I have never seen any woman who worked as hard as my mother neither had I seen any woman who prayed so much as well. She is a combination of work and prays. I call her Maami, that name always lightens up her face even in the toughest times. She wasn’t well educated; she only managed to complete her primary school. She lost both parents at an early age so it was difficult for her to get all the necessary education. She had to move from one relative to another just to have a roof over her head.
At the age of 13, Maami started working as a maid to a family which allowed her to study in the evening with the leftover books of their children and that was how she managed to upgrade herself a little. At the age of 15, she was sexually abused by her boss’s husband and she became pregnant. When she realized that she was pregnant she became confused and afraid. Eventually when her boss got to know of her pregnancy and she told her how her husband had been abusing her which the husband clearly denied. Maami was beaten up and thrown out of the house. She was left all alone in the cold with a pregnancy that was denied. She became homeless.
She was homeless for over a month, sleeping in churches at night whilst she pretended to be praying and begging for alms in the day. One day while she was begging for money on the street she became ill of exhaustion and collapsed. She was taken to the hospital by a Good Samaritan who later decided to accommodate her. By then she was about nine months pregnant and due to deliver. She gave birth to me some few weeks later but the labour wasn’t without complications, she was told she will never conceive again. She became my mother at an early age of sixteen. I became her hope, her joy, her happiness and her life. My first word was Maami; that was what I called her and that name stuck till date.
Life was never easy for us. Maami would do anything to feed and clothe me. The old woman that accommodated us was also struggling; life was not too good for her as well. My mother would do any menial job in the neighbourhood for money. She went from house to house to doing house cleaning for peanuts. She also washed their dirty clothes and babysits. All along Maami saved as much as she could to start a little business of buying and selling.
I was an understanding baby, I hardly stressed my mother. By the time I was old enough to start school she had saved enough money, she was able to afford a one-bedroom apartment and she had started selling fruits in a makeshift shed opposite our house. The school was the best thing that could happen to me; I put my all in my education and tried my best to make Maami proud. I was always on top of my class and she was so proud of me. At the end of each academic year, my mother made sure she saved enough money to buy me a gift for being at the top of my class.
Time flew, my mother remained single. I was her only priority; she would go through the fire for me. I lacked almost nothing. I applied for every scholarship I was aware of just to relieve my mother of the burden she was going through, I put in my best and studied as much as I could but unfortunately, I couldn’t get any. After each disappointment, I would be heartbroken and cried for days but Maami would wipe my tears with her own tears and comfort me. She would tell me she would work harder and made sure I go to university. My dream was to become an accountant and nothing would stop me from making her a proud mother.
I passed my secondary school examination with flying colours and I swiftly gained admission into the University of Lagos to study accounting. The tuition fee was a little steep for my struggling mother. I remember coming home with the good news of my admission that raining afternoon. She was outside in the rain sitting with an umbrella scarcely covering her and her wares. I got down from the bike that took me home and ran towards her. I broke the news to her; she jumped up with joy and started dancing in the rain. She hugged me tightly and cried with joy.
Later that night she promised to do anything possible to raise the money for my tuition. A week later she managed to raise funds after selling the television and the refrigerator in the house, she also sold some of her clothes. I was able to register and start a life as an undergraduate.
University life was a different life. That was where I became aware that I was poor. I was surrounded by students from rich families; some of them were in the school to show off their parent’s wealth. I wasn’t distracted by any of these, I knew that the gateway out of poverty was my studies and I faced it with all my energy.
In my second year at university, I met Jennifer. She belonged to a different world, the one I only dreamt of. We were in the same class but we had never crossed each other’s path. She had her group of friends which belonged to the same social class that she fell into whilst I strictly minded my own business. Our relationship started in an uncomfortable manner. She was in a hurry to get out of the class after out Taxation lecture, in her rush, she bumped into and spilt her orange juice on my white shirt. She didn’t even bother to look at me; she just walked out as if nothing happened. I was so embarrassed; I just went back to my room. Since that incident, she just seemed to be avoiding me.
A week after that incident we were given a group assignment and she was put in the group where I happened to be the group leader. We had no choice but to work together as a group in order to pass our assessment. That was when she eventually came to me and apologized for what she had done before. I ignored her and told her it was too late, she then offered to take me out for lunch for me to forgive her. That was how our friendship kicked off. The following day I was shocked when she bought me a new shirt.
We became good friends. That was when I realized that she was so humble and down to earth. She assisted me a lot financially without even asking for her help. Our friendship developed into a love affair when we got to three hundred levels and we became practically inseparable. I took Jennifer home to meet my mother and it was amazing the way the two of them got along instantly. She also called her Maami. She was initially shocked to see that my mother was such a young woman; people often mistook her to be my older sister. Jennifer became the daughter she never had, I sometimes felt jealous of their relationship; she would at times call my mother and they would chat endlessly. The two of them became my world; it’s like having two sisters.
When you have two solid forces behind you, the world unravels before you and your dreams become clearer. We graduated together, I on top of the class and Jennifer closely behind me. I got a dream job offer in Port Harcourt, Jennifer joined me later as she also got a good job and our lives were changed forever. I proposed to Jennifer and we got married.
Married life was even sweeter. We bought a house in the highbrows of Port Harcourt; we had almost achieved all our dreams. We were living in our own world; we were blessed with everything we wanted. Jennifer insisted that Maami should move in with us but she refused, Jennifer also suggested that she relocate to Port Harcourt but she also refused, she said she would rather be visiting us regularly. She insisted that her life was in Lagos. We got her a good apartment and set her up in business.
Three years into our marriage, Jennifer was still finding it difficult to get pregnant and she began to be worried. I wasn’t really worried because I knew that children would come at the right time. I kept consoling her that God’s time is the best. Her parents were also worried but they kept consoling her too. My mother was also anxious to see her grandchildren but since Jennifer was delaying to get pregnant all she could do was to keep praying for her. She would call Jennifer every night for prayers. Medically we were both certified okay after a series of tests. The doctors kept telling us that we should take it easy and reduce our stress, yet nothing happened.
Jennifer began to move from churches to churches, from one spiritualist to another all in search of a solution to our childlessness. It was on one of such visits that one of the spiritualists told her that Maami was the cause of her childlessness. When she came to me with the news I was angry at her, and that became our first major disagreement after our marriage. I refused to believe her and her spiritualist; I practically refused to give it any thought because I knew my mother would never do such a thing. That same day, Maami called me informing me that she would be coming over to Port Harcourt to spend a week with us. When I told Jennifer that my mother was coming, she just ignored me.
That evening my mother arrived from Lagos. I noticed that Jennifer was cold towards her but my mother did not notice it. Jennifer excused herself and went straight to the bedroom. Maami just took it that she was just tired, she even said that Jennifer looked like she was pregnant and we both laughed it off. Later when I got to the bedroom Jennifer wasn’t sleeping, she told me that she had not been feeling well. I advised her to see the doctor in the morning. Then she started again that she couldn’t stand my mother anymore, she said she didn’t want a witch in her house. I was shocked and angry to hear her call my mother a witch. This was a woman who had been like a mother to her. For the first time in our marriage, we shouted at each other.
I woke up early and prepared for work whilst Jennifer was still sleeping. When I was leaving I woke her up and kissed her goodbye and she promised to be nice to Mama and go see the doctor. I went to my mother’s room and greeted her then left for work. Around noon, Jennifer called me and broke the good news to me that she was pregnant. I was over the moon with joy; God has finally granted us our greatest heart desire. I took the rest of the day off and drove straight to her office; we were in a celebration mood. She also took the rest of the day off and we drove home to break the news to Maami.
When we got home I got a shocker. Maami had left back for Lagos. She left a note saying she had heard our arguments last night and she didn’t want to be a problem in our marriage. I called her phone several times but it wasn’t going through. Later on, we discovered that she didn’t make it back to Lagos. She had disappeared somewhere, somehow, only God knows. I was frantic with worry. We checked the passenger lists of all the buses at the station. There wasn’t any air crash. I drove the distance from Lagos to Port Harcourt checking all the hospitals, mortuaries and police stations to see whether there had been an accident.
What didn’t we do and where didn’t we go just to make sure that we find her. I’ve done all that is within my power at least God can bear me witness. Yet, I’ve still not come anywhere near the truth of what happened to her.
Jennifer gave birth to a beautiful daughter and in the next few weeks she will be one year old and the pain is returning again. Where are you Maami? Are you dead or alive? Is someone holding you? Please give me a sign, anything because the not-knowing is killing.