It was a serene, quiet afternoon with the sun shining at its fullest, in all its glory. Little children were playing, and running back and forth in Inkalagu; a suburb in the city of Enugu, the eastern part of Nigeria. In a nearby birthing center, Chinwendu Mathews panted and labored to bring forth her fifth child. After hours of agony, pushing, grunting and screaming, a beautiful head of hair popped out; then the attendant midwife skillfully drew out the entire body. The baby wailed with fingers curled up into fists, announcing her arrival unto mother earth.
The young mother heaved a sigh of relief that the ordeal was finally over, then burst out crying sorrowfully as the child was shown to her.
‘’Another girl? She raised her head towards the heavens and continued her lamentation. “Lord, why am I cursed with bringing forth only female children? Oh God, why? Now my husband will marry a second wife and I have no justification to stop him’’
As she lamented and wept, the midwives looked on in pity not knowing how to comfort their distraught patient, as they understood the unenviable plight of women who bore only female children. A while later, the head matron shook the new mother by the shoulders, cautioned her to stop weeping and said authoritatively:
‘’You need to pull yourself together and stop this display. Haven’t you been told that life is not fair? Remember you have an innocent infant to take care of. You are not the first in this kind of situation, and neither will you be the last. So what if your husband marries another woman? Is that the end of the world? Make sure the girls are educated and watch them flourish in the future. So my dear, wipe your tears and smile, lest you bring a curse on this child through the bitterness of your heart’’.
She managed to stop crying after the matron’s stern caution. Still hiccupping and mopping the tears that would not stop running, she finally turned to look at the infant. As she looked, the baby stirred and tried to open her eyes; but the sunray shining through the east window in the room would not let her. As if wanting to comfort the mother, the infant smiled with her eyes still closed, nestled her head by the soft pillows and fell blissfully asleep.
After the infant had been washed and dressed, she was placed on the mother’s arms for suck. The baby clutched at the breast and began to suck away happily, making little cries of satisfaction as the milk flowed without restraint into her mouth. Completely unwary of her surrounding and the anguish her arrival has brought upon her mother, she slept off with the nipple still firmly enclosed in her mouth. Her peaceful and satisfied demeanor signified total trust and dependency in her mother who instinctively responded to the silent call of her baby.
That was 30 years ago. Mr. Mathews was pressured by his mother to marry another wife in order to sire a son who will carry on the family name. So he married a woman secretly in the village who brought forth a son. However, his wife was not forgotten as she also birthed two male children, the first of which happened to be the first son in the family. But, his wife and children never knew that he had a young wife in the village until years later.
Growing up in a house of seven girls and two boys was noisy and exciting. They lived in a house big enough to accommodate a large family of eleven. They were close knitted and their father was financially well off enough to ensure that they all had sound education. They lacked nothing and life was perfect.
Sharon’s temperament was a combination of melancholic and choleric. In college, she was regarded as unfriendly and withdrawn but she was just uncomfortable among strangers and took things a little more serious than others, which made her quite unpopular. That was all right to her, as she was not interested in what other students called having fun. Fun to her was burying her head in a textbook and practicing in the school choir, which she took very serious and gave herself wholly to. A friend tried to bring her out of a boring existence as she described Sharon’s life then, but eventually gave up on her after several attempts of trying.
At this time, Sharon had grown up into an attractive young woman and could not help but notice the admiration in the eyes of the young men. Her six feet height and lean stature made her conspicuous, coupled with an oval shaped face, a pointed long nose, full lips and chocolate dark complexion. Fine bones defined a regal face that matched her bearing. Her modest lifestyle drew a lot curiosity and attention to her. The fact that she was indifferent to all the attention made her a kind of an enigma.
Sharon and her sisters were close and it was only when at home with them that she was able to unwind and be herself. They had the usual quarrels and squabbles typical of girls, but usually get over them and the bond that held them together was very strong.
Looking back, she realized that they had been protected by their parents and cloistered in a girls’ boarding school where discipline was paramount. In many ways, they led an idyllic life with few bumps and twists on the road. There had been times when she was curious to know what lay beyond the hedges their parents had planted around them. When they asked questions, their parents explained, and they complied. They loved and respected their parents too much to do otherwise.
Sharon’s parents had been Christians forever. She couldn’t remember a time when they had not been involved in the church or some community service project. Her mother sang in the choir and led Sunday morning Bible studies. They had all grown up surrounded by love, protected and guided every step of the way, right up to college.
She went through College and started job hunting confident that life has the best in store for her. On Sharon’s arrival in Lagos, she stayed with her sister, the third in the family named Adaobi. Her immediate elder sister, Karen has been with Adaobi for more than a year still hunting for job. So at that moment in time, Adaobi was saddled with the responsibility of caring for two unemployed graduate sisters. Nevertheless, she appeared not to mind as they all had lot of fun living together, far away from home under the scrutiny of their disciplinarian parents.
Six months after Sharon’s arrival in Lagos, she was invited for a chat from a multinational company. She did so many interviews and lost count of them. Then the waiting began. She must have waited for close to three months before the letter came, but it seemed like eternity.
‘’Sharon, you have a mail. I picked it at the post office’’ Adaobi said and dropped a parcel on the dining table.
‘’Oh my God, Sharon screamed in excitement ‘I can’t believe this, she exclaimed as her eyes skimmed the content of the parcel, ‘’ Oh thank you Lord, thank you, thank you’’ she went down on her knees whispering under her tones as her eyes become filled with tears of joy.
‘’What is the excitement all about? You won the lottery. Karen walked in, and stared at Sharon as she knelt on the floor, her hands lifted high in worship, whispering praises below her tones.
‘’Remember the interview I had with the multinational about three months ago? She rose to her feet dusting off specks of dust from her knees.
‘’I just received a job offer and the benefits are enormous. I mean, they are out of this world. I cannot believe all these are for me. It must be a dream’’ She exclaimed in surprise and excitement, her face ablaze with joy.
She could not stop talking and handed the letter to Karen who went through the content and could only gaze in wonder and amazement at her sister’s good fortune.
‘’Wow, this is incredible. I don’t know what to say, this is beyond words’’ Words seem to fail Karen for a moment as she went through the letter several times. She gasped in shock and stared at Sharon strangely.
‘’It is not a dream Karen, it is real. I just got this fantastic job” Sharon replied, thinking Karen’s strange look was because she imagined it could not be.
‘’Well, well, this is a big deal. Congratulations. You deserve it’’ She said and enveloped Sharon in a warm embrace.
Karen’s eyes suddenly became filled with tears as she read her Sharon’s employment letter. She could no longer control or hold back the frustration and pain of the past years.
‘’ How lucky you are, this is the second year I left college, still jobless. You barely stayed home for a year and now have been hired by one of the best multinationals in the country’ ’She retorted, envy all over her like a stamp.
‘’Hey sis, don’t tell me you are feeling sorry for yourself or about to start a pity party? This is hardly the time for that. This is the time to celebrate with me. Remember we were admonished to rejoice with others when they rejoice’’ Sharon said nudging Karen to stop her immature emotional display and tried to get her to enjoy the moment.
‘’Aren’t we friends? Sharon asked and continued ‘’Well, all I can say is that you will soon get to receive a surprise parcel if you believe and refuse to give up on your job hunting’’
Karen, whimpering and heavy hearted wiped her tears with the back of her hand. She could hardly blame Sharon for being blessed above all others. She is so loving and good-natured that one cannot hold anything against her.
“Thanks, I suppose you are right as usual”
“Great. In that case, let us go out and celebrate our good fortune” Sharon replied, and drew her up for a time out.