Her Mother's Pride
Adaugo. My daughter. My pride. I remember the day of your birth like it was yesterday. Of course, one tends not to forget an event like a twenty-three-hour delivery. The sun rose, set, and began to rise on my labour pains. When birds circled overhead the midwife’s compound, the people said it was an ominous sign but I knew my child would live. I would have given up my life for yours. As dawn broke on the morning of your birth, your shrill cry rang out and all of Mkputu cried aloud with you. Rejoicing broke forth like a dam after heavy rains. Olanna the barren had given birth to a child.
Adaugo, my daughter. You restored my pride to me. Wretched Olanna. Barren Olanna. Wicked first wife Olanna who denied her husband proof of his manhood. After seventeen years of fruitless marriage and two junior co-wives, you restored to me my crown. You, Adaugo, were my crowning glory. I became the joy of my husband and you, the apple of his eye.
Your presence already made me complete but you decided that you would restore to me all I had lost by giving me the virtue of ten children in one. You were strong, smart, and beautiful. At barely five years, you were already running circles around Ifeoma and Nkechi’s slow children. They thought it was by who came first, but what race is worth running where the prize is the label of family disgrace? Somehow, all of their own children ran that race and finished together, collectively bringing your father shame.
They did not even make it hard for you to stand out, my sharp girl. Your fluent diction and sharp wit were what made your father decide to send you to school. You were the first of his daughters to do so, the first of all his children to complete grammar school. I remember when you came home from school crying because your teacher had caned you ten times for correcting him in class. I showed myself at your school that day. What sort of a shameful excuse for a teacher does not know that “hippopotamus” is spelt with three p’s? If not for the warning from your headmaster that day, I would have ripped his flesh. How dare he bruise my Adaugo?
Many said I was biased, but I knew that I was objective in my saying that you were the most beautiful girl in Mkputu. Your fair skin and dark hair left the young girls seething and the young men reeling. Omalicha. I always said you were not made for here. It would have been unfair for Mkputu to try to withhold you within itself. Yours is a beauty that deserves to be seen and announced to everyone with eyes and ears. My beautiful, smart Adaugo.
I always said you could be whoever or whatever you wanted to be. My daughter, I would have given anything to make your dreams come true. I would have given you everything. You knew, didn’t you? That’s why you took the money that I tied in the wrapper and locked in the cupboard. That’s why you carried my jewellery and disappeared without a trace. Nkechi said you did it to torment me, that you hated me. But, Adaugo, my daughter, I know you took it because you knew I would have given you. What is mine is yours. You knew, so you took what was yours. You left without saying anything because you wanted to come back and make your proud mother prouder. You loved me, Adaugo. You did it because you loved me.
Adaugo. My daughter. My pride. I remember the day of your death like it was yesterday. Maybe it was yesterday. Ever since that letter carrier came with his white paper, all the days have strung together like one unending nightmare. I have since been torn apart and put back together, repeatedly. What were you doing at the border, Adaugo? Why did you allow those dogs to catch you and tear you to pieces? Why did you die such a shameful death? Why did you not find satisfaction in me as I did in you?
Nkechi and Ifeoma keep looking at me with pity as if I am one to be pitied. I am Olanna. I am no longer wretched. I am proud. You made me proud, Adaugo. You were my pride. And now, I will die with my pride.