When you were 16, what did you think your life would look like? Does it look that? Is that a good thing?
Hi, my name is Yetunde, I’m 15 years old and well… this is a little weird.
I was born on the 21st of January 2001 (yes yes, I’m not a ‘90s baby). According to oral history, the day before I was born, my grandmother died. She died at age 60 by 2:00pm in the backseat of my father’s wretched Volkswagen. The next day, by 2:00pm, my mother was at that same backseat screaming incomprehensible nonsense to my father and telling him to get us to the hospital or she would explode all over the car.
There’s a bit of confusion as to whether or not she threatened to take the life of my father if he ever tried to touch her in bed again but my mother says she never said that – my father would always smile and shake his head and say, ‘It’s not the person who shits that remembers, it’s the person who packs the shit. Me that I was already shaking from your threat. I can never forget’. I believe my mother though. My mother is a woman of her words, if she says she’ll do something, she’ll do it. And so she could never have promised a deprivation of copulation because I have three younger ones.
They say my mother is a lot like her mother – my grandmother who died in the backseat of my father’s car. Everyone says that I look a lot like her. They say I have her bowlegs and her slender feet, her strong arms and constantly jutted chin and her wide hips and small breasts. I just look at these my aunties; I am only growing, so how do they know these things about me already? Even my very name ‘Yetunde’ which translates to ‘our mother came back again’ indicates that they have already formed a bias against me and my separate person. I did not know my grandmother, but like I said earlier, my mother is a lot like her. I would be in the kitchen washing plates and my mother would just exclaim under her breath, ‘Ah! see mama’. I did not like it but I learned early that you have to play to people’s beliefs some times.
I started asking about my grandmother when I was 10 years old. Mother was only too joyful to tell me all about her. Now, one of those short oral biographies has come in useful. Since I am the reincarnation of my grandmother, here’s what I thought my life would look like in 1957 when I was 16:
When I was 16, I was the best aso-oke maker in the whole village. My feet never touched the ground. All the young boys in village loved me and I was always walking on sunshine. In fact, occasionally, some of the servants of the colonial masters would come to my mother’s house in Iganrin where I set shop, and purchase my materials. I used to bill them at higher prices because you can tell from the corners of a man’s mouth when he hasn’t been drinking the water from the local stream. They tried; they would change servants every time so I would not suspect that they had a lot of money to spend but what they did not know was that I had the eyes of a hunter’s dog.
Anyway, everyone in my village always knew that if anybody made it out of there, it would be me. I was saving up money under my mother’s bed in a big box. I was going to travel to the city, to Lagos. When I got there, I was going to build a house – a big house with 4 rooms, 2 bathrooms and one very big kitchen. I was going to use one of the rooms to continue my aso-oke business. And just like I succeeded in Iganrin, I would succeed in Lagos. Like my mother always told me, ‘Success is blind to geography and the only language it understands is hardwork’. ‘Yes,’ I told myself, ‘I will work hard in Lagos and have my own car and find someone to drive me to bring my mother to my house in Lagos’. Some girls in my village had big dreams of getting an education. Well, that was for them. Isn’t the point of getting an education to get a good job in order to make money? Well, look who’ll beat them to it…
That was me when I was 16. Now, does my life look like that?
Well, no. One significant thing to note is that I’m dead (or at least re-incarnated in the body of my 16 year old grand daughter) and no, my life did not go quite as planned. I moved to Lagos when I was 20 quite alright, but I became a maid for a really rich Yoruba man who did many unspeakable things to me. I met a tailor man who later became my lovely husband, who was hell bent on frustrating me and my already cut-down dreams. All the joy I ever dreamed of came when I gave birth to my babies – first Akin then Wale, then Rotimi, then Ojuolape, then Aderonke (now deceased), then Adetola (who fell to her death the only day I left her with her father to go to the market. She was 2 months old) and then Ashake (the one with whom I stayed with till my death).
Is that a good thing?
Well, who are we to say what is good and what is bad? Life is skilled at throwing curveballs. We can dodge them or learn to throw ours back at life. Either way, life is not going to make you lemonades. In fact, life might do shakara before it give you lemons. Who is to say what is good and what is bad?
That’s my grandmother’s own testimony… but I promise it won’t be mine.