We tiptoed and made as little noise as possible if Daddy got back and one of us was asleep and still in the palour.
We would make sure that one got sent to the room the moment they started to doze off. We watch one another like hawks and would yell
“Maa, so so is sleeping!”
There was always this response of course,
” Ba bacci nike yi ba”.
I sleep-walked, so waking me up and getting me to the room was a major hassle. One Shehu hated but took delight in carrying out. He’d hold my hand and lead me to the room, knowing very well that the moment I realised I was in the room I’d turn and head back to the palour, he’d run and shut the door. Most times banging my head on the metal door woke me up properly and I’d go to bed…missing Daddy’s treat for that night. He found pleasure in that, just like I did when we fought and Daddy gave him more strokes of the cane because he didn’t know how to run away.
Maa was enterprising. She sewed and sold ‘kamu’. That I wished she wouldnt do. I hated filtering it. Still do. Sometimes when I took the millet for grinding I’d tell them to grind only once, that way it was easier to filter but Maa would make me take it back.
One reason I loved the holidays was because my elder sisters would come home. Apart from the little goodies they brought, they helped with the chores, especially the ‘tata’, oh how I hated that! Oh, I hated it when Maa made stew too. She made you stir it continously making sure it didnt even stick…if it got burnt, you got beaten.
Maa started kunun zaki too. Imagine the amount of filtering I got to do. Sometimes she beat me after filtering, for not doing it neat enough, sometimes she got angry and did it herself. To sell the kunun zaki, she got a boy. He’d wheel it in the wheelbarrow to schools. Other women in our area did the same, they called the boys houseboys, but Maa never let us call her boy that. He went with us to fetch water and would help us wash our clothes(that is of course, behind Maa’s back. She told him never to wash our clothes, he wasn’t our houseboy) He washed and ironed her’s and Daddy’s only.
I dont remember his name now, but I remember he left to go get married in his home town, Talatan Mafara. He visted us often, and would bring us sweets and guinea fowls for a long time after he left.
Ramadan was one time we looked forward to. Not because of the new clothes we got to have but because of the fasting itself. Those days kids that fasted got more portions of anything at iftar. And when we woke up for sahur which we hardly ever ate, Daddy let us take the milk dry. Maa never did that. She made our tea. And in the morning, you got to tell your non fasting siblings that
“Daddy ya bani madara da sahur”
That was enough to make somebody cry.
Plus you get whatever they eat in the afternoon to keep until iftar. We hoarded food and hardly ate half of it all.
In the begining, Maa encouraged us to fast half days, mothers then called it “rabin azimi”. Our fasts were counted as one every other day, or we took breaks. Maa would make us spit on the ground and cover it with a calabash, then make us eat. After you ate, the calabash is opened and you pick up your fast and continue.
Of course as we got older, we refused that tactic, and would grow so lean during fasting. Shehu was always sick on Sallah days. I guess he didn’t know how to hide and gulp water or eat something, or maybe he was pious even as a kid. Not me. Maa might have gotten on to me, but hey, I was just a kid.
Whennever I came for ablution, I washed my face and rinsed my mouth several times. Not all the water came out. Sometimes Maa would say
“Kai Fati alwallan ya isa, je kiyi sallah!”
The water would then turn my stomarch, but that wont stop me tomorrow. Once just a few minutes to iftar, we were cooking with Maa in the compound, she sent to the kitchen and I saw the food my sisters leftover from lunch, there was fish in it. On an impulse, I put it in my mouth, Maa noticed my mouth moving and asked what was in it. Nothing, I said, but when she made me open it, the fish head I was still trying to swallow was seen. “Ke dai kwadayi zai kashe ki” she threw at me.