My mother, Lady Beatrice Umeadj Anyaehie passed 6 years ago yet daily her words of wisdom constantly ring In my head.
Many of the things Mama thought me were not vocalized, I observed them, in the quiet way she did most things.
I could not have been more than 12 years of age when my parents were set to take a chieftaincy title. Picking a name was an important part of the ceremony, it afforded the person taking the title the chance to choose a name that had a very special meaning, a name that would reflect their status or accomplishments in the society.
So on that day. The entire compound was a bee hive of activities, there were people slaughtering the cows, Agonyi women cooking in the back yard, family and well wishers arriving from every part of the country., there was excitement in the air.
Every one was aware of the name that Chief(My Dad) was going to take, he was going to be Agbawodikeizu 1 of Nkwerre. Very early that day, hair dresses arrived to put Mama's hair in some big puffs like we called them, Mama brought out a huge metal box with locks, in the box were all sizes and types of Nkalari these were very expensive coral beads, she chose the right sight sizes to put on her neck, hands and hair. Her choice of Artire was a white and blue traditional woven fabric called Akwaete.My self and my Sister Uchenna had similar attires , Mama put some of the beads on our necks and hair. Soon my Dad was ready and he sent for my Mum, as usual the women took longer dressing up on such occasion. Chief's attire was simple, he had on a wrapper from plain Jorge fabric and a gown made out of velvet known as Isi-agu. On his head he had a cap that was made of gold beads , it was similar to a crown. Once chief was ready, we all rushed downstairs, the chauffeur was already in the car in the front porch. We were going to the event in the Rolls Royce Silver Spur, it was burgundy and had beautiful red leather, we got in the car and other members of our party followed in other cars behind us in convoy as we made the short trip to Saint Catherine's Girls Secondary School sports field. On getting there, the field was filled by different Nkwerre families and well wishers, there were several traditional Nkwerre masquerades and dance troupes, there was Emily Nwanyi Na Ebi Ego, t Okorosha, ikpirikpe masquerade and Owu masquerade, the Owu was the masquerade of my immediate family, they were there in their colorful costume to celebrate one of their own. There were gown shots fired in the air in salute. Oh! Yes! I remember the canon balls that were called Mpkonala, the men will set them off and run from their path as they set off balls of fire and made very loud noises. There were festivities everywhere.
We disembarked from the car and walked behind our parents as we made our way to the canopy with my father's name on it. As we walked we heard the most fascinating thing from the Master of ceremonies. In the most Nkwerre dialect he bellowed "Ala Akwu pu la otele o! Uchenna and I looked at each other as we giggled excitedly, that was the most vulgar language we ever heard. In our dialect it sounded vulgar but it was just a way of saying something earth shaking is going on. We got to the canopy and sat down behind our parents.
Once all the recipients were seated, a regal
old man with white hair and a striped woolen hat that we call Okpu nwa agoro took the stage, this was the very revered Eshi of Nkwerre. Eze Ugochukwu . He was our traditional ruler and it was his duty to bestow the titles on deserving Nkwerre sons. The Eshi made a brief history then began to call the recipients one by one. Soon it was my parent's turn. When they called them, we all stepped forward as my father was given his title officially the Eshi replaced his original cap with the traditional cap and handed him the traditional staff of office and a certificate, then he was given his name, "Agbodikeizu 1 of Nkwerre" The crowd cheered in support. Then it was Mama's turn to say her name. Everyone waited patiently for her to announce her name.
Mama kept quiet for a second and In Her usual soft voice whispered "My name will be "Di bu ukwu nwanyi.". Meaning my husband is my crown. I was furious! What a name! Could she not have chosen a more befitting name? There were so many other ceremonial names that was a tribute to the woman herself and not her husband names like "Achaugo Nwa" and Nwa tozuru etozu". Inukwam! Is she the only person that has a husband? This woman sure knows how to embarrass me. Well , I could resist all I wanted but if you know Mama she did not suffer fools lightly. She answered her name proudly with no apologies.
That name reflected who my mother was and what was important to her, her husband was the most important person in her life, she put him first in all she did. If you do not know my parents well, you will think that my mother was a slave to my father, that will be completely false. My Father was not big in statue however he had this commanding presence. Every one cowered and shivered in his presence, My Mum in public, will maintained that image. When there is a third party in their midst, Mama hardly spoke, she addressed him as Nna anyi ukwu (Our Big father) or Sir. In private, my father never took a decision without his Beaty. Earlier on their marriage was polygamous one eventually as this woman warmed her way to his heart, the marriage became completely monogamous. This explains the bond and the friendship they shared . Once my Mana died, chief lost the desire to live. This very strong man, has a habit of exclaiming in my Mother's name Beaty inukwa!!!
As I grow in marriage, I realize the wisdom in the name my mother chose that day.
Truly, I am nothing without the crown from my husband.
No matter how much I accomplish, without his covering and affirmation , I will feel incomplete
It is true, that I am a modern woman living in America. I am not much without my Di.
As women, we spend much time fighting for equal rights yet we all want someone to call us theirs and protect us.
A wise woman is one who knows how to respect her cover and be crowned with love in return.
Without my Di , I do not know where I will be.
Mama was right, once again.
Every where I turn, I hear of African marriages breaking up, this really is a new trend. When you trace the cause of the break ups you find out that it has a lot to do with our neglecting our roles . Women now want to be over their husbands and the men rebel by acting out.
We have to go back to the drawing board and find common ground. Especially for those of us in diaspora . The women expect their husbands to suddenly become domesticated and do not appreciate the little efforts they make, beating in mind that these men were not raised this way that it is not very easy for them.
For instance any middle aged Igbo man living in Nigeria will be served food by his wife, even if he did not provide the money for the food. Now when these men live outside of the country they learn to cook and take care of the children, sometimes serve their wives This is not a role they naturally are raised and most of them get frustrated playing it . If your husband like mine does these things praise him.
On the other hand, men please know that even though your mother took care of your father, she was not alone, she had a lot of support . Most times one of the younger women prepared the good but your Mum presented it to him. Also most times the women did not work. So before you criticize your wife for not being like your mother because she did not cook new soup every day and serve you after working twelve hours. Pause and get some understanding.
Can we just re-introduce some of the behaviors that made out parent's marriages succeed?
I am not advocating that we should do it like Mama did but for us to have a balance
Let us talk about this.
I am not perfect as a wife but I had a good teacher and I keep working on it. I hear Mama's voice every day.
I am not my mother. I am a liberated African woman but if I must give my marriage a chance, I have to apply some of her attitude.
I am also not advocating unfair treatment of any one, just proposing compromise.
DI BU UGWU NWANYI!!
To the memory of my parents Chief and Mrs J. R. Anyaehie. Agbawodikeizu 1 of Nkwerre.
A special tribute to Ala Nkwerre muru m.
KNOWING YOU KNOWING YOU.
KNOWING ME KNOWING YOU.
Marriage is a complicated adventure.
I was talking to a younger friend, few days ago and she made a comment that got me thinking.
She said, most men of this generation were not raised properly by their mothers, that they did not understand their duties and responsibilities.
Not quite true, who raisied the men?
Their wives raised them. I know you will say, there she goes again. I will,explain.
When we enter into a marriage, we start setting the ground rules, we begin to study each other and learn what we can get away with and what we cannot. Just like your six year old, has studied you.
More like as you make your bed, so will you lie on it. You were the one let that man know he did not need to grow up, by tolerating childish behavior. You gave him the impression he did not need to take care of business. You were too understanding. You allowed too many liberties. You called it love but now you hate that love.
You started off by cooking fresh soup daily. today you are burnt out. You, created this monster.
The same thing goes for the men. At the beginning of the relationship, you danced dangerously with love and today you want love changed. You told her, she did not need to know how to cook and today you want some home made food. You are not an innocent bystander. You told her she did not need to work but today you complain about too much responsibilities. You wanted a novice but today she has bored you out.
It is better to understand your ground rules and lay them down.
Remember not to make empty threats.
Let the other person know your deal breakers.
If you do not, the goal posts will keep changing.
Start raising each other.
Do not start what you cannot finish.
Set realistic expectations.
Let us make beds we will be happy to sleep on.
Never too late!
Remember to show love while raising the other.
Chinwe Iromuanya a.k.a. Chi Chi Iro, Lawyer, wife, mother, and disability advocate living with Cerebral Palsy.