I never fixed artificial nails or used bright coloured lipstick like mermaid spirits. “Only a mature Christian lady would live above the temptation to conform”, he said.
I wanted to laugh but I knew the laughter would come off in a scornful manner so I held it back. The only reason I don’t fix my nails is because the last time I did, something went wrong and I was left with whitlow in two fingers. I just prefer to wear nude lipstick to work but when it’s a wedding or a party, I go pepper red all the way.
I listened as he went on about how the Lord, speaking through his pastor, had promised him a wife as a Christmas gift. He claimed that being a man with ministerial calling, he had asked that the sign will be that she would be a very domesticated lady with a flair for hospitality. Finding me at the chicken section of the market, giving instructions for ten chickens was his perfect proof.