My Stingy Mother
When people in our face me I face house you got their salaries at the end of each month, they treated themselves to a meal at the Tantalizers at our junction. This was the early 2000s and they had just opened a Tantalizers opposite the University of Ibadan’s main gate. We lived in the student populated area called Agbowo and that Tantalizer was everyone’s ideal spot to reward themselves for a month of hard work; everyone but my mum.
While our neighbors were eating the fast-food, my mother would go to the market and buy ingredients for a special soup that she would cook on a budget but the smell and taste would stay etched in our young minds for weeks. My mother would cook Ogbono soup, with the succulent fishes, Egusi with the softest Ponmo, Ila Alasepo (Okra) with the most savory spices and boy oh boy, it was the highlight of our month.
But my young mind thought my mother was feeding us those home cooked meals instead of fast food because we were poor. I spent days grumbling about how we never ate anything fancy or store bought because my mother hated giving us her money and an enemy to fun.
My mother, Janet Adefunke Akanni nee Adeagbo came to Ibadan from Lanlate, a little village near Eruwa when she was 20+, so people’s exuberant behaviors and lifestyles got a side eye from her. While people spent their salaries on Tantalizers, she made home cooked meals, while people bought Peak milk and Milo, she got us that dusty like cocoa powder (Eruku oshodi); In her defense, they both turned brown in hot water and a spoon of sugar made all the difference. She budgeted every Kobo and calculated her paycheck in her tiny notebook. As long as her children were clean and healthy, the rest was frills and pumps and she did not subscribe to it. “You want toys? Go and play in the sun, there are endless stones and sticks. You want yogurt? Drink water, it’s healthier”
But my mother had a plan, a goal and a vision. We lived in a face me I face you at that time but she had loftier dreams of moving into her own house before she was 40 so she and my father made and plan and she enforced it. Both my parents are civil servants that started at the bottom of the ladder so money was sparse but they made do. Their plan was to sink my father’s salary into building their dream house while my mother’s salary ran the household. I really do not know how she managed to keep three demanding children fed, in school and healthy on her little salary but she did it. She budgeted, she scraped together and she made smart decisions about money and life in general.
My mother moved into her house when she was 38. She planned, budgeted and saved her and her family’s way into it. When she told me about this last year, I marveled at the tenacity and strength it must have taken for her to say no to our requests that did not fit in her budget. “Do you think I did not want to eat from Tantalizer or to go plays at UI Arts Theatre every weekend? But I knew where I was going and I stuck to the plan”.
So now, when I save instead of buying new shoes, purses and weaves, I remind myself that dreams and goals are not diamonds that come polished. They are rough and precious, and staying true to my path is what will make my dreams a reality.