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I replaced the calabash on the rooftop then dashed to where my mother was seated, beside my grandmother (her own mother) eyeing me with barely repressed censure in her eyes. I was eager to distract her from the scolding I knew was coming and I had the perfect method – my new beads!
“Maami”, I greeted. Going down on my knees, I turned the small sack upside down and emptied the contents on her lap. “See what someone gave me”, I announced proudly.
She was dumbstruck! In all my decidedly not so long years on earth then, I’d never seen my mother lost for words but the sight of the priceless beads did it. I settled back on my heels to enjoy this rarity. As I rocked back, my eyes drifted to my grandmother beside my mother. What I saw on her face was the last thing I expected. She was staring at the beads displayed on my mother’s laps in horror. She sat as immobile as a statue and seemed frozen with the horror. She was hardly breathing, the wrinkles on her face stuck in still motion as if carved. This was another sight I’d also never seen before and unlike my mother’s, there was nothing about this to make me gleeful.
Time seemed to move slowly, till my mother reached out a hand to touch the beads on her lap and suddenly my grandmother’s hand shot out like a striking snake and grabbed my mother’s arm in a biting hold. My mother raised startled eyes to her but Mama was not even looking at her. Mama’s eyes were locked hotly on mine. They seemed to bore holes in mine with their feverish intensity. “Who gave you these?” she demanded in a hoarse voice.