Monday, August 21, 2017

Congratulations Kyura and Inno Part 2: Good-bye Home

There comes a point in most people's lives when their home becomes their parent's home. Growing up, it is collective, my home, meaning mine and my parents and my siblings and whoever else lives there with us, it's ours. But at some point, that group doesn't include you anymore, and your home is no longer yours; your home is some other place where you stay without all those other folks. For myself, and I think for a lot of us in the U.S. who first leave home for college, that transition happens sort of gradually. You have a dorm or maybe even an apartment where you stay at school, but home is still your home. Maybe you have still have a room there, or at least most of your stuff accumulated during your first 18 years, possibly even still being added to with new accumulations that you just don't really need in your dorm. Eventually, you go, move to another place, take a few more things. At some point, your parents turn your room into a guest room, or an excessively gigantic sewing room bursting with fabric, patterns and sewing machines. You start confusing your friends by calling that place, where you used to have a space, and wherever you stay now "home," meaning it equally for both. And someday, you find yourself saying to your sisters, "are you going to Mommy and Daddy's today?" and you realize you're quite dispossessed of your home and you aren't even really sure how it happened. For Kyura, however, that transition was a big bright line that she could mark almost down to the minute.

Day 2: Good-bye Home

Good Friday had been a strange mix of lackadaisy and bustle during the day. Kyura's family's home in Jos was as full of people as the house in the village had been, perhaps even more so.

Friends bustling and chillin

All the female friends were posted up in the room Kyura and her sister had shared growing up. Lounging on the beds; taking tea from trays, sipping sweet gulps of Milo and chewing soft white bread; taking turns disappearing to bathe with buckets of water scooped from the large plastic cans stored in the corner of the large bathroom, plastic cans restocked throughout the day with fresh water drawn by two young men hauling rubber bag-full after rubber-bag full of cool refreshment from the well in the side yard; helping Kyura style her hair, iron her dress---when the power was compliant enough to course through the padded copper wires and into the iron---, and prepare for the day.

Drawing water

The rest of the house was alive with it's own activity. Kitchen staff prepared a constant stream of food for family and guests. The seamstress for the wedding whirled away on a treadle machine in the next room, producing and altering dress after matching orange and yellow dress in an array of styles. 

Like any other bride the day before her wedding, Kyura needed to get her nails done. And like so many other brides, she'd been talked into fake nails that were so very un-Kyura but manageable enough to last through the wedding. We trooped along with her, to the side porch where the manicurist pulled up a stool to do her work in the natural light of the sun. The tube of Chinese nail glue the manicurist bought turned out to be empty, so she ran out to a small shop and quickly returned with a new, and better stocked, package. Relatives came out to the porch to say hello as they passed through the house, aunties and young cousins. A few of us sat on chairs brought out from the sitting room or leaned against the porch rail, chatting while the manicurist did her craft and the boys in the yard hauled up water. Kyura fielded phone call after phone, mini-crisis after mini-crisis: calls from friends looking for places to stay for the wedding, the printers not having the programs ready for Inno to collect, the reception decorators not seeing the transferred funds in their bank accounts due to the Easter banking holidays. Kyura handled it all calmly from her porch throne.

Later in the afternoon, the groom's family would be coming to ask for Kyura. Inno's uncles would apply to Kyura's uncles for their niece to leave her home and come to theirs. If there was a set time for this, I have no idea when it was, but being Nigeria, if there was a set time for this, it's unlikely the uncles came anytime near that time. The sitting room filled with family elders from both sides, arranged on the thick sofas and chairs in a large circle. Kyura's sister brought out snacks and beverages and served each person. home, no longer her home.


Outside, male elders with jingly metal bands fastened around their ankles sang and danced in a circle. Others joined, from the house? from the town? There were so many people everywhere I wasn't sure where most had come from. I joined, we danced until the group suddenly fell quiet.  Discussions began. I snuck in the back with the seamstress, hiding rather conspicuously on a tall bar stool behind a pushed-aside dining table, watching, not really understanding much more than that this was important and solemn and emotional. Kyura was called in and kneeled before her parents. Before long, she was being led out of the house, shrouded in a veil, another

Procession (to the car) to the church
procession of singing and dancing, another car ride away from home to a new place. Away from

At the request of the groom's family, Kyura's family had given her over to the custody of the church until the wedding morning. She, her maid of honor and her eldest aunt would stay at the church, in the care of the best man and the groom's family, until the morn. We followed on foot. The church where the wedding was to take place was separated from Kyura's parents' house only by a lane, and a very large cement wall on the edge of that lane. For tonight, Kyura had no home; her parent's house was no longer hers, and her husband's house was not yet hers. For tonight, she was to make do in the guest house of the assistant pastor. And make do it would certainly be.

The assistant pastor's guest house, or perhaps it was to be a servant's house, was a small one-room cement building out back of his home on the church property. It had an en-suite restroom divided from the room by a curtain. Kyura's wedding dress was hung from the curtain rod, tulle and beads pressing against the protective coating of the clear garment bag, saving the pure white dress from the dust of the walls. There was no furniture, just two old mattresses, one on the floor and one against the wall, the one against the wall in far worse condition. Kyura's aunt took one look at it and sent someone for a mat from the family home. A mosquito net hung matted in a twisted ball and low above the laid-out mattress. Agreement was quickly made not to let the net free for fear of what might fall, or crawl, out of it. Another runner was dispatched to the home for bug spray. The room had a single window next to the door. An electric fan was courried from the house. There was one outlet. Even when the power was on, it didn't work.

Best man trying to make the fan work

The best man arrived with a screwdriver, removed the outlet and attempted to wire the fan's plug directly to the wall. It still didn't work; probably a blessing that these wires were lifeless! A solution was concocted in the form of multiple power strips and strings of wire run in a line over from the assistant pastor's house, a plastic bag wrapped around the part where bare wires were twisted together on the ground outside. It worked, at least when there was electricity in general. A battery lantern was fetched from the house.

The groom's family brought dinner. Rice and some sort of soup or stew, tea. Dishes were fetched from the house. We sat on plastic lawn chairs that had been brought in. Kyura and the maid of honor sat tepidly on the floor mattress. We chatted and laughed and amused ourselves with the ridiculousness of this place as a bride-to-be suite. We laughed at the Nigerianess of everything about the room and the on-and-off electricity and the broken outlet and the creepy mosquito net and the scary mattress against the wall and the huge number of friends and family helping with everything and the perfect-despite-it-all haze that surrounded every piece of the events leading up to the big day. And we bid goodnight to Kyura, her aunt, and the maid of honor, to sleep as best they good, as we retired to our own lodgings until the morn. Sheets and blankets were fetched from Kyura's parents' house.

No comments: