*Olijeh shook her head in refusal. She had finally made up her mind. Her daughter stared at her in disbelief. “But Mother,” *Oyiphe coaxed. She knelt down to appeal. “That is not a solution. Do not allow self- pity to lure you to make wrong decisions. Please, allow me to continue with my schooling.’
Tears gathered in the corner of her eyes. Her mother frowned. Staring in disapproval but controlling herself. She sat upright on the straw-stuffed bed. “Mother, we have good prospects. This small trade that I do can supply us food. Beside, the crops in the farm will soon be ready for harvest.”
Olijeh’s face relaxed a little. ‘Wealth is but a breeze,’ she thought. ‘It comes and goes.’ Olijeh sat thinking, her mouth open. ‘Gone were the days when women listened to her expectantly. After she had spoken, they spoke no more. In those days, men saw her husband and stepped aside. When she ed her children, other children could scarcely believe it. ‘If only things were as they used to be. When her compound was regarded as the home for the fatherless. The family with the ten thousand heads of yam. had done to her wickedness.’
Her wet eyes moved in self-pity. ‘Our Jehovah has abandoned us and left us to the mercy of the evil one.’ She thought to herself. She tossed her head up and Oyiphe sat down. She spread out her arms. “Come my child.” Her voice had broken tones when she spoke. She smiled with sympathy. “May the heavens forever protect you and your little ones.” She prayed. “Now my daughter open your eyes wide and let me see.” Oyiphe widened her eyes. Her mother examined both eyes. “My happiness is beyond description.” She declared. “A wayward daughter is known from her eyes. You are not one.” Oyiphe nodded in agreement.
“Life is very hard! All the toiling you have taken upon yourself to suffer for us. It s my heart. You are just a child, despite the heavy burden on your head.”
“Mother I understand perfectly.”
“I –Know-you-do. It is widowhood combined with poor health that is beating me. Going to farm is necessary. But trekking to *eke to hawk palm kernels after school without eating makes me to feel miserable.”
“But I am not ailing.”
“Well said. But you are not bound by that obligation at all. Like your father, your inner nature is evident. You are strong and determined.”
Oyiphe rested her head on her mother’s legs. Olijeh patted her back. “My daughter, you can not see as far as your mother does. Yes, it grieves me that I can not walk again. But I am alive: ‘when the which intends to behead you, hit your legs. One must be full of thanks.’ I still stand by my word, drop out of school and prepare your heart for marriage.” Oyiphe allowed tears to run.
“You have labored vigorously enough.” Her mother enthused. “Even Jehovah knows it!”
“Mother-even-it –you-give-my hand- out-in-marriage-it-won’t give –you- a-bulging purse.”
Olijeh laughed breezily, “Did you chose where to be born? Did your father chose when to join our ancestors? No! Whatever it was that our ancestral fathers did wrong at the beginning, we must now take charge of our tomorrow. We can decide how to live our lives.”
Olijeh collected her thoughts together. On the night when her husband breathed last, the moon was crescent. He has whispered to her. “In the absence of a male dog, one could equally hunt with a female dog.” It immediately registered in her spirit that her daughter was doing the will of her husband.
(*Olijeh: Idoma name, meaning ‘wealthy woman.’)
(*Oyiphe: ‘Child is greater than wealth.’)
(*Eke: A market sqaure in Idoma Land.)