My mother traumatized me.
She’s the reason why I dislike going to the market. In fact, I would rather walk on hot coals than enter a market.
Ironically, I work for an international beverage company as their head of marketing in Nigeria.
To tell the truth, as a child I enjoyed going to the market with my mother because she would always get us snacks and drinks when we were done for the day. She would say we deserved to enjoy ourselves after all the stress of walking under the hot sun with our heavy bags.
My mother was also good at relating with people, haggling prices down, and finding the best ingredients in the market. I learned a lot from her which has helped me with my work.
As I grew older, all the enjoyment in the world could not make up for all I had suffered. Now, every time I am in a physical market – which I try to avoid like coronavirus – I feel like a thousand eyes are watching me, and I’m always in a hurry to leave the place. I do most, if not all of my shopping, online.
Why do I dislike going to the market?
Because that woman, my mother, Mummy Efe – as she was called by everybody- embarrassed me every single time we were at the market. I have vivid memories of how bad it was.
If I walked slowly, my mother would shout, ‘You no go waka fast you this girl! Why you dey do like person wey never chop since morning? You wan make people dey talk say I dey maltreat you abi. Shey I no give you food chop before we commot from house? Common move that your leg! I no wan sleep for this market today, you dey hear me so.’
If I walked fast and left her behind, she would shout, ‘Efe, where you dey fly go? Who dey pursue you? E get anybody for this market wey you dey owe money? If you loss nko – as you dey speed like car wey no get break. People go come dey talk say I no sabi put eye for where my own pikin dey. You see say you no fit shame me, you this girl. Oya, before I stone you slap, come back here!’
My mother did not understand the concept of reprimanding a child gently. Every time I got scolded, it was as if she wanted witnesses that could testify that she did her best to raise me the right way. The worse thing was when total strangers talked about me as if I wasn’t there.
I remember after my mother’s legendary scold one day, a market woman said, ‘Calm down Mummy Efe. No vex. I know say you dey try for this your pikin.
‘Make I tell you something. You know say if you dey work well-well, your heart go begin dey beat fast-fast, e go dey pump blood well-well. But dis children of nowadays no dey too get blood for body because dem no dey do work. Dem go stay inside house from morning till night – dey watch television.’
‘My sister, wetin person go do? I don tire.’ My mother replied as if I was a burden she was forced to bear.
‘See ehn, as you dey market like so, just buy bitter-leaf. Fresh one, no be that one wey don dry like crayfish. When you come reach house you go wash am well-well. Den you go comot the water, boil am. When e down cool, give your pikin one cup make she drink. You see that bitter-leaf water, e dey give person blood, and e dey comot yama-yama for body. Very soon her body go strong.’
‘Thank you o. Thank you, my sister. As I no kill my own mama, Efe no go fit kill me. Shey you get the bitterleaf, make I buy am?’
A large crowd had gathered. Some were discussing the medicinal benefits of bitter-leaf, and others were consoling my mother because I had no blood in my body. Many of them were just staring at me, and it felt like their disapproving eyes were judging me for stressing my poor mother.
I stood there and prayed that the ground would open and swallow me.