Mama Ibeji*

Even though it sounds cheesy, the trip was really all about family for me. I wasn’t expecting a wild, excitement-at-every-turn time and I didn’t get that. What I got was lots of laughter and good memories that will remain with me for a long time.

With the exception of two nights that we spent at the houses of other family members, we stayed with my maternal grandmother. My grandmother is such an inspiration because she is living proof that you can survive difficult situations if you make God your strength and don’t rely on your own power.

Don’t let her narrow shoulders and slight frame fool you: this intrepid woman had 11 children, including three sets of twins. Eight of those children survived to adulthood, including one ‘complete’ set of twins. My mother is the oldest child. More remarkable is she raised these children on her own, and managed to send them all to school. Although her own education did not go past primary school, she saw the value of education and made sure that all her children were able to get at least secondary school education. Though her laugh is husky and her voice a bit so, she can turn up the volume and raise her voice when needed. And apparently it’s needed very often. ;)

She has had a few jobs in her life, from owning a buka (a small restaurant/food stand), to running a mill for grinding plantain and yam into elubo flour, to her current job where she makes and sells cement blocks used in all sorts of buildings.

My grandmother has faced a number of challenges in her life: when she was young, she had a really bad fall that resulted in the growth of her right arm being stunted. She also had a stroke before I was born I, and walks with a limp as a result. Last year she fell off an okada (motorcycle) and broke her right arm. It was not set properly and she now uses her left arm for tasks requiring fine arm movements. Yet through it all I’ve never heard of her complaining and she hasn’t let any of these things slow her down one bit! She’s still the first one up, working her butt off, and the last one to go to sleep. She overdoes it, actually (something my mother inherited from her).

My grandmother is a typical mother, the kind that surely inspired the song Sweet Mother: too busy sacrificing and giving to her children and grandchildren to give much to herself. One of the things that she had never had was a party. Even though she had passed plenty of milestone birthdays, at the age of 72 she had never had a big do that was all about her. So, it was decided (by her female children primarily—men are generally useless in these sorts of things!) that a bash should be thrown for her and she would be the guest of honour for once.

It was a lot of fun! My sister and I got to get dressed in traditional wear for the event (we wore lace and with the lining it was really hot!). There was lots of food, and even more dancing. I discovered that my love of dancing is completely inherited from my mom’s side. Good heavens: they just dance and dance and won’t stop, not even when sweat is pouring off their faces and soaking their clothing through—they just keep going!

One of the other ways my grandmother supplements her income is as a landlady: she rents the majority of rooms in her house out. Fourteen years ago, I remember being charmed by one tenant’s daughter, Ola. This time there were other youngsters to capture my heart. I think my grandmother only attracts tenants who give birth to adorable children.

My grandmother is generous to a fault, and would do anything for her family and anyone who happens to be a member of the human race. Unfortunately, that has led to her being taken advantage of. While we were there we tried to tell the family to go easy on her and let her enjoy her senior years instead of having to keep working so hard to support her family. I hope the words sank in. Of course step one would involve her putting her foot down and refusing to do things for every person with a tale of woe. Yeah right.

*translated means Mother of Twins

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22 thoughts on “Mama Ibeji*

  1. What an inspiration she is!! And quite young at that.

    I am glad you had the chance to reconnect with your family.

    Can't wait for the next installments.

  2. aww. This is a beautiful post. Its always amazing to know someone who is so selfless.

    It just seems are grandmothers and mothers back home dont age. At 72 she is still working?! amazing!

  3. Oh God

    She is truly amazing!

    I admire her strength and achievements

    3 sets of twins? She reminds me so much of my maternal grandma "may her soul rest in peace."

    She had 17. Only 5 survived.

    SHe did her best to raise them just like your grand ma did

    I am so gladddddddd yall threw a bash for her o

    I wish her long life, good health, and prosperity.

    She is a living example of a true mother.

  4. Your granny is an inspiration! A mother, grandmother, and successful business woman!

    **clapping**

    Thank you for sharing this. If your granny could do it all, so can I!

  5. your Grandma is from OGun state right..Only Ogun state people dey born twins like that…just guessing lol. I always get jealous when people talk about their grandmas, I never met any of mine. Wish i did.

  6. Your granny is something else, so amazing. God will continue to give her the strength and good health.

  7. awwww! Your Granny seems very cool! Lovely write up! And you have a pretty voice by the way!

  8. if it was an essay competition in sec school. this is a winner.

    she is a story of courage and determination. one who sees opportunities in problems. why complain when u can work around the problem? we should all learn from her.

  9. Your grand reminds me of mine. GENEROUS! I don't know if it's age or something! But I think we should learn from them…

    This is a toast to your grandma…and all sweet grandmothers out there!

  10. What a lovely testimony to your grandmother.

    I really am jealous. I want to go to nigeria so bad…it's palpable.

    I look forward to your future posts.

  11. This whole piece is beautiful…

    The pictures are amazing-they tell a story by themselves-and you weaved eveything so intricately. Your grandmother sounds like a tower of strength. Im glad your 9ja trip went well.

    Beautiful post babes.

  12. OMG,

    Shes 72 and still working,

    The pics are great,

    And she sure sound like a pillar of strength.

    Im wishing her happy birthday and man many more years to come

  13. Good to know there's still people who appreciate the sacrifices the older generation has put into our lives.. they're a big part of whatever successes we're today….. Am sure, yr granny is also proud of y'all and all the successes you've managed to become….. Good food for tot too…..

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