The Woolen Shawl
Can you imagine I have been here for a week now? And not even my own father has bothered to come and see me. Anyway, why should he bother? When it was him who had ordered that I be locked up in the first place.
Kai! Adaeze you have really suffered o.
And the worst of it all is that they’ve been serving me these really terrible dishes—fried plantain and egg, rice and beef stew, boiled yam and sardine sauce, eba and funny prepared soups with beef and frozen fish. Who will say, in this house, that they don’t know I hate eating eba? Especially with frozen fish soup?
I mean what happened to toasted bread, pancakes, chicken pepper soup, spaghetti, well-prepared chicken fried rice and the likes, heh?
And to top it all, this sorry excuse of a bed, ridden with bed bugs is hell bent on breaking my spinal cord. I am practically dying of boredom. The only entertainment I have is this Palm top I use in writing this story.
Of course I dare not contact the police or anyone else for that matter, if not I’d be the one to be arrested. It’s that terrible.
Anyway, back to the story I know you are all really here for.
It was Nmaa’s birthday. Her eightieth birthday. And though daddy had wanted to throw a party in his usual flamboyant manner, Nmaa had requested for a simple intimate family dinner party. This had been exactly a month after the now forgotten love letter issue.
And because it was Nmaa’s eightieth, everyone had wanted to give her something special.
The D-day soon arrived and just after the amazing dinner of assorted dishes and drinks, daddy declared the gift-giving section open with a really expensive jewelry set from India. Dear Mummy followed next with an equally expensive hand-crafted slippers and purse.
Nmaa oohed and ahed, admiring each gift with pleasure. When I was asked to present mine, I shook my head, asking Daniella to go first. I wanted my gift to be the last, because I knew I had gotten her the best present ever.
Daniella got out this fluffily wrapped pink package. “Nmaa, I made this myself. I do hope you will like it.” She said passing the girly pink wrapped package to Nmaa.
Must she always show off? And who wraps a gift for an eighty year old woman in pink? I wondered, proudly patting my huge golden-rod wrapped package.
“This feels so soft.” Nmaa smiled. “What do you have in here, you mischievous girl?” She laughed opening the gift with meticulous hands.
For heaven’s sake, why is she unwrapping it like it’s some rare treasure? Tear it off already, so we can get to mine.
“Ha, Oh my God! This is so beautiful.” Nmaa cried in excitement, holding up a caramel-brown knitted wool shawl. “I love it. Dani, you knitted this? With your own hands?”
Of course with her hands. What will she have used, her legs? God, old people can be so annoying at times. I yawned impatiently. Oya, throw that thing aside, and prepare to receive the real gift here.
Daniella laughed, her eyes sparkling with pleasure. “Nmaa, I’m so glad you like it. I really worked hard at it.”
At knitting? I almost snorted. Hard indeed.
“I can see that.” Nmaa nodded her head still smiling. “I didn’t know you had become so perfect with your knitting o.”
“I’m not perfect yet Nmaa. But I plan to be.”
“Look at this beautiful shawl.” Nmaa turned to daddy and mummy. “Just what I need in this weather.”
Which weather? For heaven’s sake, this is Nigeria and everywhere is hot. Who needs a woolen shawl in this unbearable heat?
I cleared my throat as they all cooed over the rather ugly shawl.
“Heh, Princess Adaeze, we know it’s your turn, oya present your own gift.” Daddy said laughing.
And Princess Adaeze got to her feet to do the honours. “Nmaa, I want you to know that you are the best grandmother ever and I just want to say happy birthday and many more happy years to come.” I bent and gave Nmaa a hug. Then presented her with my lavishly wrapped gift.
“My goodness, this is huge.” Nmaa laughed. “What have you inside? A house?”
Everyone laughed. And I glowed with sheer pride. This is the effect I was looking for—utter amazement. “Wait till you see what’s inside, Nmaa.” I gave her a wink.
“This one is strong and hard o.” Nmaa remarked carefully unwrapping the package. “Hard and very big.”
Mummy was the first person to exclaim. “Wow! This is nice.” Looking over Nmaa’s shoulders at the painting of Nmaa and me some years earlier.
“Ha, Ada, this is beautiful.” Nmaa exclaimed. “A painting of both of us. I believe we took this picture on your tenth birthday. And now you’ve had the picture painted.” She looked up at me and smiled.
“Yes, Nmaa.” I sat down beside her and slipped my hand around her neck. “So you will always have a painting of you and your granddaughter.” Your only granddaughter, I added silently.
“It is beautiful.” Nmaa repeated, touching the large frame. Then added after a moment. “I tell you what, today we will all snap another picture—you, me, Daniella and Afam—and we’ll have that painted too.” She smiled like she’d just made a brilliant suggestion. “That way, I’ll have a real family portrait.”
What! I spend more than half of my savings to give her a present and what does she want to do? Duplicate that present by inviting strangers once again to come between us? Unbelievable!
“Brilliant idea.” Daddy concurred immediately. “Ada, your beautiful gift has made me realize we need a family portrait in this house.”
I almost felt like slapping the stupid ideas from their old heads. I wanted Nmaa to have something that would belong to only both of us and now they want everyone to be a part of it.
Why did I waste so much money only to bring myself more sorrow? I bewailed silently. And as if to show me my sorrows were just beginning, Nmaa dropped my very costly painting on the floor and picked up Daniella’s cheap hand-made shawl.
“Ha, but this is the best gift of all.” She said wrapping the ugly thing round her neck. “Oh my beautiful Dani, you know just what an old woman needs.”
Can you imagine?
I give this woman a very expensive painting and does she value it? NO. She regards rather the shawl given her by her step-granddaughter as the best gift of all. Do you all see the pains I suffered in that house?
Are you finally getting it?
But that was not all. It wasn’t the end of the woolen shawl. From that very day, Nmaa went everywhere with the caramel-brown shawl wrapped around her neck. Whether she was eating, napping, or just watching TV, the ugly shawl stayed always around her neck.
And my painting? She hung it in the Mini parlour… not even in her bedroom.
Well, after weeks of walking around with that damned shawl around her wrinkled old neck, they all woke up one morning to find it in the sitting room, terrible burnt in the middle. And as they say—the center could no longer hold. LOL.
Anyway that became the end of the caramel-brown woolen shawl.
No one knew exactly what had happened to it that night. And no matter how many other shawls Daniella knitted, Nmaa never quite felt the same about any of them.
Anyways, the years soon swept by and Daniella and I rounded off with Secondary School. I need not tell you that I-must-always-be-first Daniella ended up with six A’s and three B’s whilst my not-so-booky self, finished with four C’s and just a B in CRK.
Examination is never the true test of knowledge. Duh!
We, of course, sat immediately for the JAMB examinations. And as usual, brilliant Daniella scored well above the required cut off Mark and was off to University of Lagos to begin her five year training as a nurse.
I had to remain at home to write another JAMB, suffering constant reminders of Daniella this, Unilag that. It was as if she was the first person ever to get into a University.
The next year of course I too got into the University of Benin, to study Linguistics. But not without my having to pay heavily for the miracle center where I wrote my JAMB Exams that year. It was either that, or continue to suffer the never-ending sermons on Daniella and Unilag.
I can almost hear your sigh of relief. Finally, they are both separated. Maybe this Daniella girl can let Ada enjoy her life now.
Hmm. If you thought that then you just underestimated the power of our dear Cinderella, Daniella.
And this was a mistake I made too.