A Typical Eid-Ul-Adha
The air around the family compound seems different, uncharacteristically tense. Everyone acts the same as always though; the children are chasing themselves around the yard as usual, except of course Mama Abeebatʼs children, Abeebat and Nafeesat. Theyʼve always been a bit disconnected from the other children, something they probably picked up from their mother, a snobbish woman who believes the intricacies of the Abiola family are beneath her. My uncle, Dolapo is playing chess with his cousin, Adeola on the balcony. The other men gather in small groups here and there doing whatever catches their interest in a bid to pass time, having already done their part of the duties; cutting the cow.
The women are at the center of the compound, each involved in one task or the other. Someone is turning semo on the “party” pot, her forearms bulging with every motion. Mummy Adio is seated close by, calling out greetings as she adds maggi to the soup. We have cooks specifically hired to do these tedious tasks but the women still do most of the work, partly there to spy on the cooks, ensuring that every piece of meat is accounted for and partly because well, they like work, to put it simply. My mother, Iya Risikat is seated at a corner supposedly “chatting” with my grandmother but really making a show of cutting vegetables. You see, the goal is to appear busy at all times. I learnt that very early.
Everyone present is doing what they usually do every single year but this time, something still feels off. Itʼs like we are all waiting for something to happen or pretending something isnʼt happening. Iʼm not sure what it is yet but Iʼm never wrong with these feelings.
Every year, my family comes to the central family house to celebrate Eid-ul-Adha,the big Salah. The one where we kill rams and share food. Everyone associates the ceremony with meat and as a result, even non-Muslims love it but personally, I love the history behind it, in addition to the free flow of protein that is. Every year, like clockwork, I always end up a bit solemn, for some minutes before biting into the meat because I always remember the time my father asked me when I was young if I would understand him and let him do the will of God if He told him to kill one of his children like God commanded Ibrahim. I think he and I laughed it off back then but now that Iʼm older, if that had happened, Iʼd definitely have run away. The faith of Ibrahimʼs generation was definitely mighty.
I shake my head, reminding myself to wait until the food is ready before reminiscing. Saliyu and Basit, two of my numerous cousins have somehow found their way into a brawl, clawing at and hitting each other. Big Uncle Jamal rushes to settle the fight, shouting, “stop that”. This takes me back to when I was 9 and I fought with one of my cousins, Yemi over a game. We were both extremely competitive growing up. My Aunty Sade made us hug each other while we were both still seething. Iʼm sure we must have looked comical, two children being forced to appear loving when all they really wanted to do was hit each other to near death. Saliyu and Basit look the exact same way right now and I canʼt help but laugh a little.
Thinking back now, I have so many memories in this house. I practically grew up here, a couple of days in a year, yes, but true all the same. Itʼs a pity this may be our last dance together. The rope tying every member of the family together cut last year and interpersonal relationships have been difficult. Nobody wants to tell me whatʼs really going on because Iʼm one of the “children” but since grandpa Abiola died, every family gathering has felt off. At first, it simply felt incomplete without him, then it moved on to awkward and now, weʼre at strained. I hope with all of my heart that this is not the last time we gather in this house.
For some context, my grandpa married two wives and had a grand total of ten children in total. My father, the fourth child of his mother and the seventh child overall told me tales about growing up in a polygamous family. You expect the cliché stories from polygamous homes and there were some of those but he also told stories of being like any other family. He and his step siblings playing together on their way back from school, the usual banters and jokes. For as long as I can remember, I couldnʼt tell who is from another mother.
Recently however, Iʼve caught my parents whispering and referring to his step siblings in manners that suggest conflict, something about the inheritance and whatnot. My grandfather built his cocoa empire from the scratch and then diverged into other industries. His businesses did well enough and we were comfortable, mostly. We all got along so well that although one would expect quarrels regarding inheritance from other polygamous families, I did not think we would have it in mine.
“Risi”, my mother suddenly calls out, instructing me to get some money from my father for something I didnʼt catch. As I walk towards the central room where my father and his brothers were seated, I can hear shouts from them before I even get to the door. “We will sell this house and thereʼs nothing you can do about it”, somebody, Uncle Ramoni I think, says. My mother says he once asked for some of his inheritance from grandpa and squandered it all on a birthday trip.
He is the prodigal son of the family.
The house canʼt be sold though, grandpa loved it. If it got sold, where would we all get together for Salah or for the occasional meetings we have? Grandpaʼs grave was here for heavenʼs sake! “The house wonʼt get sold and thatʼs final. Baba stated it explicitly in his will that this house would be left untouched,” a familiar voice, most likely my father says. He was Grandpaʼs lawyer. They keep squabbling, going back and forth amongst themselves when someone yells from the top floor, “Fire!”.
Everywhere scatters and the men rush to the floor. I follow them and my father tells me to turn back absentmindedly but I ignore him and he pays me no mind. When we get there, the sight is funny enough that I start laughing. Thereʼs a fire alright but itʼs the face of Uncle Made that makes me laugh. Apparently, he was smoking( heʼs supposed to have abstained) when his mother entered the room and in an attempt to hide it from her, somehow by some principle I donʼt understand, the fire from the stick hit the bedsheet starting a small fire that would go off by simply pouring some water on it but Grandma Abike has always had a flare for the dramatics.
When I get downstairs, everywhere is in a disarray. People are carrying buckets of water and someone is calling the fire department. I didnʼt even know that existed in this country. My father comes down to assure them itʼs nothing serious and everything settles down in approximately 45 minutes. Everyone goes back to their duty posts and the men go back to their secret meeting.
I suspected things would get bad after Grandpaʼs death but I didnʼt think anyone would even consider selling the house. That it was even a consideration is absurd. I go to my mother to hand her the money she requested for, mulling over telling her about my discovery. I decide against it, considering my father would tell her eventually. If I told her, sheʼd probably tell everyone else and that would ruin the mood. If this might be our last dance, then we should at least enjoy it and make as many more untainted memories as we can.