“Mama is in The Box” by Myers Hansen.

Mama is in the box. She is wearing a white dress and a chain. They say she is sleeping but when you call her, she doesn’t wake up. She doesn’t even respond when you shake her.

Yaa doesn’t know how to do hair at all! She only knows how to do a ponytail. And she doesn’t even know how to do it properly. She doesn’t even know how to comb an Afro or tie three balls. She pulls my hair very hard and she says “Sorry, sorry. I won’t do it again.” But she does it again. Look, look at how loose and crooked she has made my hair. And she has hard palms too. When she touches my forehead, it is like she’s scratching it.

I like it better when Mama does my hair. Mama can do the afro and the ponytail far better. Sometimes, she plaits two big horns at the sides of my head and she ties colourful ribbons around them. When she combs my hair, it is painful but not as painful as when Yaa does it. All I have to do is to make a tight fist and the pain will go. As for Yaa, the more I tighten my fist, the more it hurts.

Yaa is our maid. She is tall and fair and very quiet. She doesn’t go to school and her English is very bad. She used to come to our house on weekends to clean the house and wash our clothes. But since Mama became sick, she has come to stay with us. She sleeps in the sitting room. She rolls out a mat in the evening when she wants to sleep and in the morning, she folds it and leans it in the corner under the bookshelf beside the small rubber bag. She keeps her clothes in the rubber bag. She cooks the food and boils Mama’s herbs. She doesn’t eat with us at the dining table; she eats in the kitchen. She sits on a small stool and sets her plate on the floor. Now she does my hair and sometimes, it is she who comes to pick me up from school. Daddy always takes me to school before he goes to work.

Mama doesn’t like Yaa anymore; I don’t know what she did or why Mama’s attitude towards her has changed. Now she calls her “Hɛh” or “Kwɛ”. Even when she screams her name from the bedroom, she says “Hɛh Yaa” or “Kwɛ Yaa”. Mama says not to call anyone aboa. She says Jesus doesn’t like us referring to other people as animals. But when she’s angry at Yaa, she eyes her and calls her aboa. When Yaa says good morning, Mama doesn’t respond, she only waves her left hand at her. Sometimes I watch her when she cries in the kitchen but she doesn’t know that I’m watching her. One day I asked her why she was crying and she said that she wasn’t crying. She wiped her face with the dirty wrapper she had on her waist and smiled.

But Daddy likes Yaa very much. He smiles and says good morning when Yaa greets. He also asks, “How are you doing?” When he returns, he asks her if she has eaten and sometimes he buys her gifts. You see the red blouse Yaa wears now to the market? It was Daddy who bought it for her. Her new sandals too, it was Daddy who bought them. When Daddy gives Yaa something new, she says, “Thank you Daddy. Thank you very much. May God bless you Daddy.” Daddy is not her father but she calls him Daddy. Her Mama and Daddy live in the village.  Daddy said we might visit them this December. I can’t wait.

 

As soon as I get home from school, I run to the bedroom to greet Mama. Sometimes, she’s asleep but I shake her and she wakes up. I sing the songs Auntie Rhoda taught at school that day. She helps me with my homework. She says I’m clever and she wants me to become a lawyer. But I want to become a doctor.

I want to wear a white coat and inject people. I wanted to be a teacher before, like Auntie Rhoda. I wanted to lash all the bad boys who sit at the back and disturb and bully, like Attoh Graham and Quaye Michael. But the last time Daddy and I took Mama to the hospital and I saw a doctor wearing glasses and something around his neck, I just wanted to be a doctor.

Mama knows all the rhymes Auntie Rhoda teaches us so she sings along. Mama can sing oh, she can sing very well. Yaa too can sing, but she doesn’t know rhymes.

Do you know Auntie Fofo? She’s the best aunt in the world.  She visits us often, especially since Mama’s sickness. She brings fruits and herbs for Mama and biscuits for me. Sometimes she brings biscuits for Yaa too.  She has big eyes and big cheeks. She’s fat, but not obolo.  I like her car very much. It’s a Benz. I’ll buy one when I grow up. I love her very much. She calls Daddy Ken and calls Mama Adoley.

On the day of the funeral Auntie Fofo asked me, “Where is Mama?” and I said, “Mama is in the box.” Then she was smiling but tears were flowing from her eyes. She pulled me to her chest and hugged me tightly. I asked her why she was crying and she said she was not crying. I also began to cry and she told me to stop crying but she was still crying.

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