First day of Crèche, 1999, Archival Image
She was all love, 2023
There are people in our lives that leave such an indelible mark on our worlds, and my Grandmother was one.
Through her love and nurturing nature, I learned many things and experienced many things too. Like my love for food, textiles, making things with my hands and cooking. She made the best food, everything she made was enveloped and embalmed with love and care.
As a very young child in Ibadan I remember our morning rituals ‘rolli polli’ times, when my sister and I would roll and jump on Grandmama and Grandpapa's bed, racing back and forth to the ends of each side of their then large bed, while they’d both cheer us on and watch out for us. Grandma would always say ‘hebu hebu!’, which means behave and be careful, but in a tone that was loving, comedic, stern and calm all at once.
In the evenings Grandmama would give us bubble baths in large basins in the kitchen or backyard near the lime tree. These were lovely!
I always wanted to eat the bubbles because they smelled so sweet and the iridescent shades reminded me of candy. Afterwards, she lathered us with mentholated powder which was a great antidote to night heat, coupled with the cool and restful evening breeze the trees swept into the house. Our natural AC.
To have had a childhood filled with memories and moments of being, that allowed ease, pockets of peace and joy, for moments of dismay and uncertainty in adulthood was and is a gift!
I remember her tucking us in at night before bed and gisting with us about whatever, maybe telling us stories or listening to us recount our day. I don’t even remember our conversations clearly but once it was over she’d kiss and hug us and walk out of mummy's room with a torchlight and retire to bed.
Sometimes I’d wake up in the morning and walk into Grandmama and Grandpapa's room and see Grandmama singing in her chair, glasses on, her bible half opened on her lap with a mug of tea on a stool beside her. From this moment a bit of thanksgiving and morning prayer would begin.
She’d sing things like:
Good morning Jesus, good morning Lord.
I know you’ve come from heaven above, the holy spirit is on the throne.
Good morning Jesus, good morning Lord.
I remember our late morning tea parties in the garden, with Danish sugar biscuits, pancakes and all sorts of jams, orange, lime, strawberry and lemon curd; washed down with sugar that filled our little tea cups more than the tea itself. Or Grandmama teaching my sister and me how to bake butter cookies and make daisy-chained bracelets and necklaces in the garden.
I remember her teaching us how to knit with broomsticks as devices to learn because she didn’t have many knitting needles, it was such a good idea. I was really impressed by that; Grandmama always had ways of making things work regardless of the situation.
I remember her cutting meat, chicken, or fish in the kitchen, sitting on a stool with a round table in front of her and us on the other side in our little green plastic garden chairs. I’d either be frightened or weirded out by the gory animal parts being discarded, as she’d slice, dice, skin and remove all the unwanted parts from the wholesome ones that we’d feast on hours or days after. Sometimes she’d give us easy tasks like descaling, plucking feathers, or organ removal. I laugh at this now as an adult, but this was so scary then, but I learned a lot man.
I remember Sundays in church and visits to her friend's homes or parties, I remember the warmth and mutual respect everyone gave, I remember the love she had in her eyes seeing people merry and well. I remember afternoons after church before coming home, going to Tantalizers and buying frank rolls with pepe, and then to an ice cream shop not too far from her petrol station. Vanilla ice cream cones with strawberry syrup dripping down our little hands with white moustaches and fuzz on the corners of our lips.
I remember days Grandma would take us to Jericho to get our hair done at a salon, sometimes to Aunty T's home and sometimes having Aunty M do it at home.
More recently, Grandmama helped me with some research for my art practice and on occasion, she was my Yoruba translator and culture connoisseur. I loved the conversations we had, the moments we shared and the knowledge imparted.
I remember my longing to understand her Togolese language ‘Ewe’ during her conversations with her sisters, just to get the gist of their stories. Oh how my amebo as a child yearned for the opportunity to learn it someday, I wish we had more time.
Her glorious Bubus were everything, they always left a spell of ease and comfort on me. I wore a few of them through my time in Lagos last year and used some loose fabric she generously gave me for my art practice as well. So many generous gifts as this. What a gift.
I am thankful for her dedication to our family and for seeing us through our lives. To the many trips with Grandpa back and forth from Ibadan to Lagos to babysit or visit, for school plays, for awards, for birthday parties, for celebrations and oftentimes just because. Often sending down pots of stew, her delicious fried chicken and hoards of food produce from Ibadan markets just because Lagos markets were a true rip-off.
I love my Grandmama, the lessons, flavours, strength memories, joy, peace, love and care she imparted were blessings that never let us forget the treasure we had. Too many joys that came into my life were a reward of her prayers.
Her passing is surreal, it’s painful but alas there is a certain sort of peace I feel here knowing that she is resting well too.
It’s all love, thank you for everything Grandmama. I appreciate the essence of who you were and all you shared with us all.
God bless you, Amen.