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Reminiscing…Ways of the old!


While growing up, life felt incomplete…if you didn’t live with “Mama Nnukwu” (grandmother) at some point. Even if it was just on holidays.What still amazes me is how they handled most ailments without breaking a sweat. A lot of us don’t remember being taken to the hospital for one day (as kids). Yet, any ailment that ‘showed face’ met its CURE…in grandma’s hands!.I remember how MAMA NNUKWU (grandmother) often attended to our injuries-from play. She would place a hot metal on the open wound and before you know it…it closes up.

My memory of the hot metal treatment is quite blurred, but this is how a friend put it, “the oil on metal is done when you step on nail or broken bottle. People around would help grandma hold you in place, as she puts a knife on fire, when it heats very well-she pours palm oil on it and then apply it on the wound… that’s their anti-tetanus serum.’’I just know that, the hot palm oil treatment can reduce one (a distant observer) to tears. You just had to cry for the injured because the thought of a hot metal and heated palm oil on the flesh is ‘hell’ to imagine.
The day that I discovered a boil on my right leg nko? Mama simply sent me in search of the white (chalky) part of lizards’ droppings. That she crushed and then mixed with palm oil…before smearing the mixture on the affected area.

Shortly after…it was pussing!
Then came the day that I visited a “play mate” in the neighbourhood.I met Ngo (that’s her name) running around the backyard…like one in a marathon. Except that she was murmuring to herself as she ran. When she completed the rounds and caught her breath,she said, “I ate the head (part) of Paw-paw and began to experience some itching in my mouth.So, Mama Nnukwu (her own grandma) asked me to run around the backyard THREE times while chanting “atara mu isi okwulu’’ (I ate the head part of paw-paw).’’


She said that some relief greeted her efforts, though.
Do you know that the incident was so etched in my mind that till this day, I AVOID eating anywhere near that part of pawpaw? That itching… I NOW SUSPECT to be an allergy-by the way.A friend reminded me recently about the scare we got as kids when you mistakenly swallowed stuff like orange seed in those days. It’s even your peers that will first send you to hell with scary stories of how an orange tree would grow on your head. One would be miserable all through that day.


You woke up every morning feeling your scalp with your hand…to see if a tree was growing there. You only relaxed when an adult told you that nothing would happen to you. I also remember the day that I complained of sore-throat to the hearing of grandma’s friend. She took me to the side and told me that such only happens when one spits into a loo.And then she told me that my sore throat would disappear if I identified a crack on a wall fence and whisper into it…firstly apologising for spitting into ‘wherever’ and promising not to do it again.Was I even guilty as assumed? I swear, I am not sure I ever did that. But, I was eagerly ‘whispering’ away. Grandma’s wall fence was also equal to the task…enough cracks!

Honestly, the women of that generation are real #badass…
They got away with SO MUCH. Whoever tries half of all that NOW is certainly begging for the ‘status’ of a WITCH, from a daughter-in-law, at least!Mama nnukwus were always a safe refuge to every grandchild….when ‘mama and papa’ become intolerable. You just cry your way to Mama nnukwu and get consoled by the way she would call them all manner of names, as she calmed you down with both hands rubbing on the back and soothing words. If food wasn’t ready, she would bring out the pot that soup had almost finished from-for you to lick the bottom first-as you wait for food to be done.

In all honesty, I will say that grandchildren are the weakness of every African grandparent. And majority of us grew closer to grandmothers than we ever did to our parents, probably because they indulged us more.It’s also understandable when they go a little overboard with daughter-in-laws who dared deny them of that bliss.I can’t imagine the agony of most of them who watched as their peers doted on their grandchildren, while they had no grandchild to dote on.A typical Naija woman would go home to remind an unfortunate daughter that she is still waiting to smile as others are smiling.

In this article:
Chukwuneta ObyMama Nnukwu
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