It was a slow day and I was doing some spring cleaning. As I cleared out all the junk I had managed to accumulate under a short period of time, I stumbled on a picture of my aunty. Mummy number two I call her because truly, she is more like a mother to me than an aunty.
Looking at the picture, it struck me how ‘fat’ my aunty looked. The skinny genes are quite strong in my mum’s side of the family. Obviously it didn’t get transferred to me. Sigh. Anyway my aunty is usually the skinniest in the pack. I mean there were times she barely had flesh on her body. You could see her bones sticking out. But this picture was different. Her cheeks were rosy. She looked healthy…happy. I think she had just been introduced to Facebook when she took this particular picture because there were 23 of them, mostly the same pose. I smiled.
My aunty looked really happy in those pictures. I wish she had longer days of happiness in the past. Even though she has a beautiful heart, life has dealt her difficult cards. She’s the youngest in the family; a family of strong-headed, opinionated women. She was bullied, not physically but verbally. Her voice was suppressed. It was like what she had to say didn’t count.
When she found a glimmer of happiness, it was somehow cut short. I remember when she decided to be a Christian many years ago. I was in primary school at the time. Or I had just started secondary school. I’m not so sure. But she gave her life to Christ. Oh how they threatened her. They made her believe that she was wasting her life. The snide comments, the harsh looks and the heavy words were more than she could bear. It wasn’t surprising that she caved in. The strong-willed gene somehow didn’t get transferred to my aunty. So she converted back. She conformed.
As she went about her daily life, I could see the hurt right in her eyes. She didn’t talk. She was very much like me; a woman with intense emotions bottled up. I would come back from school on different occasions and find her eyes all puffed up. She’ll smile and say, “How was school?” I’ll hug her as if to say, “I understand, say no more.”
We were never really close but we observed each other closely. We knew. We understood but we never reached out. There was a day after reading ‘Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus’, that I wrote a letter to myself. It was an exercise in the book. How therapeutic that was for me. I poured my heart out in that letter. I wrote about how I disliked, no hated, my life, how I wasn’t sure that my mother actually gave birth to me, how unloved I felt and how sometimes I just wanted life itself to end. I poured it all out and neatly placed the letter in my journal.
I came back from school the next day and I found another piece of paper neatly folded in my journal. I was curious. I opened it. The writer empathized with me. She told me she knew exactly what I was going through. She told me she admired my courage; that despite the barriers, every day I still pushed through. She wished she had my courage. “You’re going to university soon,” the writer wrote. “You’ll be free to fly as high as you want. Don’t give up now. And know that your mum loves you. It’s just that she’s not perfect.”
The letter was four pages long. By the time I was done reading, it was soaked in tears that slowly trickled down. I neatly folded the letter back into my journal and went to look for the writer. She was in her room, gazing outside the window as if she was wondering when her freedom would come. I walked slowly towards her and without being sure of what her reaction would be, I hugged her. We are not the ‘huggy huggy’ type in my family. But the writer, my beloved aunty, hugged me back. And in that tight embrace, in that single moment, somehow our lives became intertwined and we cried.
Although we spoke no words throughout that encounter, we said a lot. My aunty was right. I was about to be set free. I was about to be released into the light of Christ. I was about to go down the road she had been chased away from. And I was about to face many voices of opposition.
Many years after that encounter, I came back as a bold woman. Too bold some may say. And guess what happened to my aunty? She became bold too. She would come to me for advice. I would tell her that she needs to stand up for herself. I would ginger her. I listened. She would come to me for prayers. I would lay hands on her and tell her that she needs to have a personal relationship with Christ. She’ll smile and say “Not everyone can be as stubborn and as determined as you. You’re a fighter. I’m not.” I wasn’t convinced.
One day, my aunty did something I will never forget. When the house became hot because of my faith, she stood up for me. She confronted my mum and asked her to leave me alone. “After all she is not serving the devil” she said. I was proud. Proud that she found her voice. Proud that she could take such a step. I could tell from the looks on the faces of everyone around – they never expected it. She moved out of the house shortly after that. I moved out of town. Now, I see my aunty once in a blue moon. From what I hear, she’s taking bold steps she would have run away from in the past. She’s fighting; fighting for her happiness, fighting for the freedom to be her.
And she said she’s not a fighter!
I haven’t seen my aunty in almost a year and I don’t know what she looks like now but I choose to have that happy, rosy-cheek, fiery image of her in my mind. The image that says, “I came. I have seen. And I keep conquering.” My prayer now is for Aunty A to get that courage to say yes to Jesus and not look back. That day is coming.
Adedoyin Jaiyesimi is a Content and Social Media Strategist. She is the Founder of The Sparkle Writer’s Hub where she helps people to find expression through writing and monetize their writing gift. She is also the Lead Content Strategist at Content Craft, a content and social media consulting company that helps businesses to get returns on their social media investment through the use of creative content and social media strategy. Adedoyin’s work has been featured in Y! Magazine (now Y! Africa), Connect Nigeria, 234 Finance, Pride Magazine Nigeria, amongst others. She tweets @msdoyeen and blogs at www.adedoyinjaiyesimi.wordpress.com