Jesus had a forerunner, I have 8!
Tiger, Code name – Tacky
First born and first son! He came first to ensure earth was okay for the rest of us, then he gave thumbs up and we all came tumbling after. His position comes with enormous responsibility (terrorism inclusive) which hardly diminishes throughout a lifetime. Growing up, the fear of Tiger was the beginning of wisdom; unlike the rest of my siblings, I was lucky to look skinny, fragile and kind of pale (my family believes I would have been an albino if I had spent 2 more weeks in mum’s womb). Anyway, I was lucky because my appearance saved me from a lot of spanking. My brother probably thought I would not survive a good spanking and so resorted to lifting me off the ground with my ears. About two decades after, I have baby soft skin (with all humility) except my ears which of course I have been working out before I was five! My ears even ruined a romantic moment once (gist for another day). Aside terrorizing the rest of us and even my parents, we all agree he did a fantastic job of protecting, providing and most importantly loving us. As for the code name, let’s just say there was once a time when everything was ‘tacky’ to my brother.
Venus, Code name – Margaret Thatcher
She was right behind Tiger and she knew she had seven more behind her so she assumed her role almost immediately. I don’t remember seeing her until Ojugo (my niece) came. She was close and yet so distant. Close because she took care of my every need from millions of miles away. I was like her first child (well, it’s just 5years between Ojugo and I). How can I ever forget that black permanent marker that writes my name on the tags of clothes, school bags, and on the packs of toothpastes, toothbrushes, body creams, underwear, socks, hair relaxer, pencils, erasers, hair ribbons, vitamins, bathing soaps, soles of shoes, nylons containing perfumes, jewellery (mine being gold as I have ‘very expensive skin’ that reacts to inferior metals), etc. Often times I would trace the letters inscribed by that marker and try to imagine her walking through those huge malls and picking out all these things for me, did I mention they were always a perfect fit too? I remember the first time I went to the market to shop for myself, I was seventeen. Who, except your mother would not make you realize you needed anything till you were seventeen? It wasn’t like I needed anything at the time, an uncle of mine had just returned from SA and he gave us money to go shopping. I had money for shopping but was clueless as to where to go because my sister had always taken care of me, thank you sister. Distant because we had few phrases beyond the usual pleasantries to say to each other whenever we saw. I was always baffled by how little I knew about someone who knows so much about me at least physically and cared so much for me. As for the code name, I only heard gist, I never experienced it until recently – thanks to Cherry (hmm, no be small thing o)!
Cherry, Code name – Container
Our very own model! Shakara from belle! So I am the Einstein of the family (Cherry go kill me o, well at least I no talk say na me fine pass) and she delighted in showing off her smart baby sister. I remember how we would take a cab from the taxi park at Ewutuntun (no money for pocket o) and who ever we were going to see would pay for the cab. Who bought me my first sharwarma, maltesers chocolate, took me to big treat and la campagne Tropicana where I swam in hot swimming pool with bubbles and ate salted pop corn for the first time? Who would take me to World Fred photo studio and teach me how to pose like a model? Who came to school and slapped my headmaster when I got lost (well technically…) in primary 3? Who, immediately I gained admission to the university sent me twenty tops of which I could only wear two as the rest were halternecks, boob tubes and sphaghetti straps? Wondering what happened to the rest?Trust igbo girl now, I market them shap shap. Who dressed me up in a dress by Vera Wang’s brother and was willing to send a make-up artist from Lagos to school, all for my final year dinner?, Who dressed me up again for my convocation ceremony and had to wake up at 3am to cook and get drinks ready so I could entertain friends and well wishers?, Who forgot my birthday and bullied Andy to bring a humongous cake to my office? – No one else but Cherry. Code name? let’s just say my sister has a knack for shipping things in containers instead of just travelling with luggage.
She suits the term ‘mother in Israel’ at first glance but if you really look for her trouble, be prepared to collect double. My father’s favorite as she was very hard working (wash, scrub, clean, fetch water, cook, iron, name it), never complaining. She’s the only one I look like in the family, physically that is. She is the first fire brimming born-again in the family, I think Cherry was actually the first one to give her life to Christ but Charlize picked up the baton and just ran, is still running by God’s grace. The only time I think I ever heard Cherry speak in tongues was when armed robbers came to raid the neighbourhood the night before she was to travel out of the country for the first time, mehn, the tongues no get part 2 ! (Omo lo omo, make them no con use their reggae spoil her blues). Charlize discovered and took me to the church where I gave my life to Christ and had countless life rededications; God is indeed a merciful God. She’s the one who never forgets birthdays, is constantly praying for everyone and who steadily supplies MAC powders. She is the one who will send you that $100 when you need it the most, need I say more?
The only one who spoke/speaks all three Nigerian languages (WAZOBIA) at a point in her life. When she assumed responsibility for the rest of us after Charlize travelled to Canada, she was strict and no nonsense. I remember the first time she gave me bucket to go fetch water, 20litres president paint bucket! God! I couldn’t turn my neck for a long time. She was a child who had to take care of children and we were a bunch of troublesome children! She taught me to cook spicy indomie noodles, concoction rice, egusi soup, moi-moi, beans, yam pottage, stew, etc. She’s the one who would come visit during visiting day, pick you up from school at the end of the term, take you back to school at the beginning of the term, shop for your provision, travel to Ife to see you when you were sick, would willing follow you to kafanchan to ensure you were fine. We became friends, played pranks, snuck out to eat meshai (bread and egg), fasted and prayed (not like I had a choice), gisted, talked about the future, shared secrets and advice. She has a great influence on the woman I am today of which I am proud. She’s one who leads not just by instruction but by example. Only one thing still baffles me about her – how she got so soft after having children! Now I am the mean aunty, whatever!
Whoever named Monique was definitely in the spirit; her Igbo name means safe journey, trust me Monique was always on the move! Monique would be in the same country as you but you would be more in touch with siblings outside the country than you would be with her. I always looked forward to her being at home. She brought the most friends home and they had phases too, so yes, I looked forward to having Monique and her latest friend(s) at home. Monique is the most physically ‘endowed’ and so she had a lot of suitors. I remember one time a cross-eyed albino came to look for Monique and unfortunately met my dad (an ex biafran soldier), Monique denied knowing the boy and he too took to his heels once he realized things were going to get ugly. How about the time when armed robbers attacked the compound and I was taken hostage, Monique passed out while her friend locked the door and asked me to go back to where I was coming from! Let’s just say Monique is the drama queen of the family. In all, she’s the one who made me stop walking through muddy/dirty rain water after she told me tape worms would live in my feet! I have a history with worms, just so you know. She’s the one who bought me a bottle of coke to celebrate my womanhood when I started menstruating. Most of all, I will always remember Monique’s heroic act during mum’s funeral. Love you girl.
The calmest in the family, the one girls will fight for, buy gifts for, do anything for. I often wondered what they saw in him or rather what he said to them because he never said much. I don’t remember him buying a card talk less of a gift for any girl but they swarmed the house with cards, food, gifts, recharge cards, money, name it; my brother would accept it all with a smile. He was so quiet, my dad was afraid of him. Dad was uncomfortable with the fact that he hardly reacted; he would accept whatever was given to him. One time we all went out and ‘forgot’ Andy at home, we got back late at night and met him sitting on a chair in the dark because there was no power. He actually startled us because we didn’t realize that we ‘forgot’ him until we turned on the light and saw him. Andy fooled all of us for a long time, he was not quiet at all. He is probably not as expressive as the rest of us but he is far from quiet. When he started to talk, he shut all of us up! One time Andy made me believe I was hallucinating, almost did same for Nicole but fortunately she had four witnesses. He has the nicest handwriting, eats the most and laughs the hardest. Did I mention he wet the bed till he was in JSS 3 (grade 9)? Yeh! I’m in soup!
Our energizer bunny, full of life and never afraid! He is stubborn, naughty, adventurous and hardly serious. I idolized Leo as a child, I think I out grew it when I became a teenager. He was the dullest academic wise but still got a lot of gifts, I was amazed at how he was able to get away with a lot of things and even when he got punished; he was up and about his business in minutes like nothing happened. He had me wrapped round his finger, I would believe whatever he told me and do anything for him. I remember one time Tiger beat Leo to a point where he was bleeding; with every lash of the wire and as I heard him scream, my heart kept pounding and I would wince like I was the one being beaten. When I eventually saw him bleeding, I was so scared I think I started crying and the following conversation ensued:
Me: Leo sorry, are you ok?
Leo: Ah! Austin, look at me, I’m bleeding. Tiger wants to kill me
Me: yes, sorry, what can I do?
(At this point I’m ready to hate Tiger for the rest of my life all Leo has to do is give the directive)
Meanwhile, Tiger had dropped some twenty naira notes on the floor for Leo to go treat himself
Leo: (picking up two notes) please, help me (pants), help me go to Mr. Patrick and (pants)…
Me: (almost hysterical now) buy what? What do you want?
Leo: Please help me go to Mr. Patrick and buy, buy… CHILLED COKE!
Andy bursts into laughter and I can’t help but laugh too, imagine in that much pain and all he can think about is a bottle of chilled coke. It still doesn’t stop me from sprinting to Mr. Patrick to get his chilled coke though, if that’s what it takes for him to be fine then so be it. Leo is the one I fought with the most, the one I hugged when we were told mum had gone home, the one who woke me up to tell me the caretaker was here to evict us (that’s the one time I actually saw Leo scared, with tears in his eyes). Now Leo is a big man with Rick Ross beard, we hardly see these days except for family functions and I admit I miss those days.
Austin, Code name – bush baby, stainless
Yea, that’s me, yours truly. The family was incomplete without me, I brought the most important ingredient after God’s love – Joy, my name exactly! Just like Jesus, I have been baptized by everyone of my forerunners and my ministry begins. Are you ready for my manifestation?